From 1996 to 2000, the first "Scream" films helped define horror at a time when it was at a commercial low. By paying homage to the slasher films of the '80s and then investing them with a decidedly '90s feel, Williamson and Craven managed to bring the entire genre roaring back to life in terms of box-office. Williamson's influence on the teen genre basically created an entire market, beyond horror even, but "Scream" was ground zero for that.
It is not uncommon for a film to become a phenomenon based on one great idea or one great scene or one great action gag, and in the case of "Scream," it's all about that opening scene. The winky knowing dialogue, the deconstruction of the genre, the idea of killing Barrymore early... it sent shock waves through its audience. I'm not saying that's the only thing people liked about the film, but after that opening, there was so much good will built up that the audience would have gone almost anywhere with Craven and Williamson.
I can't really call myself a fan of the series. I admire the commercial machinery of the first film, but I didn't buy it. I respect that there is an audience that used "Scream" as a gateway to horror, that suddenly had an appetite for being scared in the theater. I think a lot of truly terrible films were made in the wake of "Scream," including the "Scream" sequels. But there have been a lot of kinks and twists in horror since 2000, and obviously the remake frenzy has set in. Even if I don't love "Scream," I love that it was an original film that was Williamson's way of nodding to films he loved rather than just straight-up remaking them.
The first image from the set leaked today courtesy of Nancy O'Dell, who appeared in the third film as a reporter, and who I guess appears again in the new one. Ryan Rotten over at Shock Till You Drop made the catch on this one. The general assumption is that Neve Campbell is returning to the series as Sidney Prescott so that she can die in the opening scene of the film. I'm not sure I buy that, though. It seems so obvious that there's no surprise involved if they do that. The new film features Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Lauren Graham, Rory Culkin, and Anthony Anderson as new characters in addition to Courtney Cox and David Arquette, who return from the original trilogy.
What I really hope "Scream 4" manages to do is kick the genre in the face. Because it needs it.
I love horror. My produced film work so far is exclusively horror. The next thing I hope to see filmed is horror. I believe in horror. I think it's one of the great versatile storytelling genres, and that you can talk about any idea, any theme, any problem, any issue... all you have to do is tap into the fears inherent to whatever it is and deal with it through horror.
I also believe that 99% of what is made in the horror genre is garbage because it is made by cynical people who have no idea what makes the genre great, and who treat it like a cheap way to strip money from the wallets of dumb teenagers.
Craven and Williamson are both guys who I have some faith in. I hope that they understand that returning to this franchise eleven years later means all eyes will be on them, and they have an opportunity here to make a film that serves as a colonic on all the lousy movies that have made it such a chore to be a horror fan lately. I'm not sure they can do it... frankly, I'm not sure anyone can do it... but for "Scream 4" to be a truly worthy sequel to the original film and not just a cash-in on a familiar title, it needs to do something radical.
It's a pretty high bar they've got to reach, but they set it themselves.
We'll see if they pull it off April 15, 2011, when "Scream 4" arrives in theaters.
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