OR, DUMB THINGS STUDIOS DO TO FUCK UP THE GENRE.
Case Study #1: Scream 4
Apparently starting tomorrow in Pennsylvania, Dimension Films has scheduled Scream 4 (which is slated to be The October Country's most eagerly anticipated horror event of 2011) to begin it's first run of test screenings. Why?
Forgetting for a moment that I find test screenings often times detrimental to the finished product's quality (no, mainstream America, you who made films like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra box office hits, I do not want your two cents influencing films that I am interested in seeing), lets instead focus on the fact that the Scream franchise's storylines succeed or fail on the mystery of the whodunit gimmick. In this day in age, every plot twist, every top secret character death, the identity of the film's killer (or killers, as is usually the case with this series) is certain to be spoiled and broadcast to the world on somebody's smuggled in cellphone before the end credits have even rolled. I'm aware that the test audiences are required to sign non-disclosure agreements before they are allowed to view the films in question but this rarely works. What are you going to do Dimension, threaten them with jail time if they leak under-wraps plot secrets? I suppose this means that I'm going to have to stay off of horror forums until after the film is released in April (could it be any further away) because I for one don't want the surprises in store ruined for me (that's how suspense is able to work it's magic dumb shits) . If for instance, reformed bitchy newswoman and personal fan favorite Gale Weathers bites it (and this information is spoiled ahead of time for me) I may just have to boycott movies in general for the remainder of 2011 out of protest.
Approaching Scream 4's release date with preemptive test screenings makes zero sense when taking into consideration the level of paranoid secrecy that Dimension has kept all of the previous films under. Scripts for Scream 2 and 3 were printed on a un-Xeroxable style of paper which many in the cast publicly complained made hard to read. Journalist after journalist couldn't write a single article of coverage without including as part of the article, a note on just how difficult it was to gather enough information to comprise anything article length due to the cast and crews involved with the films being sworn to secrecy about everything. Details on the production of Scream 4 have been just as tight lipped. So why then in the final hours is Dimension Films changing tactics and opening up their film to advanced scrutiny, subjecting Scream 4 to online, no doubt highly proliferated, spoilerage. Indeed, likely harming it's chances to shock and surprise. My only guess is that they are a little nervous releasing it on the heels of the major box office bomb that was Wes Craven's beautiful mess of a film My Soul To Take. Really though, even that possible motivating factor doesn't add up when taking into account the films' aesthetic differences (My Soul To Take's problem lied in it's script, which Craven himself wrote, Scream 4 was pinned by returning franchise originator Kevin Williamson) and the fact that unlike My Soul To Take, Scream is a established name in horror, one of the most successful franchises in it's history. It's a given that audiences are going to show up in droves, (fans and casual viewers alike) so this move seems even further unnecessary on Dimension's part. The only conclusion that I can draw from the situation, is that the person (or persons) involved in this decision is either a closet sadist (and enjoys ruining the experience for fans) or is a closet masochist (and true to studio form) really enjoys the pain of shooting itself in the foot. Maybe Dimension Films is just versatile, being both a sloppy bottom and a vicious top.
Scream 4 will be in theaters nationwide April 15th.