by Adam Riske
These questions took me back to when I was a young kid that loved movies but didn’t necessarily understand why he loved them. In 1989, I learned what works for me in film acting. I was watching an episode of Siskel & Ebert with my family, and they were talking about The Fabulous Baker Boys and praising Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance -- specifically her confidence, charm and believability. Those concepts were a little ahead of me, so I asked my Dad to explain it to me more simply. He said something perfect which I have never forgotten: “Are they interesting or fun to watch?” You could write books on acting and not summarize good acting better than that. To this day, I remind my Dad about what a great comment that was and how it informed my perception of if a performance is working or not working for me.
Is he charming? Yes, he is. Even though he’s a psychopath, you can understand why people are drawn to him. He’s a fun guy that doesn’t take things seriously, which somehow makes his character even more frightening -- more frightening than Billy Loomis, anyway. One thing that strikes me about Matthew Lillard in Scream is that everyone has met a Stu in their life, whether it’s in high school or otherwise. Now, think if your Stu had no problem murdering you. It’s terrifying.
Little moves Lillard does in the movie are incredible. Remember the scene where Lillard is leaving school with Neve Campbell and Rose McGowan and he’s twisting their arms to come to his house for what will turn out to be the climatic bloodbath party? When they say yes, he does this fist pump as they walk away. Knowing what you know about his character up to that point, it’s believable Stu would do that. When you know he’s a killer, it adds another layer. He’s happy because his plan to have a killer party (pun intended) is in motion. That’s chilling.
Did you ever wonder about Stu’s motive? Is it really “peer pressure” like he says? How did Billy know that Stu would go along with him? What if Billy brought it up to him and Stu was not on board? That would have been awkward!
It’s been mentioned on F This Movie! that sometimes an actor (like Seth Rogen) does not get the credit he or she deserves because the performance style is so naturalistic. Matthew Lillard in Scream falls into that camp. It’s confident, charming, believable, interesting, fun to watch performance and always in harmony with the tricky, devilishly fun tone of the movie itself.
More Great Horror Performances
JB on Anthony Perkins in Psycho
Heath Holland on Piper Laurie in Carrie