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Dissecting Writer Kevin Williamson!

07.07.2015by: Jake Dee

KEVIN WILLIAMSON!

Even more so than the venerated Wes Craven, Kevin Williamson is the absolute authority on all things SCREAM. He's the brain-trust. The mastermind. Not only did he conceive the whole reinvention of the meta, self-reflexive slasher template back in 1996, his winking post-modern twist on the all but moribund subgenre has expressed new life over two decades and four films of entertaining Ghost Face mania. Which is why it's strange to see MTV's new Scream The Series have very little to do with Williamson, outside of loose story credit for the pilot episode. Strange days indeed.

But let's not shed a tear for old K.W., dude's had himself a hell of a career, one that continues to proliferate on the small-screen to this day. The Following not only challenged cable TV content for darkness and disturbance, his new series Stalker pushed the boundaries even further. Factor in earlier genre credits like SCREAM 2, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, THE FACULTY, TEACHING MS. TINGLE, SCREAM 3, CURSED, SCREAM 4, etc...it's easy to see why Williamson's among the most distinctly authorial horror voices around. What, not so easy to see? Okay then folks, you asked for it, it's time Kevin Williamson gets a slice of his own treatment. Let's Dissect!

BEST WORK

GET THE SCREAM COLLECTION HERE

When you pen a blistering script that both simultaneously redefines and pokes fun at the slasher film genre - a form rendered lifeless and listless by the mid 90s - not to mention inspire a two-decade franchise spanning four films and now a TV series...yup, you bet your balls SCREAM is Kevin's career magnum opus. What a bloody breath of fresh air!

In a fecund decade long relationship forged with horror maestro Wes Craven, SCREAM rewrote the slasher rulebook. Period, full stop! In fact, it can be argued that, at least in the horror genre, that SCREAM is the first good example of post-modern cinema. Many critics point to Fincher's THE GAME, released a year later, as the definitive example of such, but the way Williamson deconstructed slasher tropes and tenets in such a meta, self-conscious and all-knowing manner...calling attention to and dismantling all the laws and rules of the game...SCREAM authored a whole new language in which to talk about horror flicks. It really did. The best example of this was manifested through the character of Randy, whose film buff expertise both foreshadowed and took the piss out of the horrific mayhem that unfolds. Don't drink, don't have sex, don't leave the room by yourself...laws to abide by or die upon violation.

And just as SCREAM resuscitated the slasher subgenre as a whole, it too revitalized the sagging career of horror hall of famer Wes Craven. No small feat. SCREAM 1 and 2 both proved what Craven was still capable of, in particular that tour de force franchise opening sequence with Drew Barrymore getting gutted, flayed and hung out to dry in front of her lachrymose folks. Masterful! Of course, it starts on the page, and the perfectly struck tonal balance of terror, humor, tension, suspense and a referential homage to a skein of horror classics...SCREAM'S loud reverberation is still being felt today almost 20 years later.

WORST WORK

GET TEACHING MRS. TINGLE HERE

Look, there's a legit reason why Kevin has directed only one feature in his lifetime. And that reason is TEACHING MRS. TINGLE. Wow. What a woefully misguided attempt at dark horror humor, resulting in a tone-deaf effort that took the fresh high-school setting of SCREAM and devolved it into one laborious episode of Dawson's Creek. Wait, come to think of it, didn't Kevin and Katie Holmes go off to do that sappy adolescent soap opera right after that? Yikes.

Campy, kitschy, watered down to a PG-13 rating, TINGLE follows an obsessed teen willing to do anything - including murdering her bitchy teacher - to be crowned class valedictorian. Helen Mirren has the only decent role as the title victim, though not even her grace and forceful presence could lift this sucker out of the doldrums. It's too cute, too anodyne, too bereft of the biting satire or brutal violence we've come to know and expect from a K.W. piece. Which is a shame, because this was made at the boiling point of Kev's career. With SCREAM 1 & 2, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and THE FACULTY fresh under his belt, Kevin's Hollywood "heat" was never at a higher temperature. He could have done anything as a result, at least you think that'd be the case. But of all the options to direct a first feature...MRS. TINGLE was the one he felt the most ready and right for? Massive misstep in our eyes!

TRADEMARKS

Aside from adoring the name Casey for his young female scamps, or tending to set his stories in the hellish world of high-school, I'd say Williamson's M.O. is bucking horror convention in favor of trying something new. SCREAM is the highest example of this, but just as salient is the yeoman's work he's been doing on TV the last few years. Think about it. In this new golden age of television where long-form stories are supplanting feature films, here comes Kevin with bold, daring and disturbing material for major networks like Fox and CBS. Conventional wisdom says those networks are the LAST place to find darkly challenging horror stories, yet K.W. loudly barked to hell with all that noise and gave us one compelling drama in The Following. Of course, the irony of casting Kevin Bacon - who himself has come full circle from the slasher beginnings of FRIDAY THE 13TH - is nothing short of delicious. Let's hope that whatever the future holds for Kev, he continues to buck the tides of Hollywood trends and swim his ass upstream!

HIDDEN GEMS

GET THE FACULTY HERE

Because of his inextricable link to SCREAM and by proxy Wes Craven, it's easy to overlook the fact that Williamson wrote the script for Robert Rodriguez's high-school alien-monster-mash THE FACULTY. Now, not a great film, but a damn entertaining one featuring a who's who of A and B-listers. Hell, when John Stewart shows up in filthy bohemian goatee that would make a 17th century painter blush, you know you're in for a good time. More than that though, as a high school variant of a THING-like alien paranoia movie, THE FACULTY prevails. It's campy, funny, breezy, and the ending packs a legitimate wind-knocking wallop. Not sure about you, but the gnarly pool sequence at the end never fails to freak me the f*ck out. Truly. The size and scale of the monster and the pace and agility it moves with...not to mention morphing from a hot blonde nubile teen to an odiously ugly mega monster...well, shit's unfair!

But to me, the real reason THE FACULTY is so low key under Kevin's oeuvre is how un-slasher-like it is. It's a total alien invasion monster movie, which diametrically opposes the newfangled slasher formula of SCREAM and to a much lesser extent, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER...stuff Williamson is known for. It marked new horror territory for Williamson, which is perhaps why people tend to overlook THE FACULTY or fail to associate it with anyone other than Rodriguez.

NEXT PROJECT

While it's no doubt a bummer that Kev's newest foray into small-screen creepers was cancelled after only one season, there could be a good chance that Stalker gets turned into a feature length TV movie. So far, star Dylan McDermott is set to reprise his role as Jack Larsen, with newcomer Melanie Liburd also onboard. Here's the simple logline for what seems to be a Stalker continuation, directed by Liz Friedlander:

A story centered around Jack Larsen, a recent transfer to the LAPD's Threat Assessment Unit, a division that handles stalking incidents.

Sounds identical, no? Pretty cool though, instead of being canceled and going away without a peep, Kevin gets to say goodbye with a final swan song told as an extended episode. The feature length TV movie will in effect serve as a long form Stalker finale. Should be fun!

Beyond that, who knows what the cards hold for Williamson moving forward. Will he continue to blaze televisual trails on major networks? Will he end up on Netflix doing original work in the similar stalker mold? Are movies still in the future plans for Kevin, perhaps ones that reunite him with Wes Craven? And by god, will MTV offer him enough money to climb aboard Scream The Series as a poetic way for his career to come full circle? All fair questions as we trudge along this mortal coil. But one thing remains certain, the more original Kevin Williamson projects, the better off we all are!

OVERALL

No doubt about it, Kevin Williamson deserves high praise for his invaluable two-decade contribution to horror cinema. And while his eulogy may begin and end with all things SCREAM, let's not forget the killer moves he's made along the way. SCREAM 1-4 is surely his crowning achievement, granted, but flicks like I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, THE FACULTY, TEACHING MRS. TINGLE, CURSED, and on through his televisual macabre outings like The Vampire Diaries, The Following and Stalker and now, tangentially, Scream The Series...one thing becomes clear. Kevin Williamson is and has been one of the best horror scribes in Hollywood the last 20 years or so. Pretty irrefutable.

So with that, what else can we say but keep on cutting Kev, you're the motherf*cking man! Here's to another terrifying 20 years!

Extra Tidbit: What is your favorite Williamson movie?
Source: AITH

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