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Nothing left to say: “Scream 4”

April 17, 2011

SPOILERS: If you haven’t seen Scream 4 yet, you might want to avoid this review until you do. I’m going to try not to spoil the hell out of it, but no promises.

The cleverest trick Scream pulled was the reveal of not one, but two killers sharing an identity. Of course it makes perfect sense when you think about it—it’s the only way the killer could be in so many places seemingly at once—but it still took audiences by surprise. We had been so conditioned by the very tropes Scream was both mocking and employing that we didn’t even know that we were playing along with them. That moment of meta-fictional cleverness was never repeated in the Scream franchise, and, I’m sorry to say, that includes the latest installment.
Scream 4 once again features luckless heroine Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) running away from a slasher in a Ghostface mask. What? You thought it was going to be about the Apollo 17 mission? Of course it’s about Neve running away from a knife-wielding dude who, true to form, turns out to be two people. This time around she’s joined by series regulars (i.e. survivors) Dewey Riley (again, David Arquette)—now Sheriff—and his wife Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox). Newcomers  include Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), and a bunch of high school friends of hers who basically serve as meat for the beast.

Yeah, there’s some over-arching narrative about Sidney writing a book about being a multiple-killing-spree survivor (haven’t we all been there?), and Gale’s career being in freefall, but really this is just window dressing and filler until the movie makes with the stab-stab/slice-slice. After that, it’s pretty much by-the-numbers, until the movie’s truly clumsy climax.

The problem with the Scream franchise is that when it comes to horror sequels, the rules tend to go out the window. You get sequels that are prequels, sequels set decades later, sequels that eschew the  characters from the first movie, and even some sequels that abandon the main monster altogether. Bottom line, a good chunk of the time, sequels are only green-lit because the title-recognition gives the movie an edge with audiences.  What this means is that the self-referential knowingness that made Scream so unique became hollow and unconvincing in the sequels. Ultimately, there were no conventions to subvert, so they became as derivative as the movies they were ostensibly critiquing.

In Scream 4, the screenplay (started by Kevin Williamson and rewritten by Ehren Kruger—and you can sense the toolmarks) tries to take on remakes and Internet culture, but doesn’t really know what to say or do about any of them (with the exception of one great litany of remakes). If either Williamson or Kruger had really wanted to attack the latest trend of horror remakes, they would have explored how gritty, low-budget gorefests have had their edges blunted and smoothed and  turned into sleek, professional commodities.  Oh wait, maybe that’s why this movie feels so toothless.

Yeah, Scream 4 didn’t really so much deliver the scares as far as I was concerned. The suspense of the first is never replicated, and I can’t tell whether Craven is losing his touch or if he just phoned this one in. There is also none of the brutality of the first film, which actually posited that stab wounds hurt. In this movie we get a character giving a long-winded explanation of the killer’s philosophy, while bleeding out from a knife wound.

Other points to ponder:

*  Kristen Bell looks really weird in her cameo.  Dunno why. Something’s wrong with her face.

* Not even an attempt to sex up this movie. I mean, at least the first one understood that the teens being stalked needed to be nubile.

* Hayden Panettiere sports such a power-dyke look that when she turns out to be heterosexual, I was taken totally off guard.  Of course, the dude she hooks up with is Rory Culkin, who is more feminine than she is, so…

* Okay, so the killers (once again) turn out to be a couple of teenagers with big knives. You know, practically speaking, they wouldn’t be all that hard to overpower. Why didn’t anyone just punch a Ghostface in the throat?

* Marley Shelton does a good job as a love-struck deputy. She has a pleasantly weird charisma to her.

* Alison Brie basically plays her character from Community.

* The movie acknowledges horror remakes and torture-porn, but somehow totally forgot about Amercanized J-horror products. How do you skip those? Do Kruger and Williamson even watch horror films?

* Why doesn’t Sidney carry a gun? I mean, three different mass murders occur around her, you’d think she’d be an NRA poster-girl by now.

So, that’s Scream 4. It’s not as smart as it thinks it is.

3 comments

  1. Nicolas Cage got arrested. He is such a horrible actor. I bet Erica Bana’s groin is a better actor than Cage.


    • I’m mildly surprised it’s taken this long for Nicolas Cage to be arrested.


  2. I wasn’t so much dissapointed in the lack of orginality in this movie. What was a huge letdown to me was that it wasn’t scary. I think it’s because the move focused on the original characters and they all had a we’ve seen this before attitude.



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