by Bret Dorman
It seems that Hollywood is not only in favor of remakes and reboots, but rejuvenation as well. Writer of the original Scream (as well as Scream 2) comes back for the fourth installment as well as Director of all 3, Wes Craven himself. Scream 4 is being pitched as a funny spoof that turns the horror genre on its head while being a horror movie itself. Sort of like the first one.
The Story: Ghostface Killer is back and Neve Campbell rejoins forces with David Arquette and Courtney Cox as well as newcomers like Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, and Hayden Panettiere to try and find out who it is and stop them. Also, its very ‘meta’.
Okay, they biggest complaint about Scream 4, is not that its fun and sometimes funny, who would complain about that, but that it goes out of its way to point out what its doing and make fun of other movies for doing it too, but then never elevates it. Anyone can write a movie where a character walks into a room and says “Oh this is a bad idea”, but then you have to do something with it.
For every good joke there’s also a hack joke. For every good death scene there’s also a kind of crummy one. And the movie tries too hard to bring this idea of killing and technology into it, but really doesn’t do a lot with it. Essentially, what Scream 4 is, is just a bunch of people trying to make a silly little comedy that occasionally features a death here or there.
And I would have no problem with that, but really, that’s what the horror genre has become lately. Most horror movies are pretty tongue-in-cheek now. There is no ‘standard’ comic relief in a horror anymore, everyone has to be funny because funny is likable. And its the most convenient way to make everyone likable in a short period of time before the body count starts getting higher and higher. But Scream 4 adds nothing new. There’s no big commentary on horror movies other than “Don’t say ‘I’ll be right back’ because then you’ll die! or maybe not! Who knows anymore!”
Like I mentioned there’s a couple of pretty good mini-twists or turns in the kills that kind of catch you by surprise, but the movie doesn’t hold that as a standard, just as a treat. I also wasn’t a big fan of the ‘meta’ (that word is thrown around quite a bit, but just saying that you are being ‘meta’ doesn’t make you ‘smart’) opening. More on that in the Spoilers section.
There are some great things in Scream 4. One, of all the newcomers, Hayden Panettiere really shined through. She was the most energetic one and probably had one of my favorite lines/laughs. Also, there are moments where Ghostface Killer is around and taunting Sidney, but instead of running away or just crying/screaming like everyone else, she actually makes an effort to confront him and fight him. I’ll excuse the whole her returning for Woodsboro’s whatever anniversary of the murders for this fact that she actually tries to be badass (the movie should have let her have more moments like that).
Okay, as far as I am concerned with the opening, it raises a lot of issues and problems with horror movies and sets a tone that is never really visited back upon. The first section is Stab 5. Then Stab 6? Then Scream 4. So you set up a precedent where you don’t know if what you are watching is A movie or THE movie and therefor don’t really care about the characters. So when the two girls die and Scream 4 officially starts its just like “Oh… okay…”
I will say any time I get to see Kristin Bell on screen is fine by me. I felt though that her and Anna Paquin were underused and their section was just a cheap laugh.
In fact, most of this movie sacrifices real horror moments or wasted buildup for cheap laughs. When Anthony Anderson and Adam Brody are in their car they just wittily talk about what not to say or who should stay in the car (and if staying in the car means living or dying) while a killer is out on the loose and they are supossed to be protecting people. Then they both killed killed (OMG! Big twist! They BOTH die!) and Anthony Anderson’s last words are “Fuck Bruce Willis”. I get why its funny and got a chuckle from me, but seemed sort of out of place.
Also, one of the best kills was the first big one. When he was hiding in the closet, and she opens it, and then he attacks the other girl. That was a nice little surprise but then later you just have him killing the Agent Girl and there is no big twist, just a standard kill. It was nice to see Ghostface immediately find Courtney Cox’s webcams, but then she rushes back in to ‘find out what the problem with them is’ and finds HIS webcam. Oh my! So (re)inventive!
I don’t want to make it seem like I hate having fun and hate horror/comedies and want them to all be super well written, but that’s what this movie does. It points out its own flaws and then does nothing to remedy them or try to one up them. If it was just a straight up horror/comedy it would have been better. But trying to advertise yourself as reinventing the genre and doing nothing to do it is a big let down.
As far as the killers go, I was expecting Rory to be one, that kind of made sense from a plot point of view and a ‘why would Rory Culkin be in this kind of role’ kind of view. As for Emma Roberts, at one point I suspected her, but guessed the motive for being revenge based. I liked that twist of her wanting to do it for the fame that Neve Campbell got.
But then the movie does that stupid thing where she has this whole plan and there’s one little kink in it (the fact that she didn’t kill Sidney, which is lame because she makes the classic villain move to not fully kill the main character, even though this movie is supposed to be super smart) but then she goes on this CRAZY ‘killing’ spree. Like, there’s no way she could get away with any of what she just did.
And if this movie is trying to ‘pass the torch’ from older generation to younger and start anew, why kill off ALL the new characters and leave the old? Scream 5 and 6 are reportedly in the works and what are they going to do, have Sidney be hunted by Ghostface… again? Oooohhh… scary!
Also the tagline is “New Decade. New Rules.” and one of Neve’s last lines is “Don’t fuck with the original.” Mixed message?
In Conclusion, I have no problems with what Scream 4 actually did, only that it said it was going to do a lot more. Just pointing out your own flaws does not make you a ‘smart’ horror film. There is no reinventing or rewriting of the rules going on here. Also, it would be nice to have at least one scary part in a horror movie.
Final Grade: C