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2 Stars Movies

Scream 4 makes a few half-hearted stabs… at relevance

By the time Scream 4 appeared, over a decade after the original trilogy began, the horror genre had moved on from the ironic, winking mode the series popularized. A character in Scream 4 complains that most horror movies traffic more in outright gore (“I hate that torture porn shit”). On television, The Walking Dead characters are so divorced from pop culture that they don’t even know the word “zombie”. How does the usual tone of the Scream movies play to today’s audiences?

In this context, Scream 4 would seem old fashioned throwback to the ironic 90s, were it not significantly more cynical than its predecessors. Scream 2 overtly critiqued sequels, Scream 3 deconstructed trilogies, and now Scream 4 openly uses the word “franchise”. Movies are more the product of big business than ever before, and now that’s the subject of the movies themselves.

Scream 4 does make a few half-hearted stabs (sorry) at relevance by roping in social media (one kid liveblogs the whole thing), and celebrity culture. The murderers’ motivation has moved on from sex and revenge to desire to the kind of instant celebrity enjoyed today by the likes of teenage murderers and socialite drunks.

Amusingly, Scream 4 self-mythologizes itself with the movie-within-the-movie Stab, amusingly credited to Robert Rodriguez. Actually, I think I’d rather see that movie.

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2 Stars Movies

Scream 3 is the movie-of-the-book-within-the-movie

The Scream franchise disappears even further up its own backside as the action moves to a Hollywood studio making a movie dramatizing a book relating the events seen in the original movie. We’re invited to take the moral point of view that the book-within-the-movie and the movie-of-the-book-within-the-movie are exploiting tragedy, but it’s not clear if Scream 3 is self-aware enough to apply those lessons to itself.

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2 Stars Movies

Scream 2 is a self-fulfilling prophecy

There’s nowhere else the Scream franchise could have gone other than here: an ironic, self-aware sequel to an ironic, self-aware horror film.

When one the characters states “Sequels suck! Oh please, please! By definition alone, sequels are inferior films!”, it’s something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. There’s a fine line between winking at your audience and just throwing up your hands and admitting your new movie can’t measure up to the original.

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3 Stars Movies

Once revolutionary, Scream now feels quaint

It’s easy to forget how revolutionary Wes Craven’s Scream seemed in 1996, and how influential it’s been since. Rewatching it 17 years later, I’m struck by how… well, quaint it seems in retrospect. Now every post-Scream horror movie is required to be a postmodern deconstruction of the genre.

Maybe the trend reached its apotheosis with The Cabin in the Woods. But who knows, maybe in 17 more years another post-postmodern de-deconstruction will obsolete it as well.

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