The Setpiece Kills
Rule 3: obfuscation = misdirection, pay attention to what you didn’t see
A lot of people die in these things, but some kills are better than others. These ones in particular. Not counting the cold opens.
6. Scream 3
Honestly hard to pick one here. They’re all fast and basic and many rely heavily on the overpowered voice simulator. I guess if I had to pick the standout, it’d be Ghostface faxing script pages to the Stab 3 cast (plus Dewey and Gale) seeing if anyone would flick a lighter before noticing the gas leak. It was certainly a more ambitious kill sequence than we normally get, but less hard hitting and somewhat lacking in the terror department.
5. Scream 4
They really open strong on this one. Our second death goes hard and gruesome, and the “I never said which closet” reveal is a solid end to our most suspenseful phone call. I’d go with Anthony Anderson’s brutal death if they’d made me believe that either Ghostface were physically capable of getting a knife through the hardest part of anyone’s skull. Honestly I doubt either of these noodle-armed wannabes should have been able to go two rounds with Sidney Prescott.
4. Scream VI
Well, see, I have to rule out two of the most intense sequences of the movie because this is “setpiece kill,” not “setpiece wounding,” sorry Scream VI. Also the setpiece kill should surround someone we care about, sorry bodega scene. But Ghostface’s infiltration of the Carpenter’s apartment, from Josh Segerra’s frantic attempts to warn people to the desperate ladder escape, is non-stop white knuckles with multiple casualties.
The obvious choice would be Tatum in the garage, it’s definitely the second biggest kill scene in the movie after the opening, but the double-layered “look behind you” kill, as Sid and Kenny the camera man watch a time-delayed feed of Ghostface sneaking up behind Randy while Randy implores Laurie Strode to notice Michael Myers is right behind her? That’s very Scream. That’s the most Scream death right there. No wonder the fifth one came back to it.
2. Scream 2
Sidney and her best friend/roommate find themselves stuck in back seat of a police car with an unconscious Ghostface in the front seat. The only way out is over the killer before they wake up. But the urge to unmask the killer impedes what could have been a clean getaway. First time I watched it, this was the most suspenseful sequence of either movie. Tense. As. Hell.
1. Scream, but the fifth one not the first one
Our third kill is an absolute masterclass in dramatic tension. If you watched this scene in isolation with no music, it’s just someone getting out of the shower and rooting through the fridge and various cabinets until suddenly boom Ghostface. But, see, our second kill was moments earlier, right outside, so we know that Ghostface is almost definitely in the house. Thus every doorway becomes an avenue of attack, every opened door something to cover Ghostface’s arrival, and the camera is constantly finding doorways to get conspicuously in frame while fridge and cabinet doors are opened. The score makes it all the creepier, but even without it, this scene is a perfect minimalist build in creeping dread. Absolute masterclass.
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