‘Scream’ and the remake’s dilemma: legacy vs. imitation

The Tufts Daily

Promotional poster for the movie "Scream" (2022) is pictured.Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

By Miranda Feinberg

“What’s your favorite scary movie?” asks the iconic question from the original “Scream” (1996), which is answered by itself; the satirical horror classic has become a staple in the genre, kickstarting the popularity of meta-horror comedy. “Scream” is not just a good movie but a bloody love letter to horror as a genre. No other horror satire had hit quite the same as the first “Scream” movie and, despite the newest installment’s heavy-handed attempt, no other movie has since. “Scream” (2022), directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, is marketed as an ode to Wes Craven. While the majority of the film is genuinely fun and scary (really milking its R rating for all it’s worth), it is hard to talk about without first discussing the problem within the movie’s very core. As ironic as it sounds when talking about this movie in particular (especially within the larger franchise’s canon), this newest “Scream” remake is too focused on being its predecessor. It is obsessed with telling its audience over and over again, through visuals and dialogue and references and character names, that this movie is meta enough to contend with the original.

With the original “Scream,” the novelty of a movie referencing its own horror framework was exciting because it showed that the movie loved horror just as much as its audience. It knew what we wanted, and it was in on the jokes. While the newest “Scream” clearly has a love for the genre, which shines through in a lot of fun gags, references and tropes, it doesn’t have that same sense of in. It is not just a meta-horror movie; it focuses sometimes too strongly on emphasizing its own meta-ness. In “Scream,” everyone treats their situation as if they are actively living inside of a horror movie, but the whole point of the original was that real life isn’t like the movies. ‘Blaming it on the movies’ is, throughout the franchise, an excuse which covers up the gruesome crimes. This commentary on the characters’ situations has been a way for the characters to comment on trends and norms within the genre, while still acknowledging that movies are not their reality. There is a fine line to walk between reference and obsession. While within the “Scream” universe, these killings have indeed happened four previous times (and have spawned a whopping eight “Stab” movies), the film seems to forget that these characters are living through these bloody crimes for the first time, even though it may be a murder spree inspired by past murder sprees and movies.

Furthermore, there is a lot of discussion about the modern state of horror and the pointlessness of many reboots and sequels of horror classics. These discussions tend to center on the fact that many of these horror movie remakes are produced solely for the point of further profit, not to continue the plot, so they often result in poorly construed storylines and unbelievable characters. But in “Scream,” somehow this realm of criticism becomes central to the killer’s explanation for their own spree, which doesn’t really make sense. The film is so focused on commenting on the state of horror, whether that be differentiating between the lovable “lower brow” slashers and the new trend of social commentary horror or lamenting the ruination of movies which started the audience’s love of horror, that it ends up falling into lots of pitfalls of the horror genre.

Though there are a lot of criticisms of the repetitive “Scream”-ness of “Scream,” it was a genuinely enjoyable film, with a cast of interesting and enjoyable characters, an R-rated excess of blood and violence and nods galore to past pillars of the franchise. Jenna Ortega (Tara Carpenter) and Jack Quaid (Richie Kirsch) stood out as captivating leads, and Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding (the Meeks-Martin twins) were such charismatic supporting characters. The returning “Scream” stars were amazing, of course, and there were so many great nods to modern horror. From the names of characters (Wes Hicks and the Carpenter sisters) to the comparison of slashers to recent movies like “The Babadook” (2014) and “Hereditary” (2018), the film was fun from start to finish and satisfying for horror fans. Despite its heavy-handedness, the filmmakers effectively captured that love for the current state of horror and the nostalgia for past horror greats.

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