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Scream 4

April 19th, 2011 by unkle lancifer · 8 Comments

The WES CRAVEN directed SCREAM 4 gets off to a rocky (Is this a SCREAM or SCARY MOVIE sequel?) start with a parade of patience pushing film-within-film parodies concerning personality free white girls left alone in personality free white houses. The joke aims to poke fun at the redundancy of sequels but comes across more as the pot texting the kettle to call it black. Let’s just say DREW BARRYMORE’s savage demise in the first flick needn’t ever sweat about being dethroned as the strongest opening in the series. Happily though, once the marshmallow fluff commencement scene is scraped from SCREAM 4’s windshield the movie plows forward and starts getting down to business and that business centers on characters with plenty of mileage on them in a setting we’ve been kept away from far too long, the town of Woodsboro.

Series survivor and “celebrity victim” Sidney Prescott (NEVE CAMPBELL) is back in her hometown on a book tour supporting her well received self-help tome “Out of the Darkness”. Dutiful Dewey (DAVID ARQUETTE) has graduated to town sheriff and his once tigress wife Gale (COURTNEY COX) currently climbs the walls of her suburban cage declawed and uninspired. The audience and the denizens of Woodsboro are well aware that Sidney’s homecoming can only mean one thing, that a new batch of grisly murders are about to ensue. It’s notable that Sidney has mellowed to the point of accepting her lot in life. The reality is that no amount of ass-kicking will ever transform Prescott into a warrior/ hero. It’s common knowledge that she’s a cursed figure, an “Angel of death” who is followed by a wave of blood wherever she goes. She can attempt to write herself “out of the darkness,” but it’s only a matter of time before KEVIN WILLIAMS or worse, EHREN KRUGER writes her back in.

SCREAM 4 overloads its plate with zeitgeist gruel. Besides forcing the usual useless reductive “rules” down our throats, it blasts the current plethora of horror remakes, notes the rise of facebook and twitter and finishes things off with a somewhat biting critique of the ever-blurring line between unearned notoriety and legitimate fame. All of that is well and good, if not particularly fresh. Perhaps the movie itself is trapped in the same schema as once-was character Gale, desperately trying to convince itself of its own relevancy and meanwhile needlessly overlooking its own obvious natural charms. The movie battles with itself, tossing about terms like “meta” and “self aware” while struggling to find a balance between the then and the now. It wants to come to terms with its own age, to find meaning in its characters’ struggles, to define the difference between “old” and “mature,” but someone keeps forcing it to make stale celebrity jokes. (The idea that someone might sacrifice their last moments on Earth to utter an out of place punch line I’m assuming came from the aforementioned KRUGER who contributed a script “polishing”. I’ve decided to indiscriminately scapegoat the guy for everything that smacks of hack in the film.)

More shocking than the truly surprising killer reveal in SCREAM 4 is the fact that I loved it regardless of it faults and I don’t mind saying it’s my favorite since the first. It’s not exactly terrifying but it is suspenseful and goddamn it, I love sequels…especially slasher sequels. You can just carve that on my tombstone so there’s no mistake. Sequels offer us a chance to observe characters as they change and grow and the decade plus fermenting period between SCREAMs 3 and 4 allow a type of novel ripening not witnessed since HALLOWEEN H20 (also penned by KEVIN WILLIAMS). If you ask me, age compliments the trio of SCREAM regulars well. Sidney has stopped wincing and rubbing her neck, Dewey has shed his mascot persona and Gale has grown into and certainly earned her trademark crankiness. Sid’s annoying “specialness” is addressed (and then some) as is Gale’s inability to garner appreciation for her invaluable contribution to the saga. SCREAM 4 picks up all the trash that SCREAM 3 impolitely left on the picnic table and that alone makes me a happy camper. Indeed, when we finally uncover the person or persons responsible for the new batch of knife slaughter they dump a bowl of crazy on the floor that easily rivals that which graced the first installment.

Being a bitter hater, the one thing I was not looking forward to (besides enduring a freshening-up on the always spurious “rules”) was getting to know the new younger generation cast. Call it Cousin Oliver Syndrome but I’m always a bit skeptical when youngins are trotted out and expected to be welcomed into the fold without question. Imagine my surprise when EMMA ROBERTS as Sid’s young cousin turned out to be one highly memorable and multilayered slasher “good girl” and HEROESHAYDEN PANNETTIERE, with her raspy voice and Peter Pan hair cut, nearly walked away with the entire film. As messy as some of the generational collisions are executed, these two stand outs (particularly plucky PANNETTIERE) really add a nice dose of effervescent energy to counteract the grounded, near melancholia of the adult players. Faring far less well is MARY MCDONNELL taking over for a “Count me out!” LAUREN GRAHAM in the uncoveted role of “Mom who gets stabbed after bringing in groceries.” (Please tell me she has a deleted scene somewhere that explains why she exists.)

So, SCREAM 4, is a crazy stew of missed opportunities, sometimes trite dialogue and random pointless characters that also miraculously yields a powerfully enthralling villain reveal, some genuine intestine enhanced bloodshed, several good jolty scares and a rare chance to visit with characters that have gotten even more interesting with age and even a few snappy new ones. It may have two left feet under its robe at points but at least there’s nothing as alarmingly embarrassing as certain moments in Parts 2 and 3. (Unless of course you count the clunky BRUCE WILLIS joke.) Most importantly, it does finally offer up one golden glorious “rule” that can actually be put to good use… “Don’t fuck with the original.” There’s a better movie begging to break free for sure and I don’t blame LAUREN GRAHAM for jumping on the first bus out of town, but I’m certainly happy I got to spend some time in Woodsboro again.

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Tags: General Horror · Trauma Au Courant




8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Meep ParkerNo Gravatar // Apr 19, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Excellent!

    It’s one of those movies that works hard enough to get you to like it, despite it’s obvious flaws.

    Poor Mary McDonnell. Her role was surely cut to shreds… I mean, I can’t imagine her showing up for a couple of days work so she can get the chance to work in beautiful, illustrious Michigan!

  • 2 Luki8701No Gravatar // Apr 19, 2011 at 9:51 am

    I loved the movie. I´m not ashamed to say it´s my favourite sequel of the series.

    And yes the “Bruce Willis” joke fell flat on it´s face (pun intended) what a stupid way to end otherwise great death scene.

    This is propably the best horror sequel I´ve seen in a long time.

  • 3 ChrisNo Gravatar // Apr 19, 2011 at 10:37 am

    I gotta be the odd duck here and disagree, as I found the sequel to be pointless and dull. Everything that you pointed out liking Unk, I thought was faulty. I didn’t think Dewey had enough to do, Gale was neutered (yeah, I get she’s domesticated. But c’mon! She should’a flipped the bitch switch more often like in previous installments), Hayden I found to be an absolutely awful actress, and the writing was atrocious (thank you for pointing out the Bruce Willis line!).

    I guess my main problem though is with the motivation behind the killer. One moment they’re lambasting the fact that nobody reads anymore, so you have to use video cameras to film the murders (a novel idea that pretty much goes nowhere), and the next they’re pining for a book deal after the fact. Wha..? Same with the killer themself. It was the Mrs. Voorhees/Friday the 13th syndrome… a shock because there was really no reason to suspect this person to begin with. In the original 3, everyone was a suspect, and everyone showed they had the potential to be the killer. Not in this one. The killer had no arc to show they even had that murderous intent within. It’s like when the writers got to the ending, they threw a dart at all the names of the characters and whichever it hit became the killer. I found it to be a cop-out.

    While I’ve never been a HUGE fan of the series, I did enjoy ’em enough that I was hoping for something new here, not just a rehash of the first two films. I get that’s the point, but still like you pointed out, there was more that could’ve been done with the story (like off the top of my head? Have Sydney think the killer is back because of her, but actually is after Dewey or Gale. Mix it up a bit because we’ve been going after Sydney for 3 films prior. How unlucky can one chick be?).

    Then again, it’s been, what? 10 years since the last installment? Maybe I just became a bitter old man during that time. But I should’a spent my cash on seeing Insidious again instead.

  • 4 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Apr 19, 2011 at 11:22 am

    It’s funny that Scream as a series almost begs to be critiqued harshly. It’s as if it has a superiority complex even though it utilizes the same cliches that it looks down upon.

    I did end up having much fun with this one though. I loved going back to the original town and I enjoyed the ending a lot…

    Meep,

    It seems they had script changes on this one nearly every day and just hoped for the best. I’m now really interested to read the original script which undoubtedly had to have something for MM’s character to do! I couldn’t believe that she was gone so fast but then again she did say “I’ll be back.”… Which considering all that was going on was really crazy. In fact, none of the new characters acted like people would if there was a murderer loose and a close friend just got murdered. They should have at least had a funeral for that next door neighbor!

    Luki,

    That WAS a good death before the Bruce Willis line! What were they thinking?

    Chris,

    I appreciate odd ducks! This movie did have many a problem. I relished some of them because they gave me so much to think about. I did wish that they did not dump Gale in the hospital for so long! That seemed kind of lazy and more Dewey would have been good too.

    There was a scene filmed (it’s one of the pictures on the post) where we see Dewey investigate the first murders and finds the victims arranged like those from the first film. They really didn’t push the copycat aspect enough in the film I think and I wish that scene remained.

    I loved Hayden in this! I think she had sort of an old school Tom boy thing going and I liked that they had a female film fanatic for once. I also thought the motivation of the killer was pretty cool and actually less out nowhere than usual. When they revealed the killer in 3, I didn’t even know who he was from the film. He’s was just some guy. Now when I see it I notice that he is around throughout the film but he didn’t even register with me the first time!

    I agree that so much more could have been done though. What if they had Dewey and Gale teem up as the killer? Now that would have been something.

    I think after seeing something like INSIDIOUS which was so understated in some aspects and then seeing SCREAM which has a sort of Hollywood desperation to it, is a bit of a shock to the system. Ultimately though like I said in the post I’m a sucker for slasher sequels!

    It’s also pretty amazing to consider that you could make INSIDIOUS 40 times over for the amount it cost to make Scream 4.

    Thanks for the odd duck input!

    Kirby lives! 🙂

  • 5 EshbaalNo Gravatar // Apr 20, 2011 at 2:43 am

    Glad to hear you like Hayden. I pretty much fell in love with her the very second she showed up, and found myself giggling like a schoolgirl (er, boy! Don’t let the hair fool you guys too! ) every time she spoke, just because I ever so love seeing a chick anywhere near as nerdy as me. She just kept being really charming to me.

    I actually DID figure out who the killer was halfway through the movie, though it was less of a “Well, it has to be , because…” and more of a “Oh man, wouldn’t it fit perfectly well if…” thing. But maybe that’s just me.

    I gotta say, I still miss Randy oh, so much though. The two new “film geeks” didn’t do it very well for me most of the time, or at least, there was just something missing. At least we got a couple of bros never more than two feet away from eachother.

  • 6 hostelNo Gravatar // Apr 20, 2011 at 3:22 am

    I see that it is realy worth seeing!!! Got to visit cinema ; )

  • 7 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Apr 20, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Esgbaal,

    I was convinced from the TV commercial that I was going to NOT like Hayden. I assumed she was just going to be the typical smartass or something.

    As it turned out I thought she was a great composite of the SCREAM characters. She was a bit of Randy, a bit of Sid and a bit of Gale and Tatum too.

    You should check the Imdb message board for Scream 4. It seems that she won a bunch of people over. I would not have a problem with her carrying Scream 5.

    Hostel,

    I think it is worth seeing. There are a lot of things that disappoint but for the most part it connects with the first one in a way that I enjoyed. In fact, if I ever get in a Scream mood again I’d like to just watch 1& 4 back to back and forget the other two. Maybe just because 1& 4 have the small town atmosphere that I really get into.

  • 8 Joanna BoeseNo Gravatar // Apr 21, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Yeah, I liked Kirby, too. 🙂

    But this film struck me as one of those films where they present the evidence as to who’s behind it, although you don’t realize what it is until the last half hour. (See also “Perfect Blue”, “Mulholland Drive”, “Red Riding Hood”.) But IMO, those movies are take it or leave it. I didn’t really think there should’ve been another sequel, as there are lots of films out there that deserve them that aren’t getting them, but at least it’s not as “WHY?!” as that third “Big Momma’s House”.

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