Wednesday, October 29, 2014

13 Phones of Halloween #11

I knew I had to cover the Scream franchise for this series because hello, phones phones and more phones, everywhere phones. And it struck me, hey, seeing as I know somebody who loves the movies even more than I do I figured I'd bring him in as a very special guest to do the Ghostface Call-ah (groan) honors.  

So here's our favorite Scream enthusiast Glenn Dunks...
Did you see Buzzfeed’s ranking of the best Ghostface kills in the Scream franchise? If you did you were probably like me and scoffed at some of the rankings as often as you agreed with them. For instance, the reason Hallie’s death in Scream 2 works so well is because she is the smart one who wanted to “get the fuck outta here”, and her death is a direct result of Sidney’s boneheaded decision to go back to the car. And, look, I'll defend Scream 3 despite its issues (Cotton Weary having a chat show called 100% Cotton is all-time groan moment), but Ghostface killing somebody by fax was a bridge too dumb. But how about that mid-level ranking of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Cici Cooper. Ranked below wet blanket boyfriend Derek & sad puppy killer Charlie, for crying out loud! 

Everyone’s favourite ass-kicking heroine (give or take a Ripley, perhaps?) in her baby-pink knitted sweater watching Party of Five is so far from Buffy that it works marvelously. Despite two other death scenes that are “much more elaborate” (Maureen and Randy), and despite only appearing in about eight minutes of the movie, Gellar’s appearance is very memorable.
And while I could go on and on about how well-staged this scene is. Like how great the design of the sorority house is, the way it plays up landline static to maximum effect, and how it mirrors the Casey Becker scene from Scream but has its own identity. I could especially mention the smart and delicate framing of shots like when the killer enters the house while Cici and Dawnie chat in the foreground or the way wide shots always include a door or a window or a getaway of some kind, but I won’t. No, what really makes this scene work as well as it does is the way it very quickly places Cici in danger that she (and not just the audience) recognizes. I can actually believe why she wouldn’t just run out of the house screaming because it all happens so fast.

There’s the blatant “Do you want to die tonight, Cici?” that would paralyze anybody with fear, and the deeply unsettling prospect that she’s in just as much danger outside as in. Never, however, is it quite as effective as this final pre-Ghostface moment. Pulling her hair back, exacerbated, as the telephone rings. That last reluctant decision she makes to pick it up one last time. Maybe it was just a prank and Ted will be on the other end laughing with his frat buddies. That’s weak “Hello”, she says before the door behind her bursts open.

That Cici falls prey to the trope of running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door isn’t insulting, but rather part of why the scene and the films in general are so successful. Cici, as shown earlier in the film by the sequel conversation, knows her movies, but when the caller on the other end of the line brings the horror to her, it crushes whatever savviness she thought she had. It’s a wonderful encapsulation of what the entire franchise is about. We can spend our whole lives watching horror, but when it comes knocking on our own door (or, in this case, calling on the phone) everything we know goes flying out the window. Just like Cici. 

Oops. Poor Smidge.

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