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Why 'Scream' will never work as a film franchise


Cinema has perhaps never looked as predictable and mechanical as it did in the 1980s when the horror genre was enjoying sustained success with the slasher obsession that began with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974. Often donning grotesque masks, such killers were callous, sometimes supernatural, evil caricatures that would each become figures of pop-culture fame. 

Including Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th franchise, A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger and Chucky from Child’s Play, such icons became so popular that they sparked the most unlikely franchises of film history as the horror flicks spawned sequels-upon-sequels. Going through the motions of adoration, celebration and eventually parody, horror became something of a joke by the end of the decade, with Voorhees and Krueger reduced to mere totems of the capitalist grip on modern Hollywood. 

Staggering into the 1990s, horror had been damaged by the sheer saturation of the previous decade, with many viewing the genre as a blight on modern America, with such cinema being blamed for multiple crimes under the ‘video nasty’ moral panic. Searching for stability in light of such a tumultuous period of time for the genre, Wes Craven’s Scream would arrive in 1996 to steady to ship, providing ingenious self-reflection on the madness of horror in the 1980s. 

Critical and self-reflective, Wes Craven’s modern masterpiece deconstructs the particularities of the horror genre, picking apart the concept of the ‘final girl’ as well as the many cliches that the genre had snowballed throughout the 1980s. Set in the quiet town of Woodsboro, Scream conducts a terrifying and genuinely interesting analysis of the genre that Wes Craven himself helped to establish with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

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Notably disapproving of how the genre had lost its way in the contemporary era, Scream offered an evaluation of the state of the genre, though was never meant to be a signpost of the future unto itself. In fact, the sequels to Scream that occurred in 1997 and 2000 only worked to discredit the original film, whilst also giving reason for the likes of Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy  Krueger to return in the 21st century. 

Poking holes at the structure of slasher horror whilst celebrating and commemorating its existence, Scream inadvertently resurrected the horror icons of the past as they were given passage into the 21st century through the method of parody. Making way for Jason X, Freddy vs Jason and the continued ridicule of the genre with Scary Movie, the sequels of Scream sparked a new wave of horror shlock with the series’ own sequels becoming part of the problem it once mocked. 

In an effort to identify with a new brand of meta-horror, the latest film in the series, simply titled Scream, looks to be harking back to the ingenuity of the original film, but at this point in the series, horror has simply come too far. The satire of the original film has disappeared and the villainous ‘Ghostface’ has simply become as much of a genre caricature as Krueger, Voorhees and Myers. 

Scream, at its heart, is a murder mystery that satirises the horror genre whilst questioning whether the killer may just be the man next door, its formula simply isn’t suited to a franchise, with each new addition to the series only working to further discredit the classic original.