Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wes Craven: Synthesis of the Slasher (Scream 4)

Numerous divergent elements have subsumed over the past forty years to form what we now know as the "slasher" film. Hitchcock, Powell, Fulci, Argento, Hooper, Carpenter and countless others have crafted chilling and ingenious movies which prayed on not only our fears of the unknown in the darkness, but specifically on the knife wielding maniac lurking there.

Over the years, this horror subgenre has become a mighty media market in its own right, a pandemonium by which pop culture takes the youth's pulse. From our now halcyon days of the seventies drive-in, to now beloved eighties teen slasher craze, on up to our current output of dim remakes and rehashes, the slasher film has said something intrinsically fabulous and negative about us as Americans. I mean, who doesn't enjoy jumping in the dark amidst a good old fashioned gore show?

Apropos, then, Wes Craven's Scream franchise, arguably the horror tentpole most deserving of existence. The first film was a breath of fresh air, scripted by teen tv scribe Kevin Williamson and tersely helmed by Horror auteur Craven. Its characters knew all of the slasher flick stereotypes, even as they were being stalked by a psychopath. It was original and clever, a horror film about the pure, unadulterated love of horror films, almost as good as Wes Craven's New Nightmare.

Scream 2 was more of the same, while still entertaining, and Scream 3 started to feel the strain of stretching a premise to its breaking point, though this may have been the most cinema obsessed of them all, concerning the business of making a film based on the events from the earlier films.

Scream 4 comes a decade later, Williamson scripting once again in place of the imbroglios of Ehren Kruger, and the results are unsurprisingly mixed. While it is fun to get the gang all back together, many of the series' key resources are hashed up as a hazy fricassee. While the plot is old horror hat, with Sidney Prescott(Neve Campbell) returning to Woodsboro amid a slew of new student bodies, while Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and muckraking magpie Gale Wethers (Courtney Cox) try to make sense of all the bloodshed (once again), Craven runs with the chance to tweak the genre accoutrements.

From his movie within a movie within a movie opening to a character ranting off every horror movie remake in the past decade, Scream 4 is more than anything a bloody satire. A game supporting cast (Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Marley Shelton, Rory Culkin, Mary McDonnell), Marco Beltrami's sly twist on his iconic theme music and the surreal ridiculousness of the entire affair go a long way to making this Scream worth our whiles.

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