Scream 2 Review (1997)

My History With the Film:
Scream 2 came out rather quickly after the first film. I remember being blown away by the trailer because I never imagined they could get a sequel out so fast. I was still active in the online horror community and for the most part the reception was pretty negative, which made me approach the film with extreme caution. But once it hit VHS I rented it and enjoyed it.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the ending of this film, but I’ve come to accept it and it gets a yearly watch along with the
rest of the franchise from me.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
Two years after the first string of murders, new murders start occurring around Sidney and those she loves.

What I Liked About It:
-The college campus setting is fantastic. It still feels small and contained like Woodsboro, but also diverse enough for some interesting settings.

-The running meta commentary continues and is arguably better than the first film. At times it feels like scenes were created just for conversations to occur, but it all served the film and outlined the rules of sequels and what typically is expected.

-The film opens with another solid opening scene, and while its nowhere near as effective and memorable as the first film, the bathroom scene has always been burned into my brain as well as the crowd’s reaction in the theater.

-The filmmakers realized Randy’s popularity from the first film and chose to give him more scenes to work with. He comes off as one of the better characters in Scream 2.

-Three of my 90’s crushes appeared in this film: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Heather Graham, and Rebecca Gayheart.

-The film class scene.

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-I absolutely adore Timothy Olyphant’s acting and Deadwood/Justified are two of my favorite TV shows, but his performance in this film is not his finest hour. I’ve never been able to tell if he was just so new to acting he hadn’t developed yet, or if his performance of Mickey is just how he chose to play him. The scene at the theater is pretty cringe worthy at times.

-Jerry O’Connell is very uneven in this film. His character is crucial to the story and yet you have a hard time rooting for or against him.

-(SPOILER ALERT) Randy’s death was enjoyable, but unnecessary and ultimately hurt the franchise.

Additional Notes:
-Was followed by Scream 3 in 2000 and Scream 4 in 2011. A television series set outside of the world of the film began in 2015.

-Robert Rodriguez directed the scenes in “Stab” the movie inside the movie.

-The film began filming just six months after the release of Scream and was released less than a year after Scream.

-Joshua Jackson was cast in Dawson’s Creek (created by Kevin Williamson) just a year following his role in Scream 2.

-Music by Hans Zimmer from the film Broken Arrow was used as placeholder music for Dewey, but the audience reacted so well to it that it was left in.

I’m a fan of Scream 2, but I still prefer the first film. Scream 2 is a four out of five and a must own.

The Reading Buddy Review (2017-Book)

Today at the 90’s Horror Review I’m going to review a book called The Reading Buddy.

The Reading Buddy was released in 2017, but you’d never know that while reading it. It’s easy to get lost in The Reading Buddy and feel like you are reading something Christopher Pike wrote or RL Stine when he wasn’t churning out a gazillion Goosebumps books. I had a lot of fun with The Reading Buddy, and I figured the readers here at 90’s Horror Review might get a kick out of it too.

My History With the Book:
I discovered The Reading Buddy when I was followed by the author Bryce Gibson on Twitter. I don’t usually pay much attention to authors who follow me, but the description on his book caught my attention, "The Reading Buddy is a fun Southern set throwback to 90s teen horror novels that will keep you guessing until the very end!"

Being from the South and a huge fan of 90’s horror (especially teen horror) I couldn’t pass this book up. I bought a copy that day, but didn’t get around begin reading it until late January 2018.

What The Book Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A high schooler is haunted by the appearance of a man in a black rain jacket after narrowly escaping death. 

What I Liked About It:
-I don’t read a lot of horror fiction, because quite frankly, I have a hard time creating the suspense within my head. But this book has a moment, that is so realistic and straight forward, I felt like I was there experiencing it myself. It turns out to be a false scare, but the one page build up was spot on and is the only time I’ve ever remembered actually feeling fear while reading a book.

-When I hear the phrase “Southern Fiction” I think of two things: William Faulkner and cheesy romance novels that take place in Asheville, NC. Being from the South, most of the local book stores have Southern Reading sections and they are pretty bland. The South is a wonderful setting and can provide a backdrop for just about any story but it’s usually only utilized by amateurs wanting to channel the next Gone with the Wind. I’m happy to report that Bryce Gibson doesn’t do this. You could leave the whole Southern setting out of the description of the book and it would still work well. However, being called “Southern Fiction” and then including horror in the description is what drove me to buy the book in the first place. 

When I think Southern Teen Horror, my mind immediately goes to I Know What You Did Last Summer. It’s set at the beach in North Carolina and is small town USA. It’s not overly Southern, but if you know what you are looking for, you can see the Southern charm in it. The Reading Buddy is similar. It’s set in the small Southern town of Edgefield and the town feels real and lived in. It’s not flashy, nor does it have a lot going on, but it’s the little details that people from the South will pick up on like visiting a therapist at her home instead of an office, a local brewery, and the life of a factory worker wanting to break out and achieve something more. It wasn’t something creating the South based on clich├ęd and what they’ve seen on TV, this is actually a person from the South writing about a place that he knows and loves. That shines through in the writing.

-I didn’t know what to expect when beginning The Reading Buddy, because I haven’t read a Fear Street book in over twenty years. The descriptions said it was a 90’s homage, so I wasn’t sure if that meant it was set in the 90’s or just written in the style similar to those 90’s horror books. I can confirm that the book is set in the present day and is written in the style, size, and format of the 90’s teen horror novels. 

For my own personal nostalgia, I would have loved to see this book set in the 90’s, but I don’t think there is much of an audience for that. Instead the book works in present day with teenagers who talk, act, and utilized technology like present day teenagers do. Being thirty-four years old, I’m a little past those days, but I could relate to the frustrations of the main character Blake, especially his social anxiety and feelings about being the new guy.

-The book doesn’t create characters for the sake of creating them. Each character has its own individuality and motives, and I like that. You are never 100% sure what to make of the characters, since it seems that everyone you encounter is hiding something. This added an extra level of depth to the story that affects the plot up until the final pages. 

-The final twist. No spoilers, but it was great and well executed.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-I feel like the book is at its strongest in the first two-thirds. The author does a great job of establishing a realistic setting with relatable characters. The final third of the novel starts to unravel the mystery that we’ve been introduced to and I don’t think it works so well. I try and avoid spoilers on this site, but let’s just say the first twist regarding Blake’s family was a little far-fetched for me, although it’s perfectly plausible in real life.

-There is a chase scene the builds up to the reveal of the man in the rain jacket and was way too short. It takes up maybe two pages, and I would have loved to see this fleshed out a lot more. It’s over almost as soon as it begins and once the reveal is made, one paragraph later we are on our way onto revealing another layer of the plot. It felt a little rushed.
I’m not the core audience for a book like The Reading Buddy, but I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. I never felt like the book was dumbed down for a younger audience. It’s only a teen horror because it features characters who happen to be teenagers.

Teen horror doesn’t get a lot of love nowadays and we are definitely not in the prime for teen horror book series like Fear Street. This makes The Reading Buddy a bit of an oddity in 2018, but I think that is also what makes it so attractive to read. You can tell the author took a concept he liked (teen horror) and decided to bring it into the modern age while setting it in a place he was familiar with (The South). There was a lot of love put into this project and that is something I can respect and appreciate. 

So where does it rate on my usual 1-5 scale? Well, a novel is more difficult to rate than a movie. I feel like a teenager or someone who appreciates teen horror would find this an easy three out five and is very worthy of reading. For everyone else, your mileage may vary. But odds are if you are reading this blog, you are a fan of 90’s teen horror and would appreciate a new book that may remind you of the fun you had curled up on your bed reading a horror novel set during high school.

Valentine Review (2001)

My History With the Film:
I didn’t watch Valentine when it came out in 2001. As much as I love slasher films, I was a little skeptical about this one. It looked pretty terrible to be honest. I believe I only got around to watching it around 2006 when I became a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. I wanted to see what David Boreanaz (Angel) could do in a horror film.

I was working at EB Games when a copy was traded in, so I bought it for a couple dollars and took it home anxious to see Angel in a Slasher film. I remember trudging through it when I got home and being very underwhelmed. I traded it back in to EB Games the following day since I never imagined I'd ever sit back down to watch this again. Of course, being that this is the first Valentine's Day that 90's Horror Review has been open, I knew it was time to rewatch this disaster and see if it was as bad as I remembered.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A group of women are stalked by a man who they tormented during their childhood.

What I Liked About It:
-Wow, the soundtrack is so 2001. Rob Zombie, Disturbed, Static-X, Linkin Park, Orgy, Marilyn Manson, and Filter are just some of the bands who contributed songs. It isn’t exactly my favorite type of music, but it takes me straight back to the early 2000’s.

-Unlike many of the holiday related horror movies, Valentine actually uses the holiday to tell its story. The plot is based around love and you see all four of the main characters going through a variety of different levels in their relationships. The movie builds up to a big Valentine’s Day party, which resembles how the movie begins with a Valentine’s Day dance.

-Towards the end of the film there is a fun kill that involves a hot tub. ::SPOILER:: Paige (Denise Richards) is trapped inside a hot tub with a clear cover by the killer. He then proceeds to run a drill with an extra long bit through the lid and into Paige. It’s by far the best kill in the movie and looks incredible on screen. I’ve never seen a clear hot tub cover, but I imagine these exist.

-This was the early 2000’s, which meant we got to see Denise Richards in a bikini.

 What I Didn't Like About It:
-The film is cluttered. What I mean by this is every shot is just full of stuff. I think some of the best slasher films tend to be minimalistic in nature (Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Prowler). For example: there is a big art exhibit scene with dozens of video screens displaying different videos. Obviously, this scene is made to look chaotic, but it takes away from the viewer being able to concentrate on the characters and are instead distracted by the background imagery. Even in scenes inside people’s houses, there is just too much going on and too much stuff in each frame. It’s like the set decorator went nuts trying to stuff anything and everything into every frame.

-The movie begins with a dance scene where a young dorky sixth grade boy is rejected harshly by five girls. We then follow four of the five girls throughout this movie and they are supposed to be our protagonists, but to be honest, none of them have grown. They are still all exactly the same as they were in sixth grade, which makes it hard to cheer for any of them. None of the characters are likeable and I believe that ultimately that is what makes this film fail. If anything, you feel more compassion for the killer, but we are never shown his side of the story outside of the opening scene.

-I absolutely loved David Boreanaz in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and in Angel. This was shot while he was starring in Angel, but he shows no real acting range in his first feature film debut. He doesn’t spend much time on screen, and when he is on screen you can tell he’s out of his league. He comes across as a TV actor in a sea of movie actresses and actors.

-Outside of the unlikable characters, I believe the second biggest issue with this film is that it doesn’t feel like a real world. The film takes place somewhere in California (San Francisco I think, if they said I don’t remember), but it doesn’t feel like a real place. In fact, nothing feels real about this movie. All of the sets feel like they exist in some sort of strange alternate universe and were created by someone who was describing what a morgue, mansion, and police stations are supposed to look like.

Additional Notes:
-The film featured two stars of hit shows on the WB: David Boreanaz (Buffy/Angel) and Katherine Heigl (Roswell).

-Director Jamie Blanks helmed Urban Legend (1998) prior to Valentine.

-In 2007, Jamie Blanks said, "Forgive me for Valentine. A lot of people give me grief for that, but we did our best."

-The original casting process saw Tara Reid (Urban Legend) as Dorothy Wheeler and Jennifer Love Hewitt as Paige Prescott.

-With only a $10 million dollar budget, this film is the cheapest film to ever have a Superbowl spot.

-Katherine Heigl didn’t read the whole script and in 2005 mentioned that she regretted her decision to take part in the film after seeing the final cut.

-The trailer featured a female narrator which is extremely rare in film trailers.

-David Boreanaz and Jessica Capshaw played ex-lovers raising a child in the TV show Bones.

I recall watching Valentine all those years ago and being thoroughly disappointed. I went into the film with an open mind this time around and I still came out disappointed. I ultimately think this film fails because the characters are unlikeable and the setting is unrelatable. It’s not all bad, but the bad definitely outweighs the good.

With exception of the hot tub kill, the kills are very uninspiring and it almost feels like they didn’t want to commit to being a horror film until the final twenty minutes. 

I wish I could say Valentine is an amazing movie worth watching every year on Valentine’s Day, but they would be a lie. This film is below average, uninspired and not worth watching unless you absolutely love slasher films. I rate Valentine a two out of five and say skip it.

Scream 3 Review (2000)

My History With the Film:
By the time Scream 3 came out in 2000, the whole slasher revival had already worn out its welcome. The excitement that the original Scream generated had died off and the cast had moved onto different things. Still, there was money to be made with the franchise, and so Scream 3 was made and like the previous film, I caught this one on VHS.

I remember being excited that Jenny McCarthy was making her big acting debut since I’d grown up watching her on Singled Out. The film welcomed back Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette, along with director Wes Craven which gave fans hope that this film would operate at the same level as the previous two films. Unfortunately Kevin Williamson was not back to write the script and the film never reached the heights of the first two movies. It wasn’t a bad movie, but it just didn’t quite reach that bar of excellence that the first two films hit.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
Someone is murdering the cast of Stab 3 and Sidney, Dewey, and Gail find themselves in Hollywood trying to escape another killer.

What I Liked About It:
-I missed Woodsboro, but Hollywood made for an interesting backdrop for the film.

-The gang was back together and I was happy with how their characters had evolved from the first film, for better and worse.

- While I was thrilled with Sidney’s mom backstory, I thought the whole seedy 70’s Hollywood nightlife side was interesting, especially when being viewed from a Hollywood production.

-The chase scene through the set of Sidney’s house from the first Scream was great.

-Seeing Randy back in some form was a nice, unexpected moment.

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-The whole re-writing history part was a little absurd and the killer’s motive was weak.

-The supporting cast was very hit and miss and not very likable at all. Patrick Demsey was totally out of place in this movie. He was hired the night before his first scenes.

-I love the self-awareness and fun that Scream 1 and 2 had, but this film had none of that. Instead they used quick cameos such as Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, and Carrie Fisher to try and act hip and cool. It didn’t work.

-I liked how they brought Randy back, but I didn’t buy his sister just walking onto a movie studio lot that was supposed to be on lockdown because of the killings.

-While crucial to the plot, the whole voice changer that actually records and re-creates other people’s voices was a little to sci-fi for my liking. This might be my biggest hangup of the entire film.

-I hate that the music didn’t seem as consistent as the previous two films. Dewey’s Theme was missing as well, which seemed like a missed opportunity to really connect the movies. In fact, the music in the entire series seemed to go downhill with the first Scream having the best score and the Scream 3 having he worse despite having the same composer.

Additional Notes:
-Due to leaks of Scream 2’s script, three different endings were filmed and no one was told which one was going to be used.

-Neve Campbell’s contract allowed for her to be on set just twenty days, so her screen time was cut quite a bit and the supporting characters were given more to do.

-Kevin Williamson was working on a Scream 3 script that involved Stu (Matthew Lillard) surviving his stabbing in the first film and orchestrating a series of killings from prison on high school students. However, after the shooting at Columbine High School, Miramax wanted anything to do with a script involving high school violence.

-Kevin Williamson did an outline for the script, but screenwriter Ehren Kruger ignored all of it, and chose instead of write the script as filming occurred sometimes turning in pages the day of filming. It was so un-Scream Wes Craven had to do rewrites to make the character act like they did in prior films. And that is probably why this film doesn’t work nearly as well as the first two.

- In Fangoria 189, "Scream 3 deals very much with the reality of one's life and the way the media tends to treat reality as a sensationalist object."

Scream 3 is not a bad movie… it’s just not a good movie either. It’s a very serviceable slasher film that continues the Scream legacy without treading any new ground or even harkening back much to the original. It was clear that Kevin Williamson’s wit and charm was missing from the script and I think that is what makes us love Sidney, Gail, Dewey, and the gang so much. I like to believe that in an alternate universe Kevin Williamson wrote a Scream 3 script and it was glorious!

Despite its shortcomings, I still enjoy Scream 3 and give it a healthy three out of five and say it’s a must buy for fans of the series, or a rental for the rest.