Friday, June 9, 2023

Scream at 25: how to get the meta?

The true legacy of Scream is the filmmakers’ sense of duty, not only in the world of horror, let you know they know you’re into the game—familiar modes, narrative rhythms, and genre conventions audiences are used to watching movies. You see it in the way modern movie characters often discuss other films, know the rules and traditions that govern such stories, and enjoy explaining them. And you see it in the winking, jocular attitude of most modern superhero films, whose irreverent humor is designed to undermine any possible impression of seriousness and reassure the viewer that the people responsible for this general entertainment aren’t taking it too seriously. This is insurance against the risk of criticism: it may be a cliché, but we know it’s a cliché.

But the reason Scream continues to exist—and the reason people still watch it—is not because of its humor or its self-awareness. Scream is meta, of course, but it’s also played straight: it’s about horror movies, but most importantly, it’s a real horror movie. Far from subverting the genre and simply making fun of conventions, it exemplifies the genre and uses those conventions extensively and masterfully, reminding viewers that even if you know the rules of teen slasher, a well-made teen slasher is still capable of scaring your pants off of you. If “Scream” was just a joke, a full-length horror-themed riff, it would be just as tedious and predictable as the films it satirizes. But Craven knew perfectly well that in addition to winks, “Scream” still had to be scary.

Scream 4 (2011), Craven’s latest film, is about a killer trying to “remake” the murders from the original Scream and is itself a deconstruction of the conventions of horror film remakes. Conceptually, it seems like he’s trying too hard to be smart. Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) reveals the plot by remarking, “What kind of meta can you get?” Well, also meta, as it turned out. While more films have been made in the meta-horror tradition of Scream, including The Cabin in the Woods (2011) and One Dead Man’s Cut (2017), a runaway success.

Many of the horror trends that have flourished since Scream, such as found footage (“[REC]”, “Paranormal Activity”), J-horror (“Ring”, “Resentment”) and the so-called “torture porn” (“Saw”, “Hostel”) – sharply deviated from humor, irony and any sense. self-awareness, leaning instead towards sheer violence, graphic imagery, and intense fear. As if commenting on its own style and conventions, Scream not only created a new kind of horror film, but immediately came to its logical conclusion. How do you do “Scream” after “Scream”? You can not. “Scream” was sui generis. Don’t accept imitations.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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