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Sunday Scaries: Why Has the ‘Scream’ Franchise Managed to Keep Up the Quality?

Paramount Pictures / Spyglass Media Group

The Sunday Scaries are upon us once again! Yes, as the weekend concludes, most of us feel an oncoming sense of anticipatory dread about the week ahead. Anxiety about work manifests itself into a feeling that’s known as the Sunday Scaries. However, we at Awards Radar are here to combat that, by taking back the name. Now, we want you think about a horror-centric piece on the site when you hear the term. So, let us continue on with another installment of the Awards Radar Sunday Scaries! Today, we’re looking at one of the most interesting modern horror franchises out there. Join me below…

Scream is a franchise that now consists of five films, in addition to a television show. For the purposes of this article, I’m just going to focus on the movies. The thing about this series, which puts a meta spin on the slasher genre, is that they’re, to excuse a pun, almost always a cut above. Towing the line between horror and comedy, they manage to be legitimately frightening and funny. The gore, especially as the sequels came out, is jarring, while the winks at horror in general are largely spot on. So, today I want to ponder why this property has such a high batting average, especially when fright flicks rarely do so.

Ghostface in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s “Scream.”

This is some of what I had to say about the newest Scream in my rave review last week:

This might be a controversial statement, but I don’t think there has been a bad installment in the Scream franchise. Scream 2 and Scream 4 are legitimately great horror sequels. Scream 3 is the clear weak spot, but it’s still very solid and more than entertainment enough to recommend. So, there’s definitely a decent bar to clear with a new Scream. Luckily, this version, simply called Scream instead of Scream 5, is the best sequel in the series. Bloody, funny, reverential, but also willing to go in new directions, it’s everything you can hope for in a horror sequel. If this is the end of the franchise, it’s going out on a high note. If it’s new life, it’s a bold sign of what might be to come.

Scream is, perhaps surprisingly, the most meta of the series to date. Not content to just be a goof slasher flick (which it is), the film takes aim at sequels of its own ilk. Also on the chopping block is the fictional Stab franchise, as well as elevated horror in general. What could have been scattershot and an attempt to be relevant instead feels like genuine freshness and the natural next step for this series. The movie bites off a lot, but its intelligence and sense of fun means that it never comes off as more than it can chew.

Paramount Pictures / Spyglass Media Group

Truly, Scream really was a genre-buster back in 1996, kind of sneaking up on everyone, despite being helmed by Wes Craven. Scream 2 in 1997 expanded on it all, already defying the odds in being nearly as good as the original. The one valley to go with these peaks is Scream 3, which didn’t have series writer Kevin Williamson penning. However, after a long hiatus, Scream 4 was incredibly effective, even if the audience didn’t quite show up. Now, after Craven has passed and Dimension no longer owns the rights, a fifth film is here, just called Scream (as opposed to Scream 5), with the Ready or Not helmers directing, a new writing team, and a more modern reference point for horror. The thing is, it’s just as good, standing tall with not just the sequels, but the original.

So, why does this franchise seem to be more successful than others? I think it has a lot to do with the affection everyone involved has for the genre, but the clear-eyed vision they have for where it can be skewered. Knowing the rules, both in order to follow them, as well as to subvert them, allows for a ton of opportunities to have fun. Horror aficionados get as much or more out of these films, even if they’re meant for rowdy audiences on a Friday night. Craven and Williamson really hit on something here, with the height of creativity being how they can keep you guessing about who the killer/killers happen to be.

Ultimately, the future of this series may depend on how the newest one does, but the potential is there. As long as they follow the blueprint for what works, there can always be a new Scream flick every so often. Perhaps we’ll look back on the Scream franchise years from now and see this point as where it all went downhill, but it doesn’t feel that way. Even with the aforementioned Scream 3, a lesser installment would stand toe to toe with other horror sequels. The new Scream proved that it could survive without Craven, and I’d even argue that the future remains bright. If there are more on the horizon, and they can be as good as this last flick, then count me in…

Dimension Films

What do you think about the Scream franchise? Let us know!

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Written by Joey Magidson

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