I wouldn’t classify myself as a horror guy, but maybe that’s just because of the kind of horror movies that get made today. Though there’s plenty of material beneath the surface, the only ones that Hollywood manufactures are dull repetitions of an established, stale formula. I have huge respect for a well-made horror film, but when’s the last time you saw one that didn’t have to be tracked down?
So, even if it’s not very scary, it’s refreshing to see the Scream franchise come back to life – at the very least to acknowledge how awful things have gotten.
Existing in a lightly meta- universe, Scream‘s characters are made unique by the fact that they watched Horror films and understand the rules of the cat-and-mouse game that most slashers devolve into.
This dynamic continues in the latest installment, Scream 4 (or, if you’d prefer, Scre4m). Arriving in theaters eleven years after the last installment, this film didn’t make it to pre-production before the word “Reimagining” was brandied about it a thousand times. So its fitting that Scream 4 specifically takes on horror remakes – a particularly noaticeable trend that’s impossible to not notice at the box office. While this Scream isn’t a remake, it adds a new generation of characters while keeping up with its original cast (think Saved by the Bell: The New Class), in a ploy that may or may not be trying to begin a brand new trilogy (think Star Trek, Chronicles of Riddick, Spider-Man, Indiana Jones any other fourquel that has come out in the past five years).
Whether or not this is an actual ploy or not doesn’t matter, because Scream‘s creator, genre legend Wes Craven, is working purely on a theoretical level here. There’s not a lot of drama and there aren’t many tense moments – an essential aspect to the horror film. But Scream doesn’t aspire to make you jump out of your seat, it would rather engage the genre geek within and goof around with the paradigms it knows by heart. How do you scare people analytically?
The result is less of a horror film and more of a energetic commentary. Craven puts enough work into this to keep everything moving; and his willingness to play with the formula gives it a liveliness that makes for some excitement.
And really, that’s enough. At least compared with its big budget contemporaries, the fact that Scream 4 doesn’t rely on cheap thrills alone should make it head of the class. This is far from a classic, but the fact that it’s willing to play even a lightly academic level, at this moment in horror filmmaking, makes it feel like one.