Released last week, the newest film in the franchise “Panic” (“Scream”) is proof that horror can be a good reason for audiences to return to movie theaters.
The expressive numbers prove it. In four days of airing, the fifth installment of the franchise created in 1996 took in about US$ 30 million at the box office in the United States, taking the first place occupied four weeks ago by “Spider-Man: No Return Home”.
Adding the results of other countries, “Panic” (or “Scream 5”, as it is informally called) has already raised US$ 51.8 million worldwide. Not bad for a production that cost less than $24 million and was released exclusively in theaters.
Brazil contributed to these surprising figures. From January 13 to 16, the film grossed R$ 4.5 million, with 235,000 tickets sold (figures released by the Paramount studio). Other of his local achievements: highest opening day box office for a horror film released in January in the country of all time, in addition to an 80% higher gross than the initial box office of the previous edition of the series, ”Scream 4“, from 2011. .
At least when it comes to horror, resorting to nostalgia can be a good deal. Even more so if the idea is to maintain fidelity to old stories, bringing as many familiar elements as possible to the public, a practice known as “fan service”.
The new “Scream” goes a long way in this regard, rescuing its original cast for another journey in front of the masked killer Ghostface, who returns to terrorize the small Californian town of Woodsboro after a decade of slumber.
Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox e David Arquette return to the roles that consecrated them 25 years ago, when the first “Scream” was celebrated as the film that revitalized the “slasher”, a subgenre marked by serial killers who kill randomly.
Directed by the duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, “Scream 5” strictly follows their humorous and self-referential style, playing with metalinguistic aspects and putting its own target audience – the young pop culture fan who mobilizes passionately on social media.
Many of these classic fans feared about the quality of the first film in the series without the participation of its creator and director, Wes Craven, who died in 2015. After the premiere, the general opinion is positively balanced. On the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, “Panic” appears better approved by the public (average score of 83) than by the specialized press (75).
“Pânico has always shown itself as a critic of the environment in which it operates, fully aware of itself and assiduously criticizing the youth of the time, their mannerisms, weaknesses and dependencies”, says Makson Lima, who runs the specialized channel “Mas Que Horror” on YouTube and approves the direction of the new film: “What a sharp script! Master Wes Craven definitely enjoyed that, wherever he is.”
Niia Silveira, who also creates horror content on the “Trash Modernized” channel, believes that the success of “Panic” can be stimulating for Hollywood. “With a new wave of interested fans, ‘Scream 5’ could generate a boom in slashers aimed at young audiences”, he says. “The original film itself has had this effect, making this subgenre come back to theaters after its golden period in the 1980s.”
Is it worth fearing again
Truth be told, “Scream” is just one of several horror franchises revitalized in recent years, whether in the form of side stories, prequels (films that tell stories before the originals), reboots (that reimagine existing universes) or belated sequels.
These last two cases currently apply to the “Halloween” franchise, which is considered the genesis of the “slasher” and has yielded more than a dozen films since 1978. The new trilogy, which will conclude in October, directly follows the story of the original classic. , discarding all the plot that came after.
Still in the field of slashers, the franchise “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” will get another reboot, scheduled for release in February on Netflix. Another cult brand from the 1980s, “Hellraiser” will see a renaissance in both feature film and TV series formats, both with involvement from original creator Clive Barker. For 2022, “Evil Dead Rise”, a series based on the universe created by Sam Raimi, is also planned, as well as a “prequel” to “The Orphan” and a renewed version of the “Hungry Eyes” trilogy.
It’s worth remembering that the return to the same serial killers, monsters and demonic entities as always is not exactly a recent phenomenon. “This is something that is commonplace and has always existed. It’s a cycle that comes back whenever the need arises”, explains journalist and film critic Rodrigo Salem. “Horror is Hollywood’s safe haven, so to speak.”
Which is not to say that every attempt at resurrection is guaranteed success. “On the contrary. Over the past two years, several of these attempts have simply not made a fuss. So it’s not always right,” Salem says. As an example, he mentions the TV series based on the franchise “I Know What You Did Last Summer”: produced by Amazon Studios, it was canceled after a single wave of episodes.
“Each case is a case, honestly. And terror can boast, for better or worse, of having all possible and imaginable results”, ponders Makson Lima, who in turn regrets the end of the series-remake “The Exorcist”, a good direct continuation of the feature film. 1973 classic. “Disney bought Fox and the series was cancelled, along with endless possibilities for a now impossible third season,” he says.
Perhaps in order not to saturate the market, studios try to be cautious in rescuing iconic brands and characters. However, repeating the biggest cliché of the genre, old threats do not take long to return to the scene. “Just as we always have new ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and ‘Halloween’, you can bet it won’t take long to announce new ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘Friday the 13th,’” says Salem. “And this is nothing new.”
Exit for times of crisis
Looking to the past is a card that the Hollywood industry keeps up its sleeves in its difficult moments. The atypical situation of the closing of cinemas caused by the pandemic of Covid-19 generated in the studios the need for a kind of informal “emergency plan”, looking for franchises with nostalgic appeal that already have a previous captive audience and have the potential to attract new fans.
“In times of crisis, studios prefer to invest in something that they think will give a guaranteed return, instead of betting on new, more serious stories or that do not have existing intellectual properties”, says Rodrigo Salem. “They prefer to invest in what’s safe, what they know is money, with a fan base that will be complemented by new fans who haven’t seen the original films.”
We are experiencing an unprecedented crisis, not only because Covid has closed theaters, but also because studios are migrating to streaming. It is necessary to appeal more and more to ‘film-events’ to attract audiences to cinemas.
Rodrigo Salem, journalist and film critic
Considered indispensable, loaded with hype on social media and with irresistible appeal among audiences of all ages, the so-called “event films” of the 2021/2022 season are divided into categories: sequences of celebrated superhero films, such as cited “Spider-Man: No Homecoming”; continuations of cult franchises of the last century, such as “Panic” and the recent “Matrix Resurrections” e “Ghostbusters: Beyond”, Besides “Top Gun: Maverick” (theatrical release scheduled for May); and the complete reboots of stories already told, such as “Danube” e “The Batman” (scheduled for March).
In the case of horror, the reboot is a typical feature that aficionados are not opposed to and that, in certain cases, are as well accepted as the original products. It was the case of “Killer toy”, a series created in 1988 that had its origin rewritten in a 2019 film.
“The original franchise is one of the roundest and most well-made. Would a remake be needed? Maybe not”, says Niia Silveira. “But the new version was important to put the puppet in a context that made more sense today.”
As early as 2021, the same “Child’s Play” ignored its reboot and spawned another story for a TV series available on the Star Plus streaming service, “Chucky”, which has been renewed for a second season.
“The idea of being told again, and in another way, a story that has already been told, will not erase the original version. She will still be available to the most missed fans”, says Niia. “But with that, it creates the possibility for new people to know that story.”
“Keeping legacies alive is very difficult, because this may or may not incite the curiosity of the new audience to understand the origin of the point”, asks Makson Lima, who emphasizes the importance of coexistence between different versions of the same story. “In horror, things don’t cancel each other out and they still manage to create unique layers”, he says.
Cheap, popular and irresistible
The immortal and global appeal of horror is mainly linked to very favorable characteristics related to the cost of production of the films. Even with the need for special effects to ensure the spooky appeal, overall expenses are typically low compared to other genres.
“Terrorism is very cheap to make and always has a warm reception from the public, in addition to being much easier to sell to other countries,” says Rodrigo Salem, citing South America, Eastern Europe and Asia as voracious consumers. of scary movies.
The abundance of stories, old or new, added to a reduced cost of production translates into a mathematics favorable to a genre of increasingly intense interest among young and globalized audiences. “Horror films are almost paid out of production, because they are sold very easily”, explains the journalist. “When a studio makes a movie like that, it’s already sold to a territory and paid for part of the production.”
As an example, he cites Bloomhouse, the production company that was responsible for recent works by the famous directors Jordan Peele and M. Night Shyamalan, as well as the “Paranormal Activity” franchise and the new “Halloween” trilogy. “They spend a maximum of $15 million to make movies and they produce box offices five times that,” he says.
Regardless of the studio’s strategy or appeal to a specific type of fan, there is an attractive feature in horror that cannot be explained with numbers and data: it is its ability to reflect in its films the yearnings of each era in which they are produced.
Even though many tell versions of the same stories, the growing popularity of the genre confirms its efficiency in darkly reflecting the moment we live in.
“Terror is a total portrait of its time. It embraces the dated and is proud to serve as a critic, veiled or not, of that slice of historical events”, decrees Makson Lima.
“It is a cyclical genre”, concludes Niia Silveira. “That is renewed and adapted, over time, and according to the needs and concepts of its period.”
Reference: CNN Brasil