New Decade, New Rules
I think I was the perfect age for Scream; released in 1996, I was probably fifteen when I got round to watching it on TV. Referencing and satirising horror films I had only just become familiar with, while providing decent running tension and scares, I was instantly impressed. The sequels weren’t too bad but (rather expectedly) paled by comparison. So, just over a decade later, the slasher genre has mutated and spawned the popular ‘torture porn’ subgenre, with film series such as Saw and Hostel raking in handfuls, as well as the successful market of remakes. The pressing question seems to be, do audiences need another Scream film?
I won’t fully describe the introductory scenes solely because they’re amusing but hinder the plot description a little. Following suit, we witness the gruesome murder of two young girls by a killer in a ghost-face mask with a hunting knife, on the fifteenth anniversary of Woodsboro’s initial killing spree. Coincidentally, survivor Sidney Prescott [Campbell] returns home for the final date on her extremely successful book tour, only to be implicated as a suspect when the murder weapon is found in the boot of her rented car. Meanwhile, the only other two veteran cast members, Dewey Riley [Arquette] and Gale Weathers-Riley [Cox] are sparing over how to proceed: Gale sees the whole event as an opportunity to reclaim the limelight, whereas Dewey, now Sheriff, feels he cannot objectively work alongside his wife. The new ghost-face killer appears to be targeting everyone around Sidney, in an attempt to cause her immense suffering, starting with her sole surviving (albeit distant and somewhat estranged) family members. This new generation is represented by Sidney’s cousin Jill [Roberts] and her two friends, Olivia [Marielle Jaffe] and Kirby [Panettiere]. The story rather openly (and unashamedly) follows the formula of the first film, making direct comparisons to the next gen characters and the original victims/killers. By heavily referencing the other Scream films, the narrative continually sets the audience up to believe a certain cast member might be the killer, before their grisly execution provides the ultimate alibi. In a way, this means it avoids being predictable and technically these could be counted as twists but ultimately, there’s something horribly bloated and cliché about the entire project that really cripples it, forcing me to once again raise the aforementioned question, “do audiences need another Scream film?”
As far as this reboot.. revisit.. whatever the hell you want to call it.. goes, it’s not bad. The script was impressive and felt like a story worth telling, furthermore, with the revitalised success of the horror genre, a satirical commentary such as this, with decent characters and scares, feels like a welcome break. The acting is atypical for the genre but far from sub-par; the highlight would certainly be the returns of Arquette in the role of audience favourite, Dewey, and Cox as the surly foul-mouthed reporter, Gale. Directorially speaking, Craven has done a commendable job here and proven that the self-referential style still works very well in the right hands; Marco Beltrami also returns to offer a suitably fitting orchestral score, littered with the obligatory contemporary rock tracks. When analysing the individual elements, it’s difficult not to compliment this film, solely for the fact that it replicates the exact same formula of the first release so closely that if you enjoyed Scream for the humour, postmodern attitude and elaborate chase scenes, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy this. However, in making itself so self-aware, so postmodern and so savvy to the changing world of media coverage, the story almost consumes itself. For example, in trying to throw the audience off so much, there are a fair few setups and developments that never pay off. In particular, one relatively creepy exchange between the deputy and Sidney goes nowhere, despite the fact that it’s filmed in an incredibly suggestive manner — it’s problematic little flaws like this that really ruined Scream 3 for me.
**Short spoiler paragraph**
I must confess, I actually really enjoyed both the killer’s motive and the ending. I realise it’s going to piss a lot of people off – but then, so did the other three Scream titles. Everyone expects a big elaborate reason to justify the killings (either that or some deformed monster is responsible) but Jill’s explanation that in order to become famous “you don’t have to do anything, you just have to have fucked up shit happen to you” is an interesting commentary on the nature of contemporary fame. But, as stated, I get that people are going to be annoyed, my biggest complaint is that Sidney lived; they should have had the confidence to completely and finally off her character – either that or make Jill the victor, only to be caught and exposed at a later date in a (some would say justifiable) sequel. Ah well.
Final thoughts, great film for Scream fans and anyone looking for a return to the 90’s answer to horror but if these are the kinds of elements that frustrate the hell out of you, or you’re too young to remember films in the 90’s, you’ll probably find it tedious, slow and boring.
15th April 2011
The Scene To Look Out For:
The interaction between Officers Perkins [Anthony Anderson] and Hoss [Adam Brody] were particularly amusing, namely for their analysis of the fate of police officers on film in general (let alone horror movies) and their eventual demise.
As stated above, I’ve always felt that David Arquette’s performance as Dewey has been a bit of a highlight of the entire series and this film is no exception. It’s very difficult, however, to judge the new characters, simply because they follow the archetypes of the older ones so closely – giving them little room to deviate or act outside of their two dimensional descriptions.
“I don’t need friends, I need fans!”
In A Few Words:
“Considering how awful a revisit could have been, Scre4m was a welcome surprise. Nothing overly challenging or new but lived up to its predecessors”