As can be seen from the above tweet, I have a slightly unusual relationship with the Scream franchise of horror films. Having originally seen all of the first three films whilst swimming in and out of consciousness in hospital – after having peritonitis and subsequently spending three days on a full morphine dose regime – I had never really understood the films. Ghostface, the running plot and the symbology had been pretty much lost on me.
This last week, I made the effort to watch the first three films whilst not under the influence of intravenously provided opiates – and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. But this horror catch up wasn’t just for the sake of watching the films – I wanted to go and see SCRE4M this week.
So yesterday evening, I ended up at my local cinema with Paul in tow and two tickets to see a film that has decided to buck the annoying 3D trend that has gripped our cinemas of late. And I had a pot of pick ‘n’ mix too.
(Note: The only 3D film that I have seen to date that (to me) has used the technology well is The Final Destination.)
First off: it wasn’t a reboot. No re-imagining. It was the natural continuation of all that has come to pass previously. The horror genre has had enough reboots lately, it did not need another classic franchise to become yet another victim of this Hollywood phenomenon. Scream 4 paying attention and reveling in its roots works well.
While it was obviously having to make itself accessible to a new, and younger, audience – it didn’t do too much to spoon-feed them information. This was probably where the use of the in-film franchise “Stab” helped to kind of set-up what people should expect and was a kind of crash-course in the slasher horror sub-genre along with the numerous intertextual references made inside it and SCRE4M as a whole.
However, because the film didn’t do much in the way of back-peddling or exposition as to the events of the previous three, it was very much a film for the fans. Those who have bothered to watch the earlier installments are rewarded with an opportunity to feel elated at knowing the nuances between the established characters…
And the rules Ghostface would need to break.
The thing that many people may forget is that the Scream franchise has always been about serial killers. Not necessarily ones that operate within the known pathology of serial killers, but that’s where the horror comes from. Dealing with individuals who appear to have no real motive is something that the public finds scary, as can be seen by what happens with any actual serial killer case when the media tries to “discuss” it.
Our inability to rationalise Ghostface’s motives for the main course of each film is what makes the films scary. The terror of the unknown. If you consider that we live in an information age, so to speak, not knowing the why behind something is a great way to induce fear. The characters can’t just search Wikipedia and find out why Ghostface is killing.
Another terror inducing aspect is that you just never really know where it’s going to strike next – other than that the heroine Sidney and her friends will probably become victims (to varying degrees) along the way. The fact that Kevin Williamson, the scriptwriter for the film, was able to play this out for yet another installment is actually pretty cool.
The story of the film beautifully walks a fine balance between the expected and the unexpected, which for me made it quite fresh. And for the first time we had an instigator situation that fitted one of the perceived types of serial killer, at least according to some works on the pathology of this type of criminal.
If you plan on seeing this film whilst it’s out in cinemas, and you enjoyed the earlier three – then you’ll probably enjoy this one. After all, Williamson was the original writer, and Wes Craven is at the directorial wheel again too. Should you be someone who has never watched the films, then I suggest that you watch those first, for while it does try to make itself accessible: this is a film for the fans.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about the title of this post: someone really needs to get hold of her family tree.