Darke Reviews | Scream 3 (2000)

Alright,  I figured I should continue the reviews of this particular franchise, you’ll notice by the timing this is certainly not one of the classics. It does some interesting things but really does not quite reach the same level as the first two. I am not sure what the studio was thinking as this does come out a full three years after the last one. Granted the last one did ok, bringing 4 times its budget back in domestic income. Scream 3 comes along and Dimension films, who at the time were throwing anything they could out gives Wes Craven 40 million, nearly quadrupling the original budget. This is continuing proof that additional money given to a director, no matter how good, is not always a good thing. Some directors, especially the talented ones, do better when they have to fight and claw for every effect.

Again, spoilers, as we are talking about a serial killer franchise. Stop now and return from whence thou came if you wish to remain spoiler free!

 

As mentioned Wes Craven returns to direct, but this time without a script by the previous partner Kevin Williamson. Instead Ehren Kruger is brought in. I have absolutely no love for this man. While he may have given us the import of The Ring and Blood and Chocolate  he is also responsible for the last three Transformers films. Yes, all three of the horrible ones. Ones so bad that I offered to pay people to not see the last one. He isn’t entirely horrific as there are some gems in this script that are worth enjoying.

We return several years after the last film and in near traditional fashion for the franchise, we have movie within a movie aspects. Where Scream 2 simply had the movie Stab as a background element, this movie actually has us in Hollywood while Stab 3 is being filmed. Rather than joking about movie in a movie, this one literally is. Sidney has actually chosen to hide from the world as a response to the events of the last two films. I appreciate that they let the weight of all thats happened begin to fracture her. She’s strong, but there’s only so much she can be expected to take. She is still the Sidney we know and love, still very intelligent, strong and a fighter, with some fraying on the edges. Of course, also in Scream fashion they introduce us to the rules of film for Trilogy. These are things we all recognize when they are spelled out, so that becomes one of the beautiful elements of the film; especially when delivered by the Jamie Kennedy’s character Randy. I think the delivery mechanism would have annoyed me had it been any other character, but for him it worked. The continual false leads, twists, and turns work in this but not nearly as strongly. There’s also the introduction of a contrived romance for Sidney, which while cute I think only works because of the two involved.

From an actors perspective, we have Neve Campbells return, who had not had much between 2 and 3 other than Wild Things (I should review that too). She has definitely grown as an actress between films and how she handles walking onto the set of Woodsboro is really well done. We also have Liev Schreiber, Courtney Cox and David Arquette returning as their surviving characters, both of which have as much growth in their characters off screen as on. There’s not as much of a change in the actors themselves as the characters, but they are pleasant and welcome on screen. The movie also brings us some old (non related) faces such as Lance Henriksen, Roger Corman, Jenny McCarthy, and Carrie Fisher. In what also seems to be a trend for the movie, it gives us Patrick (Grey’s Anatomy) Dempsey, before he was McDreamy. He had a smaller fan base, but a loyal one from those who had seen him in Run and MObsters, or even Will and Grace. Scott Foley is another new face, who then went on to appear in several TV series over the rest of his career including Grey’s and True Blood.

Here’s where the movie starts to break down, the technicals. I talked in the previous two films how a slasher if done right doesn’t need too much on the way of effects beyond a good blade or good blood. Maybe a good prosthetic for an injury or slit throat. In traditional Dimension fashion they gave us explosions that look horrific. It was unnecessary and didn’t work. Even the so called science behind an explosion of that size is ridiculous – suspension of disbelief or no. It, and a few other niggling points make the technicals not work. There’s some IQ dropping from the characters (damn you Kruger) combined with this that don’t work either.

TL;DR?

Alright, the movie is watchable. It isn’t good, but it is actually watchable.

It has just a few too many characters to the point where you don’t give a damn who lives or who dies.  Thats a problem, since in the first film you do actually care. The second one you care less, and here you just don’t care at all. There is almost no subtlety in the work and the movie suffers for it. It actually killed the franchise for a full decade. The jokes aren’t as funny, the kills aren’t as interesting, even the bad guy(s) aren’t nearly as strong. It’s almost like a looney toons film for one or two of the deaths.

If you are doing a Marathon, you don’t get a choice here.

If not it isn’t unbearable, but I wouldn’t watch it as a standalone given the choice – at least not without alcohol or nothing else on in the middle of the night.

 

Darke Reviews | Pumpkin Head (1988)

So I had only one response on which movie to review tonight, but it was a good one! See this movie was directed by a man who won 4 Oscars and had 6 additional nominations. 31! This movie however isn’t an Oscar winner for him, nor did any of those wins actually come from directing, producing, writing, or even acting. They were all for visual effects and make up. Granted I don’t know how many people saw the movies he won awards for. I mean the Academy can get a bit stuffy at times. Let’s see 4 awards, three movies – Aliens (1986), Terminator 2 (1992), Jurassic Park (1993). Yeah, big flops that no one saw. Eh who am I kidding. This is the work of one of the greatest Make up and Special Effects artists to ever grace the world with his talent. His death at the age of 62 in 2008 was a huge loss to the world of movie magic and his work defined the careers of so many since. The man of course is Stan Winston. Pumpkin head is his sole feature length directorial and writing effort.

The movie does have the curse of having a total of five writing credits associated to it. There’s a triple credit on the story, Mark Patrick Carducci, Richard Weinman, and Winston himself. Double credit on the screenplay, Mark Patrick Carducci and Gary Gerani. It’s worth mentioning that there is a poem the movie may have been based on though no official credit is given to Ed Justin for this.

Much in the way of 80’s movies, the story focuses on a group of city kids who go to the country for a weekend get away. In their revelry the requisite jerk accidentally kills Billy Harley, the young son of a local shop owner, Ed (Lance Henriksen). Ed returns from an errand to find that those responsible have left the scene of the crime. In his grief he turns to a local witch and black magic to get revenge on the kids, no matter the personal price he must pay. With nothing left to lose, he has the woman resurrect a spirit of vengeance called Pumpkinhead. While it’s name may sound silly, it’s look is anything but as it appears to have stepped out of a nightmare. Those guilty of the death of Billy find themselves being picked off one by one by this force of nature; miles from civilization, with no friends and no hope.

There’s not much to the cast or acting on this one. A very young Mayim Bialik, before Blossom, Webster and Big Bang Theory. Tom Woodruff Jr. who is best known for never showing his actual face and being under a ton of prosthetics in everything from Monster Squad, Tremors, Goro in Mortal Kombat, Aliens, Predators and more. Sort of a larger version of Doug Jones. There is also the eternally awesome Lance Henriksen. If Tony Todd is the face of horror, then Lance is the face of Sci-fi. Most commonly known as Bishop from Aliens, if you love 80s Sci-fi you know this mans work, with 194 acting credits to his name in his career.

The technicals. Woof. Alright, this was made on the cheap, with a budget of around 3.5 million dollars. They used every penny of it to the best possible. Sure some shots clearly look like sound stages and yep, there’s no doubt that’s California and places we’ve seen on dozens of TV shows and low budget movies since. The creature itself is horrific. Though you can see that its design looked strongly inspired by the Alien of Geigers work and the movies. It has a life all its own and a movement as it crosses the screen that breathes menace. Effective lighting, darkness and sound add to the effect. It’s “soundtrack” is that of dozens of cicada and they work effectively in the way only insects can. It also bears mention Pumpkinhead isn’t a stupid monster, though it pushes its own credibility as a demon of vengeance at times and shows too much ingenuity. I will warn you know the ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) is god awful and there’s a millisecond delay at times where the words and sound mixing just don’t work.

TL;DR

Pumpkinhead is a modern classic monster movie that has inspired three sequels in it’s wake. The original is a solid piece of 80s horror that any purist much watch. It’s not a great movie by any stretch but it does its job and does it well. It does it a helluva lot better than creature features since.

Tomorrow’s review will not have a word spoken.