Two girls, watching a slasher movie about a psycho in an Edvard Munch “Scream” mask who calls girls at home and them stabs them to death, get a call from a psycho who shows up in a “Scream” mask and stabs them to death. But that was a scene from a movie, Stab 6, which two other girls are watching when their phone rings, a gravelly voice threatens them and surprise! one girl kills the other. And that turns out to be the climax of Stab 7, which two girls in Woodsboro, Ohio, are watching when a “real” monster, in the same Munch-y mask, intrudes and slices them up. Cue the title of our movie: Scre4m.
There may be a point in a horror-film series where self-referential becomes self-reverential, but Scream passed that long ago. Back in 1996, when director Wes Craven filmed Kevin Williamson’s all-knowing, mostly joking script, the innovation was that, for once, the people on screen were as aware of horror-movie clichs and twists as the people in the audience. With its masked murderer following such angels of serial death as Halloween’s Michael Myers and Friday the 13th’s Jason, as well as Craven’s own dreamweaver Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street, the Scream series twisted the genre rules in a pop-modernist way that complimented the movies’ fans for their hipness even as it eviscerated their on-screen doppelgangers. The series dribbled out after three episodes, in 2000 the same year as the first of four Final Destination scare-a-thons, and long before any of the seven Saw films, the four Resident Evils or the Hollywood tart-ups of Japan’s Ju-On and The Ring cycles.
After 11 years and the proliferation of these and many other movie-wise horror series, what’s left to say or show? Call it Scream, The Next Generation. The young folks of the first film chief damsel-in-distress Sidney , police officer Dewey and cub reporter Gail , whose book The Woodsboro Murders has been spun into the Stab movie franchise have reconvened just as a rash of copycat murders makes everyone jumpy and/or dead. Again someone is stalking the people nearest to Sidney: her aunt Kate , her young cousin Jill and a half-dozen of Jill’s friends. Many of them die luridly; one of them is the new Ghostface.
With sassy appearances by the latest class of TV-show femmes Lucy Hale , Shenae Grimes , Anna Paquin , Kristen Bell , Aimee Teegarden and Brittany Robertson and, perkiest of the bunch, Heroes’ Hayden Panettiere as the movie’s snarkiest, most desirable vamp the movie seems nouveau in attitude, but it’s retro in abiding by basic horror tropes. Chief among them: the gore-nographic precept that the slasher’s victims