Monday, January 17, 2022

retrotalk2022 #1 - meta-nostalgia

Atlantic piece on how the newest film in the always-meta Scream series takes the meta-piss out of legacy sequels, pandering to the nerd-fanbase, and that target market's own bad faith of endless reconsumption

David Sims writes: 

"This franchise... can submit to obvious tropes while its characters roll their eyes at them; you can always count on a scene in which a character smashes through the fourth wall with a knowing monologue about the predictability of horror films. However, the latest film, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Ready or Not), takes aim at not just the genre it’s working in but Hollywood culture at large, wherein studios rely on familiar names instead of the barest bit of originality.

"Because everything old must be new again, this film is simply called Scream, not Scream 5, and the three biggest characters from the prior editions return. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the usual main target for Ghostface’s villainy, is now a flinty, gun-owning mom; Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), an ambulance-chasing TV journalist, has become a morning-show host; and Dewey Riley (David Arquette), the town sheriff, has fallen on hard times.... 

...The effective opening sequence mirrors the original Scream: Tara talks on the phone with the killer as he quizzes her about scary movies. This time, though, she scoffs at questions about horror fogies such as Freddy and Jason; she’s into “elevated horror,” she says, like The Babadook or It Follows. That shift in the genre is what Scream now wants to mock—after all these years, are audiences still going to fear the familiar specter of a guy in a mask with a knife?

"... It can’t reach the terrifying heights of Craven’s original, but none of the sequels could; each one always leaned a little more on meta-humor as the series went along. That type of self-skewering, à la the latest Matrix sequel, is far more familiar in Hollywood now than it was in 1996. This film, however, takes that tactic one step further, jabbing not only at legacy sequels but also at the intense fandoms that inspire them. Befitting their postmodern outlook, the Scream movies have a fictional horror-film series within them titled Stab, and viewers learn that the Stab sequels have apparently gone off the rails, as the newest entry (which was “directed by the Knives Out guy”) angers enthusiasts by upending established rubrics.

".... In the fifth Scream, the killer is motivated to bring things back to basics and reeducate the next generation about classic scares of yore. Given the franchise’s DNA, it is naturally a movie where horror canon itself is the villain; even if the person in the mask has changed once again, the real adversary is film fans’ unwillingness to let go of the past."

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