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How Many Times Can You Scream?

Just like a classic slasher villain, The Scream franchise refuses to die. Wes Craven's meta serial killer horror mystery thriller set the ghostface killer in motion in 1996 and now 25 years later, we're staring down a reboot in 2022. Slashers typically have some good replay value and whether you kill the masked villain off or not, it seems inconsequential as long as one can rise up in their place.

The original film starred Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox and let's not forget Drew Barrymore and Matthew Lillard. The headline trio of Campbell, Arquette and Cox have returned for the reboot also named Scream. You'd think that 'Ghostface' would be a good title for the franchise resurrection but the producers are looking to capture the brand's audience rather than trying to create something shiny and new.

At least Scream 4 tried something by reworking the title into SCRE4M a decade ago, delivering a fairly lacklustre return in spite of reassembling the original team. Featuring the same actors as this reboot, which actually hinges on the original's lore, it's almost as if the fourth installment never happened.

Neve Campbell is a mascot for the Scream series, who's inextricable link to playing Sidney Prescott has probably been as much of a help as a hinderance over the years. Luckily for Campbell, the constant attempts at reviving the series and character keep her in business. However, one wonders just how long this revival stunt will keep happening. Will she be in her 80s still dodging a masked killer at a retirement home?

Hello Sidney - Scream

Based on the Scream 4's box office profitability, it seems as though no end is in sight. Whether they find a new Sidney... or Tara if you've watched the trailer, it seems as though like Titanic the heart of Scream will go on. Brandishing a modest budget of $40 million, the fourth installment managed to rake in almost $100 million in takings after a $173 million, $161 million and $172 million streak for its trilogy. This fifth Scream film and "reboot" will be the decider. Based on the sluggish post-pandemic return to cinemas numbers... it's make or break. Just like the Fast and Furious managed to overcome Tokyo Drift and an iffy non-Diesel sequel, it's rare but at least possible for a series to reach new loftier heights. Brandishing the meta angle, this series manages to stay fresh by virtue of its self-reference and comedic undertones. Right now, this kind of ironic edge is most welcome... so Scream has everything to lose.

Based on the trailer, it seems as though the new Scream (or Scream 5) is just going for a rinse and repeat trying to capitalise on the 25 year anniversary as a story and marketing concept. Updating the story to latch onto our over-reliance on technology and social media, it could bring something fresh to the butcher's block. Roping in a next generation of fresh meat, the slasher is going for a precarious handover of sorts with enough old "furniture" to revive the nostalgia and spirit of the original. Sprouting lines like "I'm Sidney Prescott, of course I've got a gun.", perhaps this will be Campbell or Prescott's final Scream? Right now, it's becoming a will they or won't they on discontinuing the core character who's becoming more and more likely to don the ghostface mask and come full circle to play the slasher. Let's just hope the Ghostface Killer mask is more a scream than a yawn.

Finding 'Fried Barry'

Have you ever had a film elude you? Until recently Fried Barry has been that film. Having seen the experimental short film (below) a few years back and even interviewing director Ryan Kruger, his feature film debut has managed to slip out of reach again and again.

The epic old school movie poster, experimental concept, short movie and enigmatic star in Gary Green have given this film some buzz and energy. Being geared towards all things cult cinema, there's a mixture of excitement and trepidation about finally getting the chance to watch what should be a frenzy of a Ryan Kruger Thing.

The pandemic made it even more elusive, doing the festival circuit and not quite landing in South Africa apart from a few special screenings. Yet, after missing a few precious moments to see it, including last year's Horrorfest... the opportunity has finally arrived with the film set to premiere on DStv Box Office on 26 October 2021. This means you don't have to pursue the movie, Fried Barry's coming for you.

Fried Barry follows a lowlife, drug-addicted father and husband living in a middle-class nightmare who becomes host to an alien who takes Barry’s body for a joyride through the strangest and darkest avenues of Cape Town. Just as Barry's body is starting to give out after a series of mischievous, whimsical and deranged detours from crystal meth, a rave and even torture... the alien departs having learned a thing or two about the weird and unforgiving existence of humankind.

The pulsating, genre-bending, cult style flick also stars Chanelle De Jager, Johnny Pienaar, Bia Hartensen and Sean Cameron Michael and arrives just in time for Halloween. A first-of-its-kind film for South Africa, the ensemble is bolstered even further by the likes of Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Steve Wall, Deon Lotz and Tuks Tad Lungu. Having Ryan Kruger in the director's chair makes the prospect of seeing it even more tantalising, known for directing music videos and delivering a "what the hell happens next?" kind of short.

'Troll Girl' Short Film to Premiere at CTIAF

Kay Carmichael is an accomplished storyboard and development artist who works in the live-action and animation industry. Having started in animated television she's come to include animated series, feature films and commercials. While she worked on Supa Strikers, Kay's most recent animation work includes Mama K’s Team 4, Moosebox, Fairy Wheels and now her short film Troll Girl. When it comes to live-action productions, she's worked on series and films such as Northmen, The Book of Negroes, Blood Drive and The Perfect Wave. While Carmichael has been working in this space since 2009, she's known for her own comics and has been nurturing a number of passion projects such as 'Sophie the Giant Slayer' and a long-form series.

While some of these projects have been relegated to the backburner, one passion project that has been taking all of her time and energy... is ready to roll. Troll Girl is a fantasy short film that will be making its premiere at the Cape Town International Animation Festival between 1-3 October. The screening will be accompanied by a talk in which the creator will be discussing the making of, in particular the medium of blender grease pencil. Made with support from Triggerfish and the NFVF, this has been a labour of love for Carmichael.

From the trailer, which doesn't give too much away, the textured animation gives the short film spunk. Taking place in medieval times with a fairy tale twist and centred on an outcast, there will obviously be comparisons with Shrek. However, based on the teaser... Carmichael's animated adventure is more dramatic and lives in its own world without leaning on popular fairy tales.

Film Critics, Reviews, Ratings and the Digital Takeover

Before the Internet, we only had newspapers, magazines, television and word of mouth for our steady supply of pop culture intrigue and information. Unfortunately, these channels didn't have the speed of delivery, sheer volume of information or the value of consensus that search engines like Google offered at the digital takeover. Having information at your fingertips is empowering and it's how consumers are making their choices these days. Why wouldn't you do a quick search or reference a website before making a decision?

Getting the nitty gritty details and best price is what makes the marketplace more competitive these days. Whether you're shopping for a smart TV or deciding which movie to watch, being able to quickly reference a trusted review authority, user reviews or get finer details about what to expect can make all the difference.

film critics reviews ratings and digital takeover

The same goes for film reviews and movie critics. There was a time when readers would only have a few voices when it came to picking the right film for movie night. While a subjective process, readers would be able to decipher or learn to trust certain voices. Figuring out the critic's special interests, favourite genre, general disposition and even their rating allocation would help make them relevant to people even if they didn't necessarily agree with their ratings. In South Africa, there are two prolific and influential film critics with long track records who have managed to appear across all forms of broadcast and print.

Barry Ronge

The most prolific film critic must surely be Barry Ronge, who was widely broadcast across TV and radio, able to disseminate his opinion on up to 5 films a week. While his tastes varied, one quickly realised that arthouse films tended to land better reviews. An iconic reviewer, he was quite daring with reviews often led by emotion.

Using an /10 system that inspired the SPL!NG-O-METER, he'd use an adjective to describe each of his ratings. This meant he could offer some spectrum to each number however limiting the alliteration was to certain ratings. Adding a bit of his flair, he'd be able to rate something a "saucy 6" or "noteworthy 9" giving each /10 rating its own sub-rating descriptor.

Leon van Nierop

An author, screenwriter, lecturer and film critic, Leon van Nierop's movie reviews were more considered and serious - a respected reviewer and now luminary for the Afrikaans film-going public. His catchphrase "dis die een" still echoes in his film reviews today whether he's reviewing on his RSG radio show Monitor or in local newspapers or magazines. As an active screenwriter, he penned Wolwedans in die Skemer based on his long-running radio show and produced Ballade vir 'n Enkeling, both of which made a splash at the local box office. Leon van Nierop's televised film review featured on GMSA (Good Morning South Africa). Having been in the entertainment industry for over 4 decades, he's an established and award-winning author and journalist.

Now that the floodgates have opened, you can get opinions on film from the well-respected RogerEbert.com right through to your buddy's latest "kiff or kak" Facebook status. Film critics are now pontificating across the spectrum of media from YouTube channels and blogs through to more traditional print media and established online publications. The main reference points are IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, website repositories that offer up-to-date film information and more importantly ratings. Movie goers now feel armed with the power of IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes who can and do guide them to better movies based on their ranking systems.

IMDb's /10 Rating

IMDb's rating system provides an /10 score based on general ratings and links to critic reviews. Giving viewers a semblance of what to expect in terms of thousands of opinions boiled down to a number, it seems like a safe bet. However, it's important to know how the system works. The Independent Movie Database (IMDb) is primarily male-orientated, which is reflected in the site's Top 250 films through voting demographics and even film choice. Respected by industry professionals and movie lovers, it's widely referenced often ranking high in Google searches. However, it's not the be all and end all, often skewed by the loyal user base's tastes and preferences. In an ideal world, the rating system would be used in a way to best represent a viewer's take... but it's subject to abuse.

Besides voting syndicates using the platform to skew public opinion about certain films, there's a dedicated bunch who try their best to protect their hallowed selection of films from being downgraded in stature. Just click through one of the /10 ratings on IMDb to see the voting allocation. Almost every film has a scattered allocation of ratings with a glut of 10/10 and 1/10 ratings. There's also no way to verify a film has been watched by a user and being based on an honesty system, there's no real way to confirm raters have even seen the movie they're trashing. Influenced by public perception, boosting a film's rating just to sell more tickets or trashing it to thwart its success makes it a flawed system that somehow ends up representing a film's overall standing.

Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer

Rotten Tomatoes is strict when it comes to accepting film critics into the fold, which makes their system seem more robust. While it's easier to get an idea of what the general critic's position is based on consensus and capsule reviews, there are some issues. For starters, most people don't understand the Tomatometer percentage score that is often referenced as the standalone component when deciding on a movie. This is the percentage of critics who gave fresh reviews of a film. It's not a sliding scale comparable with an /10 rating. You can ostensibly get a 6/10 movie that has a 100% fresh score, meaning every critic who reviewed the film thought that it was fresh but otherwise just better than average.

Another issue is determining a mean score from the film critics since each of them is working on a different rating system or none at all. How do you credit a positive review with a weighting or how do you determine a score based on an /4 rating system versus an /10 one? These discrepancies can alter ratings quite substantially when pulling from a selection of less than 100 reviews. While Rotten Tomatoes have moved away from aggregating critic scores, there does seem to be a need to anchor the Tomatometer to another element for context.

User reviews have also come into play on the website, allowing ordinary film goers to flex their film critic muscle by chiming in with a review and rating. This is more quantifiable and useful to see how the audience score matches up against the overall movie critic percentage. Submitting their opinion via the same channel makes it possible for Rotten Tomatoes to offer a considered consensus, which has more credibility when linked to a user account. Taking the time to string a few sentences together also means it's easier to sift the have-seens from the haven-not-seens. Perhaps they should really be looking into forcing critics to adopt a similar type of submission scheme.

As it stands, there isn't a perfect system since each of the consensus ratings are done on an unverifiable review or rating. While Rotten Tomatoes distinguishes super reviewers and has its certified movie critics, it seems that it's coming full circle. Since social media and faceless publications have proven to be fallible often with ulterior motives, the need for experts who have become trusted authorities on fields is on the rise again. While the power of consensus and trust has become a currency through apps with link backs to Facebook profiles for credibility, these avatar-based systems can only take one so far. What entertainment journalism and news reporting in general requires is time-honoured integrity and the transparency to win people's trust without a shadow of suspicion.

Christopher Guest's Six Fingers

Christopher Guest is a name that you may have heard bandied about in conversation. While he may not be a household name, the actor, writer and director is an absolute giant in the field of mockumentaries. Having risen through the ranks on the back of the career-defining mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap, he's continued to ply the same comedic energy into every one of his productions. Collaborating on several occasions with Rob Reiner in This Is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride and A Few Good Men, he soon found a new writing partner in Eugene Levy of Schitt's Creek fame.

Christopher Guest's Six Fingers

While probably most famous for his role as the six-fingered man in The Princess Bride, Guest's become the crazy glue to each of his mockumentary productions.

Guest's Wikipedia page is a treasure trove of Easter Eggs from realising he was a Baron to being married to Jamie Lee Curtis.

A generous captain of an auteur, Guest has performed and worked alongside regular co-stars Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Michael McKean, Jane Lynch, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge, Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr., Parker Posey and John Michael Higgins.

While a script guides the actors and scenes, there's a strong emphasis on off-the-cuff reparte for this ensemble comedies. Some of the funniest lines and moments come as a result of improvisation, comic sparring and over-extensions.

While your appreciation of his mockumentaries will be based on your connection with the story, they often feature a group of attention-starved characters who want to be thrust into the limelight and achieve ultimate recognition in their craft.

1. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

This is Spinal Tap is a rockumentary about a band named Spinal Tap, who try to re-establish their presence as a serious rock band as they embrace their comeback tour with their heads held high. Filmed by a die-hard fan, their interviews and behind-the-scenes calamities become to add up. A mockumentary classic, this outrageously funny comedy set the bar high with many quotable lines - "crank it up to 11".

2. Waiting for Guffman (1996)

Waiting for Guffman mockuments the excitement and consternation of a Missouri small town musical production as rumours of receiving someone from Broadway come to light. Taken from the perspective of an awkward yet aspiring director, the so-so amateur cast try to up their game in anticipation of being discovered.

3. Best in Show (2000)

Best in Show lampooned the dog show circuit with a group of competitors being documented in this fun and ludicrous take about the tense build up to the Mayflower Dog Show.

4. A Mighty Wind (2003)

A Mighty Wind captured the hokey magic of folk musicians in their build-up to a reunion concert. Having never quite become famous-famous, their musical ambitions, old romances and self doubt kicks in.

5. For Your Consideration (2006)

For Your Consideration documented the award season buzz between cast and crew of an independent film, Home for Purim. After an unknown veteran's Oscar-worthy performance catches the air, nomination banter begins to snowball as the film gets called into question.

6. Mascots (2016)

Mascots sees a group of sports mascots trying to position themselves in their comeptitive world in the build up to the covetted Gold Fluffy award.

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