Scream ★★

I think I understand how the Matrix fans who hate Resurrections feel, which is ironic because both movies target The Last Jedi naysayers who cream when young CGI Luke Skywalker rolls up in The Mandalorian. A certain young CGI character from the first Scream rolls up here, and I can’t tell if the fact that it’s borderline-unwatchable is a comment on that phenomenon or what, but I’m afraid my allotment of generous readings has run dry. Resurrections had me excited about meta storytelling in a new way, and now I never want to hear the word meta again.

I liked the jabs at elevated horror and even the fandom stuff they were tackling here, but it presents tired “requel” tropes as a means of critiquing them without making a case for its own existence, neither scathing enough to serve merely as an indictment nor developed enough in its pathos to serve as its own entity. The legacy characters are incorporated neither organically nor tongue-in-cheekly enough, succumbing to the tropes without subverting them or making a good enough case for the new characters being interesting on their own.

Scream originally pointed out tropes that only really became tropes because they generally work pretty effectively but have just become tired and unimaginative from overuse, and Craven and Williamson managed to configure new and creative ways to revitalize them. This one is tackling tropes that have been fundamentally lame from their conception and doesn’t do anything to convince us of other potential. The cultural commentary is there in both, but only in one does it bleed into the form of the film.

Any general reboot genre commentary was done much more organically and creatively in Scream 4, which independently has fun setups and looks great, blending modern cinematic approaches with older styles, particularly in the washed-out highlights, just as seamlessly as it introduces a new generation of characters in a story that still very much feels like it’s about the original characters. The original characters here are pretty ancillary, which is a critique of the DGG Halloween approach, but I feel like the seamless generational structure of 4 is itself a more effective critique/subversion than just doing the thing and saying it’s bad. This one also has no visual distinction from the homogenized Alexa look of genre padding like Ouija, and again on a better day I’d attribute that to commentary on the state of the genre, but it doesn’t do anything new with that visual language. I had some similar qualms with Resurrections looking bad and to what degree the look is justified by meta commentary, but at least that movie has some innovative ideas like the bullet time stuff; this movie just sleepwalks through the kills, references film Twitter discourse, and then structurally follows the exact same legacy trajectory as The Force Awakens.

And I keep comparing it to Star Wars because that’s the framework the movie uses. There’s no introspection on its own legacy. Sure, Star Wars IP-guzzlers have implications beyond Star Wars itself, but when the Scream meta-text reconfigures its own series into a different one, I feel like there’s no longer a point to this being a Scream movie. None of the tropes the characters discuss have anything to do with the horror genre itself but rather franchises in general. Is that a consequence or critique of genre filmmaking barely existing anymore?

Remember that scene in the first one where Randy’s shouting at Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween to turn around while the guy in the van is shouting at him on the surveillance screen? The person-shouting-at-a-movie gag is simultaneously played out and subverted in the same breath by implementing a screen that’s not a movie and a delayed live feed so the guy in the van can also get slashed immediately. This movie takes the exact same scene and backtracks its innovation so that person-shouting-at-a-movie is juxtaposed by just another person-shouting-at-a-movie. The Randy surveillance feed aspect isn’t even in Stab, presumably a decision made to enable this couch gag that’s just the same thing but worse. There’s something emblematic about the franchise there.

I feel like I’m talking in circles, though. There is a specific brand of reboot this movie is attacking that isn’t quite redundant to Scream 4, but without the sensibilities of an old master like Craven, it inevitably becomes another example of the thing it’s trying to take down. A very fine line that Resurrections, with a few small but important decisions, dances along much more eloquently. Am I a fandom menace for not liking this? I certainly don’t think so.

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