Written by Alan Jones
Talk about reel to real! My Scre4m week started off weirdly and ended up even more bizarre than I ever expected. It began when Entertainment Films finally announced the press show date of the latest entry in the Wes Craven directed series that had made self-reflexivity a horror art form back in the 90s. Because the company could not show the movie in the UK until after its US premiere, Tuesday 12 April was designated the evening to see if Craven had indeed managed to update his and writer Kevin Williamsonâ€™s brainchild sardonically exploring the relationship between slasher movies and their hard gore audience.
Unfortunately I had already been asked by Momentum Pictures to host an Insidious Q&A with director James Wan and star/writer Leigh Whannell at the Odeon Printworks in Manchester at exactly the same time. Oh well, I thought, Iâ€™ll see it when it opens on the Friday. Imagine my surprise when just before we went on stage to discuss Wan and Whannellâ€™s hit Poltergeist revision, I got a call from a fellow critic who told me there had been a fire in the projection booth of the preview screening room and SCRE4M had to be cancelled. I received three more calls soon after that telling me the same news with jokey addenda that Iâ€™d obviously sabotaged the screening because if I couldnâ€™t see it then no one could. I hastily add that wasnâ€™t true even though Wan and Whannell constantly kept ribbing me about my latent arson abilities. So the screening had to be rescheduled â€“ for the following evening. But again I was going to have to miss it as Iâ€™d already booked in to see another press show of Francois Ozonâ€™s Potiche.
Ok, why didnâ€™t I cancel that, especially as the screening was going to take place in the same building? I was torn itâ€™s true. Without being too non-horror boring here, I have to justify my decision so youâ€™ll understand. One of my biggest bestselling books is â€˜Saturday Night Forever: The Story of Discoâ€™, which has now been published in many languages. Because Iâ€™m about to update the Disco Movie section I had to see the 1977 set Potiche as it has stars Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu doing The Hustle and listening to Baccaraâ€™s â€˜Parlez-vous Francais?â€™ Deneuve dancing or Craven chilling? Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ll agree a nightmare Sophieâ€™s Choice!
All this was found highly amusing by Wan and Whannell when I saw them again on the Friday afternoon to interview them at the proper Insidious junket for FrightFest TV. Then, finally, it was off to the Odeon West End with my mate Paul from Paramount to see Scre4m. Frankly I was hugely disappointed. After a fun â€˜Stabâ€™ film-within-film-within-film beginning (despite Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell being no substitute for Drew Barrymore), the whole Ghostface is back and body counting again conceit tried too hard to be now and cool and quickly became tedious and repetitious instead.
Was it enough to indulge in gore movie clichÃ©s, then name check a famous title like The Last House On The Left? Not so much post-modern ironic now, just lazy and stale really. Incidentally Last House along with The Hills Have Eyes mentions means Craven was no slouch at crediting his own work.
Wonder why he didnâ€™t include his dreadful last effort My Soul To Take, which really was four screams only – and I was counting. The worst thing being Scre4m never comes up with anything half as good as the movies it references in put-down terms. And at 111 minutes (although exactly the same running time as the original Scream), the â€˜surpriseâ€™ ending and â€˜shock twistâ€™ capper canâ€™t come soon enough.
The generational mix of actors works well enough: new wave Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere join returning Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, with oldster Mary McDonnell along for the cameo ride. Fully understand McDonnellâ€™s Donnie Darko credibility, but Cox and Arquette must have rued the day they said yes to a script showing their marriage falling apart. Itâ€™s Panettiere who gets the lecture about the first slasher film not being Psycho but Michael Powellâ€™s Peeping Tom, one of the few moments of inspiration in a â€˜fanchiseâ€™ that feels so dated despite all the new communication technologies and new media wheeled in for lambasting, especially itâ€™s â€˜Famous for 15 minutesâ€™ plot engine unmasking the maniac.
Perhaps watching Costas Mandylor sub for Tobin Bell in the Saw series has had a knock-on effect on the Scream foursomeâ€™s place in film history and its lasting legacy. It has been 11 years since Scream 3 after all and in the interim the Saw movies and the Hostel duo have impacted on the genre in earth-shattering ways. In fact Scre4m has a discussion on the Saw movies and which is the best. Therefore it was with a heavy-heart I joined James Wan and Leigh Whannell for dinner after the screening to report on the hotly anticipated movie. They of course created Saw, Wan co-wrote and directed it while Whannell co-wrote and starred opposite Cary Elwes. But discussing the Saw movies as discussed in Scre4m with them was one weird discussion I can tell you. So much so Iâ€™m thinking of selling the idea to Wes Craven as Scream 5. After Scre4m we really could all do with another new nightmare!
Last edited: 18th April 2011
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