Horror Franchises Scream 5 Should Learn an Important Lesson From

Horror Franchises Scream 5 Should Learn an Important Lesson From

May 18, 2011

A new entry in the book of bad ideas came to light yesterday. Harvey Weinstein announced at Cannes that a sequel in the postmodern slasher series, Scream, is most assuredly on its way, and he's counting on director Wes Craven's participation to break $100 million worldwide. The recently released Scream 4 wasn't the smash-hit return that the Weinsteins had hoped for – a ten year too late installment in a series that is a product of a very specific time period might have something to do with it – but Harvey doesn't seem to mind. "I wish it would have been better domestically. But it's not the worst thing in the world that's ever happened," he told MTV.

The Hollywood formula of familiar characters, plus blockbuster numbers – which deliver built-in audiences – should equal little risk and the big money that Weinstein is talking about, but as the Scream franchise has proven, there are just some things that don't always add up. Screenwriter Kevin Williamson – who penned every entry except number three – has certainly contributed to the devolving slasher, and proved to be a one-trick pony when it came to making a killing. The template that carried over from Dawson's Creek was essentially the same as Scream – the only differences were whether people got stabbed in the face or the back. The shaky template was passed off to another writer for part three where the cracks really started to show. Williamson's already established Scooby Doo denouement and absurd whodunit (how many people were actually Ghostface by this point?) felt lazy and convoluted.

While the horror genre seems to be a veritable grab bag of cash-ins and cheap thrills, the latest parts in the Fast and Furious and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises prove that scary stories aren't the only movie meal tickets. Scream did, however, get us thinking about a few other horror giants that similarly should have been already been laid to rest. Let us know your picks below.


Jaws

A gripping tale of terror on the open seas, Jaws thrilled audiences in 1975 and continues to scare people out of the water to this day. Jaws 2 made a decent entry in the series – with slasher film elements, even – and brought Roy Scheider back to save the day. This is where filmmakers should have stopped, though, since Jaws 3 (in terrible 3D, no less) is a ridiculous way to return to the great white menace – mainly because it took place at Seaworld and featured a mother shark tearing the park apart in search of her child. If that weren't enough, the shark is abnormally large, poorly designed (what's up with that tongue?), and can apparently swim backwards.

Jaws: The Revenge, however, made Jaws 3 look like Shakespeare. The fourth film wanted you to believe that the sharks have a "revenge pact" against the Brody family for killing their kind. After the shark kills the youngest son Sean, things get weird when the family heads to the Bahamas. Of course, the great white stalks them there. There's also something about underwater conch researchers, and Mario Van Peeples doing a terrible Jamaican accent, but worse is that the shark doesn't really swim – it kind of floats. You can even see some of the shoddy creature design when the mechanics are revealed in certain shots. Sharks also explode, big time (at least in the alternate ending). Michael Caine phoning it in for a paycheck is probably one of the saddest parts of the franchise, which clearly should have gone belly up sometime in 1978.


Halloween

John Carpenter's seminal slasher film, Halloween, is easily one of the greatest horror movies of all-time. There's a terrifying bogeyman in the form of a masked Michael Myers who Carpenter posits is the embodiment of absolute evil and has no clear rationale for slaying the teen population of Haddonfield, Illinois. Even when Michael's been shot, stabbed, or crashes to the ground off a balcony, he remains very much alive – and there's an overwhelming sense of dread, knowing he's out there somewhere and could target anyone next.

Halloween 2, however, turned things around and gave Michael a motivation for killing. Instead of existing as a malevolent force of nature that snuffs out anything in his path, he's a guy with incest issues and wants to kill his sister.

When things headed in a different direction for part 3 – a storyline not directly related to Michael Myers – fans didn't respond well, which left nearly a decade between chapters. The fourth and fifth installments in the series didn't make a smashing return – with Michael after his niece, driving the family trauma angle home again (ok, we get it). The unrelenting terror we once felt had now been vanquished.

We wasted time watching Michael become the pawn of some kind of Druidic cult in part six, so it was a relief when the killer gets back to fighting Jamie Lee Curtis in part seven – but it's about 10 years too late to be relevant. Part eight has him fighting Busta Rhymes, which wasn't exactly the kindest way to end Carpenter's legacy. Rob Zombie's recent entries in the franchise are loaded with problems and seem to be universally hated by fans of the series, but the director attempted to make Michael a monster again which is more than anyone can say for most of the sequels. The potential Halloween 3D has struggled against the Weinstein Company's money woes, but it goes to show that this is a franchise that won't be killed off anytime soon.


Saw

The puzzles and traps in the Saw series work to the gory franchise's advantage best in the first film, which had a razor-sharp edge and a fairly interesting antagonist in Tobin Bell's Jigsaw. In the sequels that followed, things spiraled out of control when what was once a basic, but successful, premise turns into a series of bewildering narratives that are painful to follow, and are filled with pseudo-philosophical babble going nowhere. Saw 2 didn't stray far from the winning formula – adding more of a police procedural into the mix, but along comes Saw 3 which is where the trap should have snapped shut for good. Since then, the series has carried on for four more sequels after its most important character died – yet he manages to keep popping up in every movie.

Saw 5 was a low point for most fans of the gruesome franchise, until Saw 6 came along and shone in comparison to its predecessors. While most of the entries require a statistician or atlas to figure out narratively, the sixth film was a lean, mean killing machine without most of the gobbledygook storylines the others shared – thanks largely to the return of former Saw editor-turned-director Kevin Greutert. Even though part six was an improvement, the seventh film didn't carry the momentum much further proving that this series has overstayed its welcome.

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