Tag Archives: Refresh

Refresh: Hilarity and Horror

We live in the age of the reboot. Out of fresh ideas, Hollywood are hitting the big red refresh button on as many properties as they can. In this new segment, I want to focus on the reboot, and try to look further inside our latest culture trend. Are we obsessed with nostalgia, or do these familiar characters fit with the now? Do we really need it or, in fact, want it? And, most importantly – is it any good?

I’ll be kicking things off with two cult classic movies which have returned to our small screens as original television series: Wet Hot American Summer and Scream.

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp

Our return to Camp Firewood was relatively unexpected. The initial visit to Firewood where we witnessed the camp’s last day in Wet Hot American Summer (2001) was a critical and commercial flop, continuing on to become a cult comedy classic. Mocking the American Pies, Road Trips, and Dude, Where’s My Cars college-film craze of the late 90s and early 2000s, WHAS was a wacky, unabashed parody of the state of teen cinema, relying on being clever rather than crass.

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 I enjoyed WHAS, but a prequel certainly didn’t occur to me as something I desperately wanted. Although wildly entertaining, witnessing one day at Camp Firewood was quite enough – or so I thought.

Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is eight episodes long, covering a total of one day at camp – at 30 minutes each, that’s easily a committed evenings viewing. Focusing on the back stories of each of the characters, a whole new level is added to the movie – delightful easter eggs for fans of the original. Where did the talking vegetables come from? What’s happened to Gail? What is Lindsay’s deal? Why is scientist Henry Newman hanging about the camp? How did Gene become, well, Gene? These were questions I didn’t even realise I wanted answers to until I began lapping up Netflix’s latest offering. Add into that a mysterious cabin, a Government conspiracy, and Ronald Reagan, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for laughter.

Genuinely funny, First Day of Camp had me laughing the whole way through. The entire cast was triumphant: every wonderfully executed line from Rudd and Cera had me cackling; Cooper and Poehler’s awkward relationship had me gleefully cringing; even the new-comers to the season fit in perfectly, with Chris Pine being the biggest surprise. And there really is nothing funnier than seeing a group of 40-year-olds play a bunch of hormone driven teens, particularly when the cast themselves are aware of the joke.

For fans of the movie, or newcomers to the show, the weirdly wonderful and witty group at Camp Firewood will have you chuckling from beginning to end. Heartwarming and hilarious, Netflix have taken a classic and kept the fire burning

Scream: The TV Series

Potentially the most notorious slasher film of the 1990s, Scream is a soaring success. Ridiculous enough to keep you chuckling, but also tense enough to make you check each room twice before bed, it rightfully tops thriller/horror/home-invasion movie charts to this day. It wouldn’t be Halloween if you didn’t spot at least five ghostface masks skulking through the streets. And with the sequels continuing to gross relatively well, it’s unsurprising MTV have cashed in on making a TV series of the franchise.

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Building upon Scream 4’s success in hauling the franchise into the modern world, the series setting works quite well. Jumping straight into our self-obsessed culture centred round social media, where documenting and sharing our every move has become our most important concern – in Scream, it really is life or death. A commentary on our self-absorbed, increasingly fake society, the show tries to show you who your real friends are, weeding out the poison from a cluttered contacts list in a brutal game of unfriending.

Dragging the slasher genre out over ten episodes works well for the first couple of 40-minute shows. Then it becomes drastically over-indulgent – so meta that Community probably has a hard time keeping up. The time granted for a ten-part series also allows more time for classic horror stupidity and serious plot-holes to form. My list from just five episodes stands (Warning: Spoilers):

-Why is there no one in the police station at night when there’s a murderer at large?

– Why is it that Riley’s piercing screams, desperate yelling, and continuous knocking was too quiet for a man in a silent building to hear, but her cell phone ringing once was loud enough to hear through the roof of a building, busy with police officers?

– Why would you skulk around a dark, creepy area with a hood up, when there’s a masked HOODED killer on the loose?

– Why would you walk into – and proceed to meddle with – a potential crime scene?

– Why wouldn’t you just grab the laptop and run?

– Why would you talk loudly about keeping secrets from someone in a coffee shop where said person works – and not look around to see if they were nearby first?

– How dumb do you have to be to spill any gossip you have to the nosey podcast reporter?

– Did they hire any actors, or just planks of wood?

The characterisation began to bother me after a couple of episodes. The only likeable ones are the nerds and the bitch – probably because she’s just as fed up as the audience. The others are collateral damage. The lead is lazy. By playing the ‘I don’t care’ stone-cold card, I consequently couldn’t care that some deranged psychopath is stalking her every move, trying to out her family’s secret. Surely if a weirdo had your number and was tormenting you, you’d be a little shaken up? A solid female lead is also allowed to have a soul.

The characters are so turbulent, it’s like flying through a hurricane and landing in a tsunami. Our lead, Ems, continually jumps between taking things into her own hands and letting the police deal with it – then proceeds to criticise the police for doing terrible work when they do. And Will jumps on and off the mayor-conning bandwagon so often he could probably compete in professional athletics. When I start groaning at a TV series I go into knowing it’ll be cheesy – warning bells start ringing. Perhaps this itself is a commentary on our generation’s fleeting attention span, where we can no longer commit to anything for a long period of time? Or perhaps I’m hoping for something more than moody teens to keep the plot rolling.

Do we need a Scream TV reboot? No. The films are ample fun on their own – successfully doing everything the show has in just under two hours a piece. Do we want a Scream TV reboot? I, for one, could live without it. But considering it’s been signed for a second season already, it looks like a lot of others do! And I get it – thrillers are compelling. I know I’ll stick out the remaining five episodes. Not because I care about the characters, or am rooting for the lead to survive. But because I like the mystery: the whodunit.

So, do reboots work as television shows?

Yes and no. Wet Hot American Summer is a roaring success, adding to the original source material. Its short format means it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, but instead leaves you longing for Second Day of Camp. Scream, however, is an unnecessary piece of fun. It’s unoriginal, formulaic, and too self-aware. It would be much simpler to watch the original movies over and over again – but I guess there’s nothing like the thrill of the chase!

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