When is a reboot not a reboot? When is a sequel a re-quel? When it is SCREAM (this year’s model).
‘JAMES! WHY WOULD YOU GO AND SEE A HORROR FILM?’..said the voices in my head. I’m kidding. They have quietened down of late. 😉
See, thing is, SCREAM, in any of its episodes has never been horror genre stuff. Including the latest version. Instead, it is a thriller, murder mystery and meta-textual commentary on cinema, with some jump scares and occasional gore. And it is funny!
I am sentimental about the franchise. Its launch was part of the 1996/7 cultural fabric to my generation. Sequels, less so, perhaps. I think part 2 is great. 3 fine. I sat out part 4 in 2011 (was busied with beautiful girl that summer..she only let me out, supervised, on special occasions because I am so sexy, and whilst I caught THOR and TRANSFORMERS /X MEN, I missed Scream that year..but I aint complaining).
Anyway. What do I mean by ‘meta-textual’? Put simply, it is where a story is itself a comment on the mechanics of genre story telling. There is nothing new in that method. The Bible is full of that, hence ‘hermeneutics’ in Theology. Virgil and Homer, too: just see the parallels and criticism / updating of previous legends in one template. Same is true, of cinema.
But it is a delicate balance. If you go TOO far into a lecture on cinema, rather than simply delivering a fun ride? Then the effort is lost and wasted. Thankfully, this new SCREAM manages to deliver a suspenseful, scary, nail biting, edge of seat clinging thriller. There are laughs, too. And a strong strand of female empowerment, without EVER making the men look weak or hopeless. It pays tribute to the previous films, whilst existing as its own ‘thing’.
The pace is fast, save a slight lull at the end, by which time one has either guessed, deducted logically or simply narrowed down the suspects to the final murderers. The fact that the premise of the film is again, someone TRYING to recreate the patterns of a past serial killer ‘Ghost-Face’ and targeting a small town, both helps and hinders that balance in run time. Formula is there: girl is attacked at the start; old characters return to scene of the crime, twists, turns, red herrings and set pieces aplenty abound right until the climax.
There are some very promising new stars on show here. Well, actors. Who may or may not become stars in due course? Jack Quaid has a distinctive presence onscreen. Jasmin Savoy Brown: ADORABLE! Marley Shelton: gorgeous! I could go on. It is a truly gifted cast. Neve Campbell returns and looks radiant yet tough and earthy, very credible in the action. Courtney Cox needed more to do, though. And David Arquette is morphing into Bill Pullman though he too retains a certain charm, 25 years on in one character and series.
Quibbles? They do veer into an easy commentary on the Reddit generation. They also reference the Rian Johnson/Star Wars backlash, which is both unfair and unwise, almost inviting a Knives Out comparison? There are too many reveals and quasi-twists at the end, almost pushing meta-textual into all out pastiche/parody. And make no mistake, this is not a ‘nice’ film; much of the residual charm from the first films (for all their scary bits) has eroded, alas, with time. So the film makes the very mistakes it sets out to satirise.
That said: This IS a good thriller. Simple premise, complex unravelling, final flourish. Scary, funny, sexy, moving and yet another example of the sheer magic one can only get by visiting a cinema. Cautiously, recommended. B+