Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reaction To A Development Most Exciting:


I have just been informed that Quentin Tarantino is directing a Django movie WITH Franco Nero.

There is only one response to this.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Castle Of Cagliostro

(As a gesture of Transatlantic friendship, I’ve decided to review The Castle Of Cagliostro. After all it is my favorite movie to feature a Royal Wedding. That timeless tale of romance In which a simple girl is seduced, corrupted and brainwashed by an evil european aristocratic ruler. How can it not bring thoughts of the current celebration!... I mean it’s a a ooh I’ve just started an international incident haven’t I?)

It is a rare thing when a film so pleased with itself allows the audience to be so as well. The Castle Of Cagliostro is simply one of the most pleasurable movies that I know of. When Steven Spielberg named it one of the greatest adventure films of all time he wasn’t kidding. If anything I’d even take it a step further. The Castle Of Cagliostro is one of the most purely entertaining films of all time. It deserves to stand aside the likes of Charade, The Adventure’s Of Robin Hood, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, To Catch A Thief, Goldfinger, North By Northwest and those other rare perfect swashbuckling entertainments. Yet even though it certainly shares DNA with those films it still remains itself, if only because even in this his most genre based film Miyaziki still finds moments for delicacy, beauty, grace and humanism.

It’s a film that takes fierce joy in and of itself, boundlessly pleased by its boundless wit, style, and invention. Producing ingenious set pieces, dramatic flourishes, Euro Ninjas (The Best Kind Of Ninjas), feats of daring do. All produced with the same enthusiasm and flourish with which the word “Auto Gyro” Is pronounced.

Look I'm fully aware that this review has already rounded the bend at gushing some time ago, but if its success didn’t feel so alchemical I’d say it was a textbook example of narrative filmmaking. It’s a film that delivers a tremendous amount of narrative information and exposition with an uncanny grace. Though The Castle Of Cagliostro is an entry in an ongoing series, it delivers its mythology with such seamless precision that one never for a second feels out of the loop, even if the viewer has never heard of the series before (indeed perhaps that is the ideal way to see the movie, as my attempts to follow the series further have been met with distinct disappointment). While it’s true that the film is a standalone, simply saying that doesn’t give enough credit to the grace and clarity of the narrative. The moment the characters step on screen you know exactly who they are, not merely because they are archetypes but because Miyaziki makes them such individuals that it is impossible to mistake them for anyone but themselves.

The simplest and clearest description I’ve heard of the Miyaziki technique is that Miyaziki somehow manages to draw his characters how they look on the inside. This is a littler tougher to judge in Castle Of Cagliostro, as Miyaziki is conforming to the house style of another artist. Yet while the animation isn’t as lush as what Miyaziki would accomplish at Ghibli, it is as expressive as and atmospheric as anything the venerable studio has produced. Every setting and character feels like an animator’s playground. The Count’s Castle a fantastic haunted house, and the surroundings alternate between lush agrarianism and subtle sophistication. Indeed this blend show’s Miyaziki’s Europe of the mind to be fully crystallized. As is the style of the deceptive simplicity that Miyaziki would employ to such great effect in his work at Ghibli (look for example at Lupin’s car simple yet accurate).

There is not much more to say about The Castle Of Cagliostro, it is all surface, but it is a surface made up of evil Counts, moonlit duels, daring rescues, self sacrifice, neat gadgets, lost cities, ancient treasures, clever tricks and plots, pure hearted heroes and exotic lands. Is there a soul so dead that it does not respond just a little to such an embarrassment of riches?

The Castle Of Cagliostro is simply a delight.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Unseen #60: The Beast From Haunted Cave

Why’d I Buy It?: Bought during my completist phase, that heady time when fueled by the cocaine in the seventies like atmosphere of the DVD boom I was for some reason convinced that to appreciate someone’s work you had to own it. To any young cinephiles reading this I can only highly suggest that you skip this phase. Not only will you save a lot of dough, but you will also save innumerable man hours of having to explain when people ask “Why the fuck do you own that?”

Why Haven’t I Watched It?: Out of all the sacred cows Monte Hellman is perhaps the one I feel least sacred about. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy to acknowledge that perhaps I just don’t get it. Nevertheless the fact remains, that I just don’t get it. I mean I can see how his quasi existential soporifically paced, sorta genre films could seem real interesting if you’ve never seen an Alejandro Jodorowsky films, or for that matter a Jim Jarmusch, Jean Pierre Melville or a Sam Fuller one. But the fact is that I have seen a lot of Jean Pierre Melville movies, and I think he along with a lot of other people get what Hellman’s going for and do it markedly better. Why bother with an also ran?

How Was It?: Though you might find it hard to believe The Beast From Haunted Cave Bears plenty of Hellman finger prints. From the elliptical dialogue, stagy (as in Meissner) acting, and believe it or not, Hellman’s trademark dirge pacing. I’m unsure how that last one is possible in a movie that more or less reaches seventy minutes on a technicality. (Monte Hellman founder of Mumblecore?)

The film follows a group of thieves who hire a hapless ski instructor to take them out of the mountains after a heist. After being caught in a blizzard the gang and the instructor are forced to hole up in the instructor’s cabin and wait out the storm. Oh and the monster. They have to try and wait that out too.

This is the kind of plotting that shows why Helleman is so name checked by the likes of Tarantino. By making a gangster film turn into a horror film Hellman was making a mash up film before such a thing existed. It wouldn’t be too far off the mark to call the film Key Largo, with the hurricane replaced by the monster

The problem is, as always with a Hellman film this all sounds a lot more interesting than it actually is. Everyone just kind of mopes around, including the monster who is a pretty poor one even by the lenient standards of the AIP Era Monster. To say the film lacks the snappy pace and elegance of the classic era filmmaking would be an understatement. This is the sort of movie that uses the phrase “you dig?” unironically. And the lead’s quasi Thoreau mumblings make him seem like he’s still really pissed about losing the lead of All That Heaven Allows to Rock Hudson.

“Movies Are about Motion And Emotion.” Hellman wrote in an essay about Richard Linklater’s Slacker, yet the problem with Hellman is that I have rarely seen a director who made movies so drained of either.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

HP Lovecraft: Fear Of The Unknown

I am quite fond of Godard’s old axiom that the best way to criticize a film is to make another. Thus I can’t help but consider Lovecraft: Fear Of The Unknown to be a near perfect criticism of the risible Dreams With Sharp Teeth. While Dreams With Sharp Teeth was content to tell us that its subject is a very important influential man, Fear Of The Unknown actually deigns to tell us why. While Dreams With Sharp Teeth painted Ellison’s work in broad generalized strokes, almost incidental to his cult of personality, Fear Of The Unknown actually takes the time to explore Lovecraft’s work volume by volume. And while Dreams With Sharp Teeth was content to mythologize its subject on a level near hagiography, Lovecraft not only portrays a warts and all view of Lovecraft’s work and character (easy enough) but takes the time to dig in and explain just what formed that character, and the surprising evolutions it took and most importantly how that character formed the work that still resonates today. A body of work that articulates the anguished feeling of immensity of the universe and time in a Godless universe (Or rather a God filled one).

The film assembles a who’s who of guests, eloquent and pleasurable to the last: Ramsey Campbell, Stuart Gordon, Peter Straub, John Carpenter and The Omnipresent Neil Gaiman (China Mielville responsible for what is perhaps the most influential essay on Lovecraft in recent years is conspicuously absent). While it would be easy enough for the documentary to fall into a trap of just being talking heads; Fear Of The Unknown manages to find a near perfect balance, using the interviews to illuminate the copious biographical detail, interspersed with Lovecraft’s own voice taken both from his voluminous personal correspondence and his own work. Thanks to the decades of artistic interpretation that Lovecraft has inspired the film is never at want for interesting visuals either. Visuals which sometimes even enter the realm of the impressionistic as in a fascinating montage set to a reading of Lovecraft’s infamously racist “The Horror At Red Hook” that distorts photos of old New York immigrants into monstrosities, drawing a clear line between Lovecraft’s Xenophobia and Racism to his more metaphysical horrors. The film not only holds Lovecraft accountable for his personal faults but his stylistic ones as well. Neil Gaiman in one of the film’s highlights gleefully deconstructs and parodies Lovecraft’s adjective dependant style and the dubious nature in which his standard first person narrators calmly dictate that they are going mad/being menaced by creatures beyond time. As in “I am calmly writing this as I am going mad, and oh dear there is something horribly monstrous at the window which I had also better take the time to write about.” (Incidentally Gaiman is perhaps the ideal critic of Lovecraft as he’s proved himself capable of capturing both Lovecraft’s awe inspiring immensity and absurdity. The former in the superlative “A Study In Emerald” the latter in the hilariously bitchy “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar”.)

Yet even more impressive then the way the documentary doesn’t ignore these faults of Lovecraft as a person and an artist is the way it doesn’t use them to dismiss him as so many do. It simply uses them as context in its admirably complete portrait of the man.

The film captures some footage that is absolutely heartbreaking in retrospect. If you have any affection for Guillmero Del Toro as a filmmaker at all (and I find it hard to believe you would be here if you didn’t) then prepare to have your heart crushed at the sight of him rapturously monologuing about the greatness of The Mountains Of Madness.

Like all great documentaries it is unafraid of contrary opinions. Once again contrast this to Dreams With Sharp Teeth, where every talking head stayed on the message that Harlan Ellison is a beautiful unique snowflake mistreated by the world, Fear Of The Dark is unafraid to have interviewees out and out contradict its thesis. For example, the last third of the film advances the theory that stories such as The Whispers In The Dark and At The Mountains Of Madness advance a softening of his views on his monsters and thus his xenophobia. Yet guests argue that these stories can just as easily be read as Lovecraft siding with the slave owning elite, however monstrous, against a malignant as ever lower order of rabble. The underclass is after all the underclass whether you call it a Suggoth or an Italian.

The film does make a few headscratching decisions, for example the film features comprehensive interviews with Stuart Gordon arguably the only filmmaker to capture Lovecraft on film with (limited) success. Yet for some reason he never comments on the stories he himself adapted. The film falls to the standard trap of the insecure documentarian, spotty reenactment footage which would be more understandable if not for the wealth of visual material otherwise present. Most unfortunately though the man hired to “read” for Lovecraft bears an unfortunately sounds like an ultra fey Vincent Price.

Yet these surface flaws cannot help but feel somewhat paltry. Documentaries with such complete understanding of their subjects and the place that their works hold are rare.

Monday, April 25, 2011


(There are heavy spoilers in this review. There have to be.)

There are those who have suggested that Splice’s working title may have been Men Will Fuck Anything. I prefer to think of it as Poor Decision Making: The Movie. Yet whatever you want to call it, Splice is one of those rare and yes, somewhat wonderful movies that is absolutely dedicated to being as crazy as it absolutely can. Say what you will about it, but by the time it features two giant penis monsters having a knife fight which results in the front row of assembled glitterati being covered in gore and broken glass, Splice is not a movie that lacks the courage of its convictions. It’s serenely, jaw droppingly nuts, call it the Sci Fi Version of Springtime For Hitler.

The film follows Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley as two cocky scientists, who decide to splice human DNA into a hybrid clone. Then instead of destroying the results they keep the resulting clone and give it a dress. They engage in some of the least appealing movie sex I have ever seen and then raise the clone out at Polley’s old homestead, because these are all excellent ideas. Brody and Polley both do an excellent job keeping their characters real, through the increasingly ludicrous decisions that the script puts them through. Though I have to admit that Polley’s presence in this film is a complete mystery to me (Brody not so much, though a fine actor he’s never been one to turn down scripts for being “too weird”.) Polley acts so rarely nowadays I can’t help but wonder what made her choose this script? What made her turn to her agent and say “This movie in which I tie a monster to a table and then cut of its tail before I am incestuously raped by my winged clone daughter/son? I must do this.”

The secret to Splice is that it is a competent enough movie to go completely batshit. Any movie can flay about making a mess. What’s really impressive is a movie that has been specifically calculated to be as off putting as possible. Yet there are some fantastic things in the film. Take Dren herself, love the movie or hate it she is a great monster both in design and performance. She has the body of a human with the body language of an animal and a design that gets stranger, deeper and uncannier the more you look at it (Like the way the eyes and hands don’t strike you as odd until you realize there is no possible way they could ever exist on a living human being).

Splice is one of those movies that’s tough to recommend. I wouldn’t exactly call if a good movie, too much of the audience’s time is spent going “Oh. My. God.” For it to exactly qualify. Yet for the hardened genre fan looking for something a little (OK a lot) different, Splice is just the thing. Like the creature at its center Splice is a strange unlovely mutant. But man it’s really something to see.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Top Five Reasons Constantine Is My Favorite Bad Movie

Water For Elephants comes out this Friday and while it may not seem like my cup of tea there is at least one reason I can’t help but have a little curiosity.

Namely, director Francis Lawrence is responsible for my favorite bad movie of all time.

Yes I hold the purest bad movie affection for Constantine. It’s not a film that’s so bad it’s good. It’s not even exactly a guilty pleasure. It’s a straight up bad movie, ill conceived at multiple levels. A weird little mongrel of a film as unlovely and clumsy as a three legged dog, and I can’t help but love it.

So here are the top five reasons why Constantine is my favorite bad movie.

5: This Shot:

This is a shot of Keanu Reeves, feet in a bucket of water, staring into the eyes of a cat as he waits patiently to be transported to hell. If there is a shot that better sums up the zen slacker cadence that makes Reeves such an appealing presence (to er… um… me) then I don’t know what is. The thing I like about Reeves as a performer is that there’s never a feeling from him that he’s above the material. While virtually any other star would signal “I’ve got a cat on my lap, my feet are in a bucket of water, and I’m waiting to be sent to hell? Can you believe this shit?” It looks to Reeves as this is the most natural thing in the world. Reeves’ default mode is “I’m down with this.” And though this sometimes causes him to give literally the worst reaction shot of all time…

It also allows him to summon a weird and appealing intensity when he’s forced to play his scenes against this.

4. A Lot Of The Movie Genuinely Works:

While it is true that much of Constantine is a very silly movie I’ll maintain that much of the movie works surprisingly well.

While it many saw it as blasphemy to move Constantine from England (and cast you know, fucking Keanu Reeves) to give the film it’s credit it makes as good of use of its LA locale's unique atmosphere as any horror film I’ve ever seen. From the Tagalong tenament building of it’s opening exorcism…

To the club culture where you can have a lot of fun...

and get into a lot of trouble...

Plus the films visual imagination is truly sterling. It’s low key noir style holds up surprisingly well. As does it’s creative monster design. Most impressive the conceptions of Heaven and Hell as literal reflections of the earthly plane.

It's a well executed idea that literally looks like no other representation of the places we’ve ever seen before. There’s no denying that if nothing else Constantine is a neat movie to look at for the majority of it’s run time.

3. Peter Stomare As Satan:

Is it any surprise that the man who fed Steve Buscemi into a wood chipper would turn out to be a great Satan?

Stomare’s Lucifer is a synthesis. For the most part playing the popular conception of a “charming old devil” favored in recent years, part animal. Avuncular, conversational, and good natured, witty enough to light up Constantine’s smoke with a “I’ve got stock.” But beneath it all a sense of genuine menace. He’s playing nice with Constantine because he knows he’s going to have all of eternity to play mean with him. It’s a performance that’s both theatrical and subtle. Funny and genuinely creepy

I mean just look at his face when he turns the tables on Gabriel.

It’s not every performance that can have this moment…

And this moment…

And sell both with equal intensity.

2. Shia LaBouf Gets Bounced Around Like A Fucking Superball:

The pleasures of this shot are self explanatory.

1. Gavin Rossdale Gets His Face Melted Off:

And unlikely as it may be Constantine fits in an even MORE satisfying case of celebrity violence wish fulfillment.

And THAT is for "Everything Zen"! Fucking pompous grunge ruining douche.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

In Lieu Of Actual Content...

Here's a picture of Lex Luthor stealing Forty Cakes.

That's as many as Four Tens!

And that is terrible.

BONUS: Batman is not very good at his job!:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Scenes #10: Scream: "Scary" Movies

The opening of Scream is without a doubt one of the most iconic scenes in horror. It's a sequence that embodies and to a large extent makes up for, much of the series. It does so by running directly counter to much of what the series does as a whole.

First off the sequence plays long. Probably longer than you remember. Certainly longer than I remembered (when I wincingly calculated how much of my image memory this post would devour). The first three minutes of this could play out as almost a straight romantic comedy. It takes it's time before tipping its hand to horror, making it all the more effective when the hammer drops.

Secondly you like her.

It’s always shocking to me just how far out of their way some horror filmmakers will go to make their characters unlikeable guilt free fodder. Sure the vapid bros who populate say The Friday The 13th Nu Metal Remake don't "deserve" their grisly deaths by any real world measure. But by movie morality Jason is nothing less than the swift hand of justice. They may as well have filmed the mandals wearing crew barbecuing puppies.

When you consider just how much more effective it makes a horror film to care about the characters the lazyness is even more unfathomable. When you actually do get a likable horror protagonist (ala Alison Lohman in Drag Me To Hell) it’s almost a shock. It’s all the more surprising as Drew’s part shows here how easy it is to do. She's not playing a particularly well drawn or deep character, just a deeply and instinctively sympathetic one. Underneath it all is the lie that if you’re bad bad things will happen to you and if you’re good vica versa. This is especially damning because this is exactly the opposite of what the great horror films tap into. The power of the random to strike you any time anywhere, that shadow on your lungs in the X-ray, that Vodka fueled driver crossing the center line. Nice person? Kind to animals? Good to your kids? Fate really couldn’t give a fuck.

I love that little pan. The all important first real note of discord in the horror movie. That swing evocative with just the right amount of dread. A horror movie pillow shot?

A nice little callback to Halloween with the butcher block even before Barrymore underlines it.

And God look at those beautiful beautiful VHS. A nice moment of nostalgia for the viewer while Craven get's to participate in a nice little bit of self congratulation "Was that the guy with knives for fingers? I liked that movie it was scary."

"Yeah too bad the sequels blew."

Uh huh...

"I want to know who I'm looking at." We're almost four minutes into the sequence at this point. It's a wonderfully creepy moment.

Arguably no horror film has gotten better use of the architecture of suburbia since Halloween. The warm modernist prairie home design, meant to be inviting also gives an almost unlimited amount of foreground and background for the killer to be lurking in.

"Hang up the phone again and I'll gut you." This is an ugly real moment. Meant to hurt and terrify.

And it works. What makes the sequence so effective is that Barrymore acts like a real person. She's scared and desperate I'm reminded of what King writes in the new introduction to Danse Macabre (Talking about the new The Last House On The Left) "-we know it's really going to happen, we are filled with rage and sorrow (and if there's an emotion more foreign to a Friday The 13th movie than sorrow, I don't know what is)". Scream if only in this scene is that rare horror movie acquainted with sorrow. The focus is not on the excitement on wondering what the next gore shot is going to look like. Or even the terror of the moment. It's on just how pitiful it is. On what a sad, lonely and undeserving way this is to go.

This is also the first time that the "rules" are mentioned. But note how they're used to mock and hurt. Not as an opportunity for a clever reference.

I'm reminded of The Outlaw Vern's comment on Smoking Aces, about how he was surprised to see the characters get sad when people they cared about started to die. Instead of the blaise reactions to death that had become the raison d'etre in crime films of the era. Here it's a similar reaction. Barrymore doesn't know she's in a horror movie. Up until ten minutes ago she was in a romantic comedy. As a result she is acting with actual horror. It should be remembered that the ultimate source of horror is the subversion of the norm. The unraveling of things. Most clumsy modern horror never even bothers to establish a norm to subvert.

Now for years film fans have been using the Scream films as an oppurtunity to prove just how much cooler and well versed they are in horror cinema than the imaginary people who populate the film (Witness the shit fits thrown about The Peeping Tom reference in Scream 4). Yeah! Fuck you fictional characters!!! (This dubious enterprise may have reached its nadir last night in a review that I will not name but to which I must just say, "Wow".) Ignoring the inherent insecurity in such a reaction, let me just take a minute to point out that ninety percent of the audience is likely to have less of a background in horror than you. And aren't you glad about that? I mean if you put all this time an effort into loving horror, aren't you glad that you know a bit more than the average joe? Does that mean the average filmgoer shouldn't get to watch the movie? I mean if they're not well versed enough to get Lamberto Bava or Jacques Tourneur trivia then fuck em right?

The whole point of the trivia segements is to put the viewer in the victims place. For that to work you have to ask a question that they could plausibly answer. Or more importantly in the case of this rather obvious Friday The 13th question, plausibly get wrong. Remember, this is 1996. The last Friday had come out only three years before. Jason was still very much in the cultural lexicon at this point. Mrs. Voorhees not so much. While it is unlikely that the average Teenager would have seen Friday The 13th "Twenty Goddamn times" she would have seen it. And Jason would have been the first thing to pop into her head.

This is an effective moment but it’s also a bit of a cheat. The classic rule of the slasher (one not exposited by Randy) is that if the camera cannot see the killer then neither can the characters. No matter how visible the killer would be in the victim’s field of vision the killer reserves the right to jump in to the foreground and background at will with the stealth of damn ninja. Here it’s the same rule reversed. We hear the kill before we see it, which is how it’s excused. But The Killer would still need Speedy Gonzales like speed to evade detection, by Barrymore as the lights are off for only about five seconds. But the camera cannot see him thus he is invisible.

"Guess which door I'm at." The nastiest part of this is that knowing what we know about Billy and Stu there is no correct answer for poor Barrymore to give. Say what you will about Williamson's script but Scream is the rare horror movie that is built to hold up in hindsight.

The knife, the smoke, Barrymore going from victim to Final Girl. Part of what makes the sequence so effective is that it feels much more like the end of a horror film than the beginning of one.

Our first glimpse of Ghost Face comes nearly nine minutes into the sequence. It’s another neat inversion on the old slasher trope. The fear of slashers traditionally comes from their omnipresence. No matter how hard you run, Jason and Michael will keep pace with you without so much as breaking into a power walk, The Strangers will lurk in the background no matter where you go. Ghostface in most of his incarnations takes the exact opposite tack. Even when he’s in pursuit you’re never sure where.

Oh that is a bitch. Another surprisingly lazy thing about much of horror writing is how it treats the character's deaths as forgone conclusions. A little hope can go a long way.

Let us now praise famous Ghostfaces. Say what you will about 80's horror but there was no shortage of memorable monsters from the era. If you mark the beginning of modern horror with Scream, Ghostface remains really the only truly memorable creation. Jigsaw is the only modern monster who can claim similar iconicism and ubiquity. Though it is a bit of a stretch to put those two ghouls in the same genus. Sadako from the Ring is another contender. But technically I consider her more of a trope and she's not American. The only other iconic monsters I can think of are The Firefly Clan and let's face it they're pretty ghettoized in horror fandom. You show a picture Otis Driftwood to a normal they're not going to know who the fuck he is. Most of the Scream copy cats were content to put the killer in a black slicker and have them chase the nubile.

Ghostface is another matter. Like all of the great monsters he's simple enough to pray on your sub-conscience, yet iconic enough to be instantly recognizable add that to the way his appearance subtly mocks his victims...

Yeah that's a great design.

I've written some unkind things about Craven in the past. But only because I've meant them.

One thing I will give to Craven is that his horror across the board has a physicality to it. There is never death without struggle in a Craven film, when he's at his best, it feels real.

The fact that Ghostface has to look and line up his knife before plunging it in, gives this moment the clumsy, unglamorized look that pushes it into the bounds of true horror.

Once again this isn't glamorous, this isn't fun, this isn't cool. No one would think to grin and call this a great kill. This is pathetic, lonely, cruel and sad.

And prolonged and desperate...

That last shot of Barrymore, desperately trying to call for her mother, without even the strength to get it through her brutalized throat, is one of the most purely horrifying images I know of.

In the last moment Barrymore pulls off Ghostface's mask. And reveals something much more terrifying then whatever continuity ignoring reveal the makeup men on the latest Friday The 13th cooked up. It synchs up with the moment that Barrymore wounds Ghostface in the window scene. From the very beginning it is shown that he is not the implacable, invulnerable, supernatural slasher of yesteryear. The face she reveals is a human face. That is terror, not just horror.

Her parents listening to their daughter die is the last underlier that this is a sequence about suffering. Not Fear. It's like something from a Gialli without the distancing effect of theatricality.

And there's the punchline for you. Scream? I believe I will.

Of course after the credits, Scream becomes an entirely different movie. Not a bad movie, as I insisted for awhile (After all I did mark another moment from the film as one of my scariest moments). But just another slasher, albeit a well written and directed one. Ironic for a movie (rightfully) labeled the post modern horror film that Scream should start with sequence of such unabashed reality. That was what Scream promised, a horror movie played real. It could have been great, it settled for good.

Of course a film played entirely at that level could well be unbearable. Think Funny Games but without the comforting distance of being an intellectual exercise. And it certainly wouldn't have sold enough popcorn to guarantee a fourth installment. But I can't help but watch this sequence with the mixture of terror and pity it arouses in me and wonder what might have been had Craven and Williamson had the balls to follow through on the courage of their convictions.