On December 20th, Wes Craven’s classic slasher film Scream turns 20 years old. Many of you know how I feel about Scream. I’ve made my love for it and its sequels (yes, even Scream 3) apparent in the past, but the original was a landmark film that redefined the horror genre. I’ll be spending this week writing a handful of posts about Scream (call it “Scream Week,” if you will) in the hopes that more people will join in on celebrating this wonderful film.
When Scream was released in 1996, the horror genre was essentially dead. The endless supply of horror sequels being released were doing worse and worse at the box office, and original horror films were failing critically and commercially . When Scream turned out to be a box office success and a hit with critics, studios started turning back to the genre that had long been thought dead. None of the imitators would be able to match Scream in terms of quality (or box office numbers), but most of them have somewhat redeemable qualities. The eight films listed below are some of Scream’s most high-profile imitators, and I’ve taken the liberty of ranking them (as I’m wont to do) from best to worst!
The first of two Lois Duncan adaptations on this list (this time of her novel Gallows Hill), I’ve Been Waiting For You is one of the lazier attempts to cash in on the late ’90s teen slasher craze. Not helping matters is that it was released just five months after I Know What You Did Last Summer, which makes I’ve Been Waiting For You‘s mediocrity even more apparent. Duane Poole’s screenplay ham-fistedly morphs Duncan’s supernatural premise (about a girl with powers and a connection to the Salem witch trials) into a bloodless and cliché-ridden slasher. While it can be entertaining in that cheesy TV movie way, especially when you realize the cast consists of then-unknowns Sarah Chalke, Christian Campbell (Neve’s brother), Ben Foster and a post-Punky Brewster Soleil Moon Frye. Ultimately, it is nothing more than a disjointed, watered down and forgettable dud.
What makes Jamie Blanks’s (Urban Legend) Valentine such a crushing disappointment is that it was adapted from a really good Tom Savage novel. While it’s far from the worst slasher ever made, it is painfully average. The lack of gore and scares added to the fact that the killer’s identity is obvious from the get-go make this one of the more forgettable horror films of the 2000s. This is the type of film that Scream was sending up, so releasing it five years after Scream (and one year after Scream 3) seems like a poor choice. Had the tone of the film been more ironic then it might have worked, but as it stands Valentine is a completely forgettable film (Don Davis’s score is on point though).
This is where this list becomes really difficult for me, because I genuinely love all of the films from here on out (I am a child of the 90s after all). Cherry Falls is an above-average slasher film that suffered from a horrific post-production process due to the MPAA. A clever premise (a serial killer stalks virgins in a small Virginia town) with solid directing from Geoffrey Wright, as well as strong performances from Michael Biehn, Jay Mohr and the late Brittany Murphy make for a highly entertaining and self-aware slasher (though not quite as clever as it thinks it is). Unfortunately it was doomed to be a TV movie and was released on the USA Network in 2000.
I’m one of those weirdos who likes to pretend Halloween, Halloween II and Halloween: H20 are the only films in the Halloween franchise. Sue me. H20 wouldn’t have existed if it weren’t for Scream reviving the slasher sub-genre (the last Halloween sequel grossed just $15.1 million in 1995), and lucky for us we got an above average sequel with a tour de force performance from Jamie Lee Curtis. While it curiously ignored the events of Halloween 3-6, the franchise returned to its roots by pitting Laurie Strode (Curtis) against her brother Michael Myers. While it’s not a particularly scary film (save for that suspenseful garbage disposal sequence), it does have a taut, fast-paced script (making for an all-too-brief 86-minute runtime) and impressive direction from horror mainstay Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Part II and Part III, Lake Placid). There is a sense of fun present here that was lacking from the other Halloween sequels and for that it should be commended.