But that’s all current stuff. Today, we’re looking back. A lot of time has passed since “Scream 3” arrived in theaters in 2000, with eleven years worth of horror films standing between then and now, the eve of the fourth “Scream” film’s release. It’s an undeniably new landscape dominated by sub-genres from found footage and torture porn, to frequently cited problems such as sequelitis and reboots.
“You named a lot of them,” Wes told me when I listed off these prevalent themes and storytelling avenues that have seemingly defined the past decade of mainstream horror. And from where he’s sitting, all of these things added fuel to the fire burning brightly within “Scream 4.”
“There are two or three characters in the film who talk about the rules, they talk about the movies of the last decade, and that’s one of the things we found attractive about waiting for ten years [between movies],” he said. “That we could look back on this significant block of time and the films that were made. It’s pretty easy to poke fun at ’Saw 10’ or whatever it is, the whole phenomenon of torture porn, we take shots at that. We take shots at everybody, really, including ourselves.”
For Wes, part of the fun in making “Scream 4” was tackling these new conventions that have become the norm and flipping them on their head. As he said, Craven’s characters often speak of “the rules” of a scary movie — but at this point, one of the new rules seems to be that there are no rules.
“Right. I think that’s a sign of a good movie that’s fresh and original: it’s unpredictable,” he agreed. “One character says that unpredictability is the new norm. You almost have to not do something that’s predictable or something that fits into a framework that’s become known a year ago or five years ago.”
“The rules, I always looked at them like another name to give to the clichés of previous films,” he continued. “A character saying ’I’ll be right back’ ends up dead, but really, in ’Scream 1,’ the character who says that, you think he’s going to be dead in the kitchen with a knife in his back — but it was actually one of the killers. Don’t have sex or you’ll die? Sidney Prescott has sex for the first time with Billy Loomis and he’s the other murderer and she’s obviously the survivor. We like setting up the rules, and essentially what we’re saying is, ’These are the clichés that have popped up in the past period of time or the last decade. If you want to take comfort in knowing what’s going to happen, go ahead, but we’ll immediately subvert them.'”
It’s not just the rules of cinema that Wes sought out to subvert, either. Another major topic he’s tackling in “Scream 4” is “the proliferation of social media,” he explained.
“Tweeting and smart phones and video cameras and all of those things that have become such a huge part of the lives of young people who were kind of born in this last decade and weren’t there when we were doing ’Scream 3,’ that’s a huge part of this world,” said Wes, who is a fellow tweeter himself. “The way that films and reality are being integrated into this world is fascinating. A kid can watch a movie on his iPhone or take his own footage and put it up onto YouTube to be seen by millions of people. All of those things are a big part of the story of ’Scream 4.'”
So if he had his druthers, what would Wes want to see from horror movies? Where does he want the genre to go not just in the next decade, but in the here and now?
“Well, where we wish it would go is where we took it with ’Scream 4,'” he said with a laugh. “I think we had the chance to come in and look back on everybody’s work, including our own — mine, and [screenwriter Kevin Williamson’s], and other films by Dimension Films. I think we took a shot at ’Piranha’ at some point. Just being able to look at all of that and say, ’Here’s the kind of work we’ve done. What does that mean?'”
For now, the meaning remains unclear. But we’ll have a chance to puzzle it out for ourselves once “Scream” returns to theaters next week.
Where do think the horror genre has gone in the past decade? Give us your thoughts in the comments section and on Twitter, and check back in tomorrow for our final round with Wes Craven!