Can Scream Save Horror Films Once Again?
Posted on Wednesday July 14, 2010, 14:59 by Benjamin Lee in Empire States
Vampire in Brooklyn, Thinner, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Leprechaun – it’s really not an overstatement to say that when Scream was released in 1996, the scare-free void that was 90s horror received a much-needed shot in the decaying arm. The fresh-faced energy of the cast, the smart, knowing script from debut writer Kevin Williamson and the long overdue return to form for director Wes Craven helped to make Scream one of the highest grossing slasher films ever. It reinvigorated the genre and, for better or worse, horror became mainstream again. Looking back now, from a time when studios rely on modestly budgeted horror films to keep them afloat, it’s hard to remember a period when the genre wasn’t deemed profitable.
Two more Screams followed, both commercially successful although with continually diminishing returns, and by 2000 the slasher film was slowly creeping back into the blood-stained closet. Ten years later however, and the Scream 4 (or Scre4m as it’s rather awkwardly titled on the US onesheet) is now in production, with the original cast and crew back in action. But, coming after such a long gap, and in a time when horror has transformed itself yet again, is there really space for the second coming of the self-referential slasher movie? 14 years ago, the practice of having horror characters refer to the very situations they found themselves in as clichéd and similar to ‘that bit in that film’ was somewhat revolutionary but now it’s become a little overused. Diablo Cody stretched our tolerance for pop-culture infused dialogue in Jennifer’s Body, while no horror film in nearly ten years has been complete without a feisty black actor remarking that “brothers never make it out of situations like this”. Yawn.
Audiences have become too self-aware to appreciate a film being self-aware and as a result horror has become deadly serious all over again. Up until the noughties, the Scream trilogy held the title of ‘most successful horror franchise ever’ but once the Saw films began, they were pushed down to second place. Wit has been replaced with torture and a glossy sheen has been gritted up and smeared with bodily fluids. The stabbings of Scream (at the time blamed for numerous copycat killings) are now relatively tame by comparison. These days, a character would probably need to be stabbed while being fed into a combine harvester while watching the same thing happen to their entire family in order to provoke the same effect. This isn’t a point which has gone unnoticed by the Scream team, either. Wes Craven has promised that the film will mock torture porn, although whether or not the levels of violence will be raised to appeal to the appetite of modern cinemagoers is as yet unclear. Scream films are typified by their strict adherence to simple, knife-based deaths (bar the seminal Rose McGowan/cat-flap mash-up) and also their leaning towards mystery and suspense over all-out gore, so remaining true to the loyal fanbase should hopefully keep things faithful. But what of the fanbase?
While the makers have been appeasing the ‘yoof’ market by hiring a set of new teens, the film will still focus on the original three stars: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, a threesome who might be hard to identify for anyone under the age of 21. Campbell dropped off the radar with a number of West End plays and a role in failed NBC series The Philanthropist, while David Arquette had a few missteps, notably with his directorial debut The Tripper. His wife has fared better, most recently in the sitcom Cougar Town, yet the show targets an older female demographic, most of whom would already know her from Friends anyway. The problem remains that the key audience for a horror film (18-24) would potentially be unimpressed by the main trio. Even the younger casting choices are a tad dated. Adam Brody, who peaked in The OC (which finished three years ago); Marley Shelton who tried her hand at the scream queen thing back in 2001 with the forgettable Valentine; and Hayden Panettiere, who lost whatever cachet she once had when Heroes got shit. The Scream generation have now well and truly come of age. Those who were old enough to see the first one on the big screen would now be in their thirties and while a later reboot such as Halloween H20 worked to some extent, it benefitted from a villain that had remained a solid part of popular culture, something that Scream lacks.
Slasher films themselves haven’t had an easy ride of it since Scream 3 back in 2000. Most recently we’ve seen Sorority Row fail to make back its paltry $12.5 million budget at the US box office while All The Boys Love Mandy Lane is bizarrely still waiting for a release date in the States. Scream brought about the rebirth and then the death of the slasher film. In taking a risk and hoping that lightning strikes twice, Scre4m is asking a lot. It’s not just about trying to resurrect a subgenre; it’s about trying to resurrect the genre at large, as well as the career of Wes Craven. And all this from a film whose title uses the number 4 to represent the letter A. No one expects this much from 5inal Destination...
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Posted on Wednesday July 14, 2010, 16:00
Are you really trying to say that the Scream villain (ie, that mask and cloak) aren't big in the social concious? Because that's just nonsense.
Still, it'll be shit.
Posted on Thursday July 15, 2010, 02:25
I really hope it's good, I only recently got around to seeing the original (I was a nipper when it came out) and I have faith they can skewer the generation once again.
One bet I place, I bet that in the film, someone will be trying to remake Stab.
Posted on Thursday July 15, 2010, 10:44
I think it could work if the younger cast are representing the 'horror porn' genre, and the original trio representing the slasher genre. For example, the likes of Adam Brody, horrified that Hayden Panettiere has just been mangled by a 'Saw' fanatic in a Scream mask, goes to Sydney Prescott for help seeing as how she dealt with psychos dressed in Scream masks. Hearing how this generation view horror films and how tame her old life seems in comparrison, they team up 2 track the killer. Also David Arquette is the killer in an attempt to prove he's still cool
Posted on Thursday August 5, 2010, 21:55
I actually LOVE the longevity of the Scream Mask killer, because it's been established even as far as the first one that the killer is more than just one person, often two, and in each film following, copycats or other people connected with the greater story. Unlike the film franchises that go on for so long that they force their antagonists to become immortals, resurrected or rebooted God knows how many times in a law of diminishing returns, the Scream films stand alone due to their central hook: It's always someone new behind the mask. No matter how many times you kill him, someone else will always be inspired to take up the mantle, making for not only a villain that keeps you guessing, but also a villain that is actually credible going into more and more films. The true evil of that mask is that it's an "idea" (Inception nod!) an idea that inspires more and more murderers to assume the identity, and in that way, without voodoo or time dimensions, the character can never truly die, which is certainly something!