Scream

Scream ★★

So “Stab 8” is both based on the events of the fourth Scream film, and is a subversive revamp that polarized fans à la The Last Jedi, even though that's not what Scream 4 was like at all? Or is it the spiritual proto-“requel” that inspired the events of *this* film? Or did the Stab sequels adapting actual Woodsboro massacres just stop staying true to life? What the hell is going on?!

Anyway ...

The draw with Craven and Williamson is that they were nerds, but nerds with nuanced vision and the grace and guts to back it up, even when their ideas or craft weren't at the highest level. Filmmaking trio Radio Silence are jittery and fawning, trying as hard as they can to cover up their lack of originality and tact. And it sucks, because Ready or Not was great! But great because — and somewhat in spite of — its own classic simplicity and horror checklist economy. It was genuine. This is not. Despite four previous films to work off of that do not do this, Radio Silence somehow make the ultimate mistake of embodying the texts they're supposedly satirizing, without any of the winking love and layered, tangible metatexuality of the previous sequels, or even the bare sincerity and reflective mechanics of something like 2018's Halloween, which this flick has a major love/hate boner for yet is missing its twisted warmth, along with Craven and Williamson's. All they do, along with writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, is up the bloodshed, fail to develop any of their characters (old or new), and spout stilted references to “elevated horror”, legacy sequels, and fan subreddits to cover up the egregious lack of any narrative creativity or commentary beyond “fandoms are toxic” which is ironic given its own forlorn fanboy existence. The Scream films are not as simple as they look, and this is proof.

For how little I respected last year's Halloween Kills (still the worse film, don't get me wrong), you can't say it didn't try something new. Radio Silence are copycat killers dressed up as eager fans moving a franchise forward while they're actually setting it back in the process of feeding their own egos, frustrated by both the vast horror canon and Scream's own subtly expansive, now seemingly conclusive history; unexpectedly unmoored by the fact that there's really nowhere left to go — at least for them: diehard, nostalgic fans. They're their own paper target, unwilling to shoot, and probably unable to due to the goggles (“It's an honor.” Clearly.) And I realize I sound like that exact kind of one-sided fan/hater, but I'm fine with giving them that satisfaction. I have nothing else, and it seems neither do they. What a fun little discourse loophole you found, guys!

Guessing the killers in the first act wasn't the real pain. It was inevitably spending the next hour thinking of better endings that would require the writers and directors to not bottle-feed fans as they swear they're passing the torch to us. This would've never been made had it actually possessed the unbending prowess and multilayered humor of a Williamson script; and especially not the resonant, controversial subversion of something from Rian Johnson.

“I'm bored.” Me too, Sid.

David Arquette MVP, but that's kinda unfair when he's the only returning character given any sort of weight; Neve and Courteney are on autopilot, but why wouldn't they be? Jack Quaid, Mikey Madison, and Jasmin Savoy Brown are pretty good though, and I find Jenna Ortega charming (if nothing else). The brief “gratuitous” nudity coming exclusively from Dylan Minnette is also appreciated. Everyone's perfectly fine which is perfectly disappointing! Finally, a cameo from a certain couple was a fun surprise, and well deserved. That's about all of my non-spoiler thoughts; I'll probably rewatch and dive further when it's out digitally as I already want to rewatch the first 4 films again anyway.

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