Review: Still Screaming: The Ultimate Scary Movie Retrospective

Still Screaming: The Ultimate Scary Movie Retrospective
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PLOT: A documentary retrospective chronicling the SCREAM franchise, from Wes Craven's genre-changing original back in 1996, to the oft-dismissed SCREAM 3 released in 2000. Interviews with many principals involved in each and every film, including Wes Craven himself, Neve Campell, David Arquette and many more.

REVIEW: Ryan Turek's debut feature STILL SCREAMING: THE ULTIMATE SCARY MOVIE RETROSPECTIVE is a damn fun look back at Wes Craven's famed SCREAM franchise. Kicking off with a cool and campy recreation of how any SCREAM film could open, we see a pair of cute young girls trade witty banter before being stalked by the unmistakable Ghost Face killer. It's a solid setup, a way to elicit a visceral response from the audience before examining exactly why such films conjure such reactions in the first place. And that's precisely what follows. The thing is, I suppose there's a misconception of documentaries being dry and clinical, more educational than entertaining. Well folks, STILL SCREAMING does an admirable job of melding the trivia with the humor, the informative with the entrenching. Because of that, for either the casual fan or series fanatic, the movie is quite an awesome good time!

For any retrospective documentary, the best compliment I could ever bestow is that as soon as the film ends, you immediately want to go back and revisit the subject. And that was exactly the case with STILL SCREAMING. Since I don't own any SCREAM DVDs (sad, I know), I got home and instantly did a menu-search on my cable provider to see if any of the films were playing (to no avail, much to my chagrin). Chronologically mapping each entry in the series, the movie of course begins with the indelible SCREAM, which more or less reinvented a moribund horror genre, not to mention the slasher sub-genre. Everyone from Wes Craven to Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy, Rose McGowan, Matthew Lillard, Liev Schreiber, Henry Winkler, W. Earl Brown, Patrick Lussier (editor) and Howard Berger (makeup supervisor) take part in the interview process, squeezing anecdotal juice and shoveling much welcomed behind-the-scenes dirt that rabid fans of the series will imbibe by the bloody gallon. Bukowski style!

Aside from all the cool revelatory tidbits, from how Dimension-head Bob Weinstein originally hated the Ghost Face mask and called dailies on the opening Drew Barrymore sequence "shitty," to how Weinstein was responsible for changing the title of the movie from SCARY MOVIE to SCREAM...or how the first 20-30 pages of the SCREAM 2 script were leaked online in less than 24 hours - What I dug most about STILL SCREAMING was the kinetic pacing and structure of the film. While we basically looked back at each film individually, the hyper-crosscutting between interviewees kept the film fresh and flowing. It never felt like an inert or arduous watch. Not at all boring. I also liked how snippets from each SCREAM film were inserted so we could contextualize what was being said about them. For instance, you remember in SCREAM when Tatum (McGowan) gets stuck in the garage door, her head subsequently squashed like a grape? Well, apparently that scene, along with the shot of Drew Barrymore hanging from a tree in the opener, had to be excised in order to avoid an NC-17 rating. Seeing these sequences while being told this paints a picture in our mind's eye about how gnarly the original cuts must have been. These maybe common knowledge trivia to some, which I've mentioned by design in order to keep some of the more arcane factoids from being exposed. Trust me, you'll want to hear them yourself.

My favorite interview segments include a dippy David Arquette, a hilarious Parker Posey (who apparently threw out the questionnaire), a laxly sentimental Jamie Kennedy, Duane Martin's comedic recollection and Patrick Warburton's laconic reminiscing. These five kind of help shape the humorous tone of the film, which, while still highly informative, is certainly a lot of fun to watch. I will say the absences of writer Kevin Williamson and Courteney Cox is quite glaring, as are some of the cast members of the sequels like Sarah Michelle Gellar, Timothy Olyphant, Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett Smith. Because so much of the success of the SCREAM films is attributed to Kevin Williamson's clever scripting, it's really unfortunate he wasn't available to shed some light on the series he largely created. He's lauded in the film plenty, and there are hints as to why he couldn't partake in the film, but it doesn't change the fact a key component is missing. We do hear from Williamson's replacements, Ehren Kruger and an uncredited Laeta Kalogridis. Kruger in particular reinforces how valuable Williamson was to the entire series, and how difficult his task was, despite demonstrable effort, to echo Williamson's original voice. A voice that in the first two films created a pop culture phenomenon that inspired countless imitations and watered down wannabes (Kruger was brought on to replace Williamson in part 4 as well).

All in all, STILL SCREAMING is the kind of nostalgic revisit that makes you instantly want to go back and experience all that we love about the SCREAM franchise. Because this a celebratory homage to the series, we understandably tend to focus on the positives of production instead of any sort of backstabbing drama, which is only alluded to in passing. Sure it would have been interesting to revel in some of the more nefarious dirt, the behind-the-scenes feuding and whatnot, especially involving Williamson, but it in no way hinders what the film aims to do. Instead of being a petty smear-piece, the film deftly lays out why, after a decade long respite, onscreen teenage victims and ardent fans of the series alike are no doubt STILL SCREAMING.



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