Monday, April 18, 2011

A Rant on Horror

The Scream franchise has always been about finding meaning by interweaving traditional horror movies and conventions into its narrative structure. The original Scream was well received in 1996 as a clever satire that rewrote the horror genre with a wink to slasher conventions. Scream 4, a revival of the franchise, is now in theaters. I considered watching it this weekend, but I decided against it after taking a look at the trailer. On an unrelated note, I watched Arthur (starring Russell Brand) instead, which was a very poor choice. Even though I am a huge horror fan, I am tired of the countless horror revamps over the last few years. Visually uninspired and plagiaristic, the new Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th were great disappointments. I can tell that Wes Craven is attempting to take aim at our generation that lacks the capacity for original thought, but being self-referential is not going to save Scream 4 from being a tired, unnecessary installment to the franchise. In all its self-awareness, the film becomes a prime example of the very disease that it's diagnosing. Revamps can be great too. I think the newer versions of the Omen and Texas Chainsaw Massacre were both excellent takes on the original.

In the trailer, some kids in the film club are talking about the new generation of horror, what they call “2.0”. The trailer promises an ominous “new generation of terror”, and “the next step in psycho/ slasher innovation”, but I can bet that Scream 4 fails to deliver on those promises. The only truly innovative horror film I’ve seen in the past few years was Paranormal Activity, made far more impressive with the fact that it was filmed on a shoestring budget, and I was very disappointed when the sequel fell short of the original. Even so, I think Paranormal Activity was groundbreaking in its execution of terror. The horror genre has been taking a turn for the self-aware ever since the first Scream came out. The smug self-knowledge with its repeated references is no longer novel or funny. The audience no longer plays along with the assumption that there's something inherently clever about a slasher movie making reference to both its genre and the filmmaking process. It’s time for the masters of horror to turn that around and fully immerse themselves in the fun that is making people scream for real. Paranormal Activity was so chilling because it was filmed documentary-style. Weak, tedious remakes cannot be excused just because they know how to make fun of themselves for being lazy and unoriginal.


  1. True the trailer for Scream 4 looks like junk, but I wouldn't be so hasty to judge (though I often make that mistake too). Consider the movie The Orphanage, from the creator of Pan's Labyrinth. An excellent example of great horror movie with a crappy trailer:

    The director works hard to show the effects of supernatural events on the mother and her relationship with her husband and child in the movie. Surprisingly, the horror in the movie is not so much an external threat as much as it is the mother's threat to herself and her surroundings. A psychological horror in a sense. That being said, I highly recommend the movie. The trailer does not do it justice though, because it uses cliche horror antics like screams and quick flashes. I am glad I saw the movie before the trailer, because there is a good chance I would have never seen it otherwise.

  2. The lack of originality and creativity in the industry (and certainly the horror genre) is a function of economic pressures and the necessity for the industry to recoup at least part of the funds it invests into a movie. That said, it really is a shame that the industry is so devoid of creativity. Certainly there are an infinite number of permutations of causes of death and scenarios of death that can inject something refreshing into these otherwise stale sequels

  3. But will it be filmed in 3D? Everyone knows that creativity is synonymous with special effects.

  4. It must be hard to make a good horror movie since its so easy to make a bad one. All you need is to use the cliches of the genre (and there are many) to write the story and establish the characters, add in a few cheap shocks, maybe use a self-referential tone like in this movie Scream 4, and voila, you got a movie that will put asses in the seats. I loved Paranormal Activity too though, not just because of its realistic style but because it was the rare example of really knowing how to use silence and anticipation to build up scenes instead of relying on cheap shocks all the time.

  5. All of the Screams capitalize on murdering attractive women in scantly clad clothes. I think if they did not focus so much on the outfits of the cast, they could probably put more attention into production and making it a better film.


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