Scream ★★★★

Less a postmodern dissertation on horror movies than it is an exemplary example of fun horror that makes a game out of subverting the genre's rules. It's less interested in writing thesis statements on the human pull toward the macabre or in denying us the genre's pleasures than it is in using our own knowledge of slasher tropes to amplify those pleasures, scrambling (but, crucially, not actually removing or majorly changing) most of the tension building beats so they hit in unexpected ways. It's a movie that demands we yell at it, drunk Jaime Kennedy style, while it throws our own understanding of its various twists and turns back at us in new-but-basically-the-same shapes. Anytime it pauses the thrill ride, though, its facile, trope-informed view of human nature grates; it has the same snarling Gen-X churlishness as an old school South Park episode, reducing everyone to a stereotype of their worst self and then calling that social commentary (because, see, that's what our media-saturated culture does, get it?). Luckily those moments are mostly gone by the end of the first act, when it ceases reaching for resonance and settles into being a well-made rollercoaster built from a loving parody. It's a lot of fun if you let it be, and since I'm sure the movie itself would likely reduce me to a snooty symbol of dorky pretension if I dared suggest that all its self-awareness actually adds up to very little, I'm gonna choose not to do that and just go along for the ride.

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