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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cleavleand Screamer

Let's look at the Scream series.

Created by the master of horror Wes Craven it restarted a dying genre by doing something unique, which everyone promptly forgot when the dozens of imitators popped up. The original Scream did something that was already tried in the financially failed but critically successful New Nightmare, the final Nightmare on Elm Street movie. It was meta, it referred to genre traditions and stereotypes and played with them while still embracing them. That's what made the first two films great.

They used the humor elements from later Nightmare movies while still keeping the horror because the humor was mostly ironic or in separate scenes from the main villain. It also established Ghostface as a credible threat, a faceless entity who could appear and disappear seemingly at will. It also had a great twist at the end which was not just a jump scare. Because the killer was unknown for so much of the movie it became kind of a murder mystery or who done it which added to the appeal.

The final selling point was casting known and popular actors instead of the no-names traditionally cast. This helped make the film seem current and unlike most attempts by movies to seem hip it actually worked because of director Craven's knowledge of both horror and pop culture. So with all these elements the franchise started off a revival of the classic slasher genre, but what movies did it actually inspire?

The list of good slasher, or hell, horror films from the 2000's is shockingly low, especially if you restrict it to just American made pictures. The late 90's had films like I Know What You Did Last Summer and its sequels which did relatively well at box office but failed to impress critics, and that was one of the better ones. Most of the shitty ripoffs have faded into obscurity, and though it also brought back some classic villains with the likes of H20 and Jason X nothing really very good come out of it.

The problem with many of the slashers was they didn't have an identifiable villain. The reason we remember Halloween was because of Michael Myers, who started off a trend that also brought Jason and Freddy as well as bringing to the forefront older villains like Leatherface and Pinhead. These icons were what defined horror of the late 70's and 80's, and the 90's simply didn't have it. Ghostface was the only memorable face, excluding things like Chucky which were not so much imposing as stupid.

So the Scream series started a so called 'revival' but in the end it floundered again until horror was brought up again with torture porn like the Saw franchise, at least in the States. The first two Scream films showed a ray of hope on what had been a dying genre, but like all villains it kept coming back, even after it should have settled in for a final death. Slasher movies simply can't be made anymore, as the remakes to old franchises show audiences don't appreciate it as much and critics still don't like them. For now I think Slashers should lay dormant, resting on the laurels of the past instead of shitting on them with countless sequels and remakes.

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