Tuesday, 23 August 2011

REVIEW: Scre4m

Scre4m - one of my favourites films of 2011 to date - is released on DVD this week. And here is a little review because I love defending my guilty pleasures.

Scre4m reboots the Scream franchise – and the slasher genre in general – for the 21st century.

It tells the story of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returning to Woodsboro for a book-signing a whole decade after the events of the original trilogy. However, shortly after her arrival, two new teens are slaughtered in their home and Sidney’s cousin Jill (Jill Roberts) and her classmates appear to be the targets for a new Ghostface killer.

Scre4m is the scary, witty and funny triumph that you have come to expect from this franchise.

The key to its success is the reunion of director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson. It was their combined efforts as seasoned horror veteran and meta-commentator that resulted in the original Scream and Scream 2, which gave a much-needed shot of adrenaline to the flagging slasher genre in the nineties. And now they have done it again for a whole new generation of cinema-goers.

The eleven-year absence of the Scream franchise has been its greatest strength. The horror genre has moved on and cinemagoers have sat through an entire decade of studio remakes and ‘torture porn’ Saw sequels. As the Scream 4 poster cited, ‘New decade, new rules,’ and Williamson has a lot of fun parodying a new generation of horror motifs with an all-knowing, introverted mirror.

Even the Scream franchise itself is mocked throughout thanks to Stab, the franchise-within-a-franchise, which is basically a series of Scream-style movies within the Scream universe itself. This leads to a great opening gag and lots of commentary between the characters which can be applied to the Craven-Williamson creations themselves. This even goes as far as outlining the formula for the film so the characters can predict where the killer will strike next.

Williamson’s script also acknowledges that the world has moved on. As such, you get the obligatory references to Facebook and Twitter but it does throw up some interesting questions. How do you catch a killer when everybody can download an app to sound like Ghostface? And how would a serial killer utilise modern technology, such as live video blogging?

Despite all of this fresh parody, there is much familiarity. But again, thanks to the long absence, the familiarity feels welcome as opposed to tiresome. It also provides a much-needed anchor to the original trilogy, amidst all of the aforementioned change. The heart of this anchor is the surviving trio of Sidney, Dewey and Gale. Neve Campbell is ever-cementing herself as this generation’s Jamie Lee Curtis, whilst David Arquette and Courtney Cox breathe new life into their larger-than-life characters.

And naturally, the iconic Scream mask returns with the equally-iconic voice of Roger L Jackson.

Overall, this is a refreshing return to form for the slasher genre. Rather than gross us out with flying body parts, Craven amps up the suspense and delivers the shocks like an old-school pro. Meanwhile, Williamson takes the time to offer us watchable, entertaining characters and plenty of witty one-liners. After all, the franchise has always had one overriding USP which leaves other horrors flagging: humour. For every scream, there is a laugh. This balance is delicate but they nail it every time. Let’s just hope other horror aficionados are paying attention.

Bring on 5cream and Scre6m. We need a new thrillogy.


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