Saturday, 3 September 2011

Film Review: Scre4m

It's your standard set up and as is customary for a (hopefully) final outing it reunites the original cast. Sidney Prescott (Campbell - where has she been?!) returns to Woodsboro to promote her new book about how she got over all the happenings in Scream 1, 2 and 3 against a backdrop of the delightfully named Stab series which exploited her trauma. No sooner does she arrive than do people start getting slashed by a new Ghostface.

Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson essentially rewrote the horror genre back in the nineties. Ironically they embraced all the established horror rules - or rather cliches - and played on them in a post-modern take where the characters and audience fused together. For the first time the characters in the movie were the audience, aware of the same cliches and twists that accompany every horror film, same as you. In its day this was a hip new take as it took on the genre's traditional tropes and essentially twisted them on their head.

Scre4m can now be seen as 'retro' in its adherence to nineties themes and yet despite inventing them it still remains new in its meta attitude. Like its predecessors it unabashedly follows every horror convention while openly mocking them at the same time. Indeed, it prides itself on being 'meta' to the point where even the high school movie geeks provide a running commentary on the film throughout, explaining that "the unexpected is the new cliche". So, expect everyone to die then. That is, according to the modern rules, "unless you're gay". But then the film even goes and ridicules this anyway when one of Ghostface's victims says with his last breath "but I'm gay!". Scream essentially works by taking otherwise smart people aware of all the horror rules who go and stupidly break them anyway. When you get a phone call from a raspy voice saying his face will be the last thing you see and then the doorbell rings, do you open it? Or do you go upstairs in a dark, empty house opening wardrobes that should be left well enough alone? You can bet your bottom dollar these victims will in flagrant disregard of the very dos and don'ts they were literally just discussing onscreen two-minutes ago.

This is the most appealing thing about the Scream franchise - it puts lack of common sense on a plate for all to see. It just goes 'here you go, look at how stupid and predictable this genre is'. Scre4m is actually less about a horror/slasher caper and more an ironic deliverance of victims who were all in on the joke from the start. And that's what makes this film so difficult to review. The fact that it knows that it's a piss-take of itself only begs the question that if it can't take itself seriously then how can it expect its audience to? The answer is that it doesn't. Scre4m knows its faults and even highlights them for the discerning viewer which makes any attempt to criticise them redundant. It couldn't be more meta if it wanted to, unless it were to turn out you in the audience were the killer.

Scre4m is essentially a movie about movies. It's a double edged sword in many ways. It knows its cheesy and formulaic, but it is in a way that not only mocks the genre and its audience, but also pleases them by giving them what they expected. Yes, it is essentially a series of gory deaths one after the other, but it knows it. It knows you know it. And it knows that you know that it knows that you know it. If you're some sort of shallow hipster you'll probably find this all rather deep.