In 1996, horror master Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson made slasher flick history with a little movie they made called Scream. While the slasher genre had been around for a while (Halloween in 1978, Friday the 13th in 1980, A Nightmare On Elm Street in 1984, etc.), Scream was unique in that it gave us self-aware horror movie characters for the first time. These were characters who not only knew that they were in a horror movie, but who also (and perhaps more importantly) knew the RULES of a horror movie. With this awareness in their arsenal, they were able to both follow and subvert the rules, either helping or hindering their survival. They fought their way through three movies with varying degrees of success, and by the time the third one came around, we were all under the impression that it was going to be the last one. And it was…
Scream 4 is due for release this Friday, and I can’t help but wonder how the rules of the game have changed in the interim. During the original trilogy freaky film buff and later freaky film student Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) functioned as a dictionary and survival guide for the other characters; so in tracking how things have evolved since, let’s take a look at the rules as they stand, shall we?
Scream (1996): The Beginning
Though we didn’t know Scream was going to become a trilogy when the first one came out, the role of the first movie in any potential series (because horror movies always have the potential for a bazillion follow-ups) is to lay out the rules as clearly and unambiguously as possible. Randy obliges us with the following three cardinal rules of survival, complete with a backdrop consisting of a still from Halloween:
1) You can never have sex.
As Randy says, “Big no-no! Big no-no! Sex equals death!” And he’s right. Think back on it: Kevin Bacon in Friday the 13th? Dead. That chick who’s freeze framed behind Randy in Halloween? Toast. Of course, our intrepid heroine Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) manages to break this rule, so score one for Sid.
2) You can never drink or do drugs.
Ah, yes: “The sin factor.” Good little boys and girls don’t do nasty things like drink or do drugs– that way madness lies! So if you do, of course you’re going to have to be punished. WITH DEATH.
3) Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, say “I’ll be right back.”
Because you won’t be. Don’t jinx yourself. Better yet, don’t go anywhere alone. Or anywhere. At all.
Scream 2 (1997): The Sequel
The rules of a sequel aren’t that different from the rules of the original; it’s basically everything you had in the original, just a lot more of it. Consider:
1) The body count is always bigger.
The original had four victims, plus the deaths of the two killers. The second one, on the other hand, had SEVEN victims plus the deaths of the two killers. That’s 33% more death for the low, low price of your admission ticket!
2) The death scenes are always much more elaborate: More blood, more gore.
Randy calls this “carnage candy,” though he clearly didn’t anticipate Hostel and the Saw franchise.
3) If you want your sequel to become a franchise, never, ever–
Alas, we are not to know what we are never, ever to do if we want the sequel to become a franchise; Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) cuts Randy off at this point in order to start considering possible suspects. Dammit, Dewey!