Scream - a dismal slasher flick desperate to be clever

Scream (18), (114 mins), Cineworld Cinemas

What on earth motivates people to make films as unpleasant as this? And what on earth makes us watch them.

The short answer is that, as horrible as they are, they are horribly watchable – but once the final spurt of blood has splatted and the credits start to roll, all the misgivings start to crowd back in.

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At the end of the day, Scream – however clever and knowing it tries to be – serves up a series of gruesomely detailed slasher murders for our entertainment.

You think of the huge effort lavished on this film; you think of the results; and it’s difficult not to feel faintly sickened – not least for having been vaguely drawn in while watching.

Think of the horror real-life murders rightly inspire. And think of the blood squirting everywhere in this. It’s horrible to think of the need this film thinks it is fulfilling.

But at least it does come up with an unconsciously ironic line which ought to have brought the house down had the house not been virtually empty. “Who would have a party in the middle of a killing spree?” asks one of the characters. For some reason, Downing Street came to mind…

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The other consolation is that Scream is a film which doesn’t take itself terribly seriously and presumably sees this as a virtue.

The film-makers have dreamed up a Scream-like series of films called Stab which the characters keep referring to in rather uncomplimentary fashion.

The film’s first victim, when quizzed by Ghostface, the franchise’s serial killer, about her favourite horror films lists a few of the more recent and much more intelligent movies – much to his annoyance.

And it’s not long before a couple of “legacy characters” – yes, someone really does call them that – turn up from earlier in the film series, Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott and Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers-Riley. They then charge around saying things like “I have seen this film before” and “You’d better get yourself some new material.”

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In fact, the longer it lasts, the more meta the film gets as it emerges it’s all about creating a new Ghostface for a new generation.

But the trouble is that clever isn’t remotely the same thing as intelligent, and while it’s hardly fair to criticise this film for not being awfully realistic, it is quite tedious just how resilient to endless knife and gun wounds the key characters are.

The first victim – Jenna Ortega as Tara (oddly pronounced “terror”) – is repeatedly stabbed and kicked. You assume she’s dead, but no, she’s really quite chipper when all her mates come to visit her in hospital the next day… where exactly the same thing happens again.

And guess what, they then club together to wheel her out in a wheelchair and whisk her off to the house where the original murders took place. Ghostface, who’s been shot at least three times by now, quickly turns up – as do the legacy characters. One gets shot. The other gets stabbed. And yet still they run around gamely.

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The way the film trivialises knife crime is unedifying in the extreme. And yet the annoying thing is that the darned film makes you keep on watching. Probably best to avoid the film in the first place…