I think we lost something in cinema when we accepted the word “franchise” unironically into common parlance. We’ve accepted that these films are simply product, and often not particularly artful in how they go about continuing a brand. The word is necessary, and tragically so.

ONE MORE TIME THE MULBERRY BUSH

Note: I’ve never gone around a mulberry bush.

This weekend, I think people are going to argue which is the worst Scream movie as some people would argue that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was better than Last Crusade or Temple of Doom, or some would argue that The Phantom Menace (or Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith) was better than Return of the Jedi. Or perhaps that Lethal Weapon 4 was better than Lethal Weapon 3, which it may well be. That’s often the problem of sifting through wreckage and/or films that were made with the likelihood of box office success the most pressing reason for a film’s existence.

The biggest problem for a film like Scream 4 in the argument about quality is going to be that there was such a long gap, and what made the first fim(s) interesting was that they were done close together, so the characters and themes of the films were fresher. Returning years after the fact opens the door to changing camera equipment, effects,attitudes towards cinema in general, etc. etc. The effects for both Star Wars trilogies were state of the art, but the two don’t mesh that well because of the gap. Are garbage mattes any worse than now-primitive CGI?

Regardless, the question with long gaps of time becomes the value of returning. Surely Craven nixed a reboot, and the script was crafted partly in response to the films that have come in the wake. Which is interesting in and of itself. When Scream came out we were in the midst of the Clintonian years, mixed with the death of the Drive-in, which meant that horror – for a while at least – became classy, and studios were more interested in either riffing on Silence of the Lambs, or the more classic approaches favored by Sony (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Wolf, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein). It also spoke to the times. The economy was doing reasonably well, and we weren’t afraid of Russia any more. We weren’t at war. With Scream, self-referentiality was seen as the only way to do these sorts of films with any fresh angle, though – to be fair – Friday the 13th and the other clones of Halloween drove the slasher film into the ground, which sequels to Halloween only helped expedite.

In the years since the last Scream, we’ve seen the rise of remakes (a crutch to itself), but also the “torture porn” movement, which dealt in real world fears. If the Vietnam war spawned some of the greatest horror films of the 1970’s, the Iraq war and Abu Ghraib turned being an American into something that was no longer enviable in foreign countries. This was something, and it sickened a lot of people. Shouldn’t it have?

So Scream is now in the position of the the films it was mocking. Out of date and time. Self-referential irony died when almost every major horror film of the 1970’s and 80’s has been redone, with more to come (Fright Night, Child’s Play). The genre has successfully ate its own tail. But will that make the film fresh for audiences raised on the remakes and reboots? Is that what this is going after? I guess so.

But sadly, Scream 4 is clutching the same crutch of these others films. Name recognition. And that’s the only reason why this got made. The same could be said for every other Scream sequel. The question is if it’s still warm enough to consume. Regardless, Scream 4 opens. The question is if it gets to $100 Million like the first two, or if it gets torpedoed.

PLEASE DON’T PREDICT, NO NO NO, PLEASE DON’T PREDICT

How big is Rio? I’m going to say it’s so fucking big that it poops money like people poop corn kernels. No, well, maybe not that big. And how big is Scream 4?  Big. Big like Big Ben. I looked at tracking and they’re both around the same First Choice, which means that Rio is going to win the weekend. Scream‘s best numbers come Friday, so if it doesn’t hit $20 Million for Friday, it’s got no chance of doing over $40, and if it doesn’t hit $15, then over $30 becomes questionable. And if it doesn’t hit $10, then it’s going to be lucky to do mid-$20’s. Hop did near $40, Rango did near $40, so I’m guessing Rio gets a little 3-D boosting over their numbers, but a similar ballpark.

Let’s rock it out:

1. Rio - $42 Million

2. Scream 4 - $29 Million

3. Hop - $11.5 Million

4. Hanna - $7 Million

5. Soul Surfer - $6.8 Million

And then Sunday, I’m going to make some soup.