The latest installment in the franchise gels perfectly as a sequel and as an exercise in reengineering, while milking the opportunity to drop the hammer on the fan phenomenon and runaway nostalgia
If Wes Craven’s first Scream achieved modern classic status (and it did, even though it took so long to achieve it) it’s because the film worked wonderfully well as a synopsis of its own genre exploring the language of horror in general as never before, but also in relation to audiences and their role in the drama. It spoke, in essence, of how we perceive what we see and how it is integrated into our way of looking at the world. The second installment doubled down on the success of the first, offering a reflection on repetitions and the very concept of sequels and which gave us some of the most noteworthy highlights of 90’s horror genre. The third, albeit not a complete disaster, was the least lucid to date, despite providing several malevolent jottings on the creative cannibalism of Hollywood, not to mention an exquisite final act. Number four sparked a much called-for return to good form and tone, and a new treatise on the eternal return to original essence, while introducing a fundamental discourse on the damage inflicted by fan phenomenon to the art of storytelling and the slovenliness of the heirs of a society doomed to virtuality and cloning. The new Scream, both a fifth installment and a remake and at the same time, a reboot if you will, delves into this story and takes pot-shots at every element which perpetuates the monsters of nostalgia. It will never be a classic like the first, but it comfortably and confidently assumes its condition as part of a whole, of summary of a period and its structural vices. This is a fresh and acutely accurate diagnosis of cultural heritage and how this interacts with social transformation of our time.
Like its predecessors, Scream skillfully plays with platitudes, perverting them by reengineering many of their representative codes. As such, there continues to be this balance between the self-aware slasher and a satire of traditional clichés, featuring a group of diverse characters who appear conscious at all times of the type of story they’re starring in. And it’s precisely for the reason that they know, as we do, watching them slip on the same old banana skins is delightfully tetchy. The principal novelties this time around lie in two fresh features which furnish this installment with an identity of its own. The first, the introduction of an extremely on-the-nose reflection on the trivialization of horror and the conversion of its icons into little more than Instagram pics. The new Ghostface serves as a metaphor for the frivolity of an era that ignores its legacies when these fail to conform to what is expected of them. The second novelty is that this is the most violent of all the franchise, as this Scream is far more gruesome than the previous ones, without ever losing sight of the echoes of Wes Craven’s original. And finally, there are priceless moments which are already an integra part of the franchise highlights, like the jokes at the expense of elevated horror (especially at The Babadook) or its memorable reinvention in a twilight key of the queens of scream. A veritable festival for initiates in the field, while also a serving as an excellent synopsis of the whole terror enchilada.