Mike posted a great review of Scream 4 yesterday, and even though his was number 1,000,000 in the blogosphere, I figured being 1,000,001 can’t hurt anything. Anytime a Scream movie rolls around, it can be considered an event. At the time of the original’s release, it united jaded horror fiends with casual filmgoers who didn’t even realize they liked horror movies. More importantly, it made big release horror exciting again. It took Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson some clever restructuring of a tired genre to re-ignite the box office for horror films, and Scream went on to become one of the most lucrative horror series in film history. It should have been no surprise that in the current state of sterile remakes and lifeless reboots, Scream 4 in some manifestation was inevitable. Some may have rolled their eyes at word of a new sequel, but there was an undeniable buzz for the new film leading up to opening weekend.
Unlike a lot of fans, I opted not to revisit the original series beforehand. I didn’t even re-watch the first Scream because I wanted to have that distance in order to view part 4 through fresh eyes. The good news is that Scream 4 delivered on many of my admittedly low expectations, and even left me highly entertained. Some annoyances aside, it has a lot going for it. Despite tales of scripting implosion (Williamson having left to continue work on The Vampire Diaries) as well as Craven’s odd distance from the film prior to release, it doesn’t feel phoned in. I wouldn’t say it’s a return to form for Craven, but Scream 4 contained more energy than we’ve seen from Craven in a really long time.
Now let me ruminate on my post title: The original Scream was a satire that became a parody of itself. While Scream 1-3 was a collection of films increasingly more aware of themselves, part 4 is hyperaware. Immediately it begins with an intro designed to poke fun, then destroy our notions of a Scream intro scene. From the get go the filmmakers are conveying that they’re still pushing the envelope. In a way, they’ve given their own movie a stab. It’s not yet the deathblow, but the wound is deep. Things are about to change.
In fact, this becomes a running theme throughout the movie. In response to changing times, Scream 4 is all about passing the torch. It lines up several showdowns between characters and concepts allowing us to ponder old school vs. new jacks, rapid changes in trends and technology, fame vs. infamy, the has beens vs. the up and comers. It even pits its own self against the myriad of torture flicks, Japanese remakes, and other assorted trends in horror over the past decade or so. In the horror battle royale, Scream 4 plans to be the last film standing.
Scream 4 is presented with a number of challenges. First of all, would a new generation of desensitised horror fans give a shit about characters from a movie that popped up while they were still in diapers? Had long time fans outgrown the original series in search of bleaker and gorier fare? Could Craven channel the Craven of old and give audiences another bite? Since over a decade has passed since we last watched Woodsboro’s finest, Scream 4 must also address new forms of media. Ghostface now texts and posts to facebook just like we all do. Can that really be scary or just silly?
Reprising her role as Sidney Prescott, Neve Campbell once again proves the most sympathetic of characters. Returning to Woodsboro to promote a new self-empowerment book, Sidney finds herself once again enmeshed in horrible killings by a new ghostface. Also returning are Gale Weathers (always riotous Courtney Cox) and Dewey Riley (a very subdued David Arquette), now in a rocky marriage. Complacent Gale longs for her old life of sensationalist journalism and jumps at the chance to assist her protesting husband, now the sheriff, in solving the new murders. We are also introduced to a new crop of players including Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), her best friend Kirby (Hayden Panetierre), and horror geeks Charlie (Rory Culkin) and Robbie (Erik Knudsen). The newbies play off the veterans providing distinctive subplots and introducing the trademark red herrings. Also back is a new and much more brutal ghostface.
The introduction of new characters sets the stage for entirely new suspects, victims, and most of all, new rules. Sidney is acquainting herself with family she barely knows, one which has its own agenda. Gale finds herself at odds with Sidney’s press agent, played with zest by Allison Brie. Ghostface must even contend with the latest style of horror filmmaking – the handheld shaky cam. The events play out amidst some of the more brutal killings in the series. Craven and Co. upped the gore and frenzy of attacks making for a bona fide blood bath.
Performance-wise, the original trio of Campbell, Cox, and Arquette are solid and committed to their characters’s new roles and challenges. Campbell keeps us invested with her trademark nose crinkles and narrowing eyes. Unfortunately, Roberts, except for one brilliant scene, is not up to task. As Mike pointed out in his review, she appears to think she’s above all this horror movie nonsense, and I agree with his assessment. The rest of the new cast isn’t much better, although the two bright spots are Pantierre and Culkin who may have possibly fit in as 90’s versions of themselves in the original.
All in all, Scream 4 is a solid effort, and while it may not have the staying power of the original, it’s a worthy entry and quite possibly the second best in the series. It succeeds as a whodunit (I never guessed the killer), and as a slasher. Although I’m not sure I’d be interested in further sequels, I’m glad I ventured out to see this one. Although it appears to be a finale by its climax, we know better from the previous films that a new ghostface can show up out of nowhere.
Scream 4 Trailer