Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Opens locally Friday, April 15th, 2011
Run Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts
Written by Kevin Williamson (Scream)
Directed by Wes Craven (Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3, The Last House on the Left, Nightmare on Elm Street)
NO MAJOR SPOILERS to follow...
The fun of the Scream franchise is the self-awareness. It winks at the audience and pokes fun at the cliches of the horror genre while simultaneously staying true to them. The latest Scream (the 4th installment, shot entirely in Michigan) stays true to the franchise, updating the Scream world to modern times and re-establishing itself as a viable franchise.
The Open. The opening sequence of each Scream movie has famously began with a killing from "Ghostface", the mysterious slasher persona that each film's villain has become. It always starts with a phone call from the killer to an innocent (and often well-known) girl alone in the house. But at the heart of Scream, the films are about revealing what we "expect" to happen, so that the normal is what we actually "least expect." So we go into this film knowing how each Scream film opens, right? I hand it to the writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven for their brilliant twist open in Scream 4, one that begins this 4th film off on the right foot for what's to come...Of course I won't reveal how this film opens!
The Plot. Sidney (Neve Campbell) is now an author of a self-help book, and has returned home to Woodsboro as part of her book tour. She reconnects with now Sherriff Dewey (David Arquette) and former author Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), who have married. Ghostface of course returns along with Sidney, and the murders begin.
Scream 4 falls victim to the same parameters that it makes fun of, as a horror movie at it's core, must contain some inevitables. We are always introduced to a wide number of characters, because part of the fun of Scream movies is also guessing who the killer is, and we need a lot of suspects. We also need a lot of victims. The movie-within-a-movie is the "Stab" franchise, which allows our characters to give wry comments on films like Scream. They point out that "Stab" films work better than most horror films due to the character development given to the victims...it makes us care.
So I don't know if I "cared" about the victims of Scream 4, but it was surely an interesting ride with just the right mix of surprise, comedy, and suspense. Craven still has a knack in making us jump out of our seats, even as we sit knowing that he is trying desperately to get us to jump out of our seats.
It's been 11 years since Scream 3, and in the past 11 years the horror genre has been quite popular with movies like Saw, The Hills Have Eyes, and countless others. Scream 4 benefits from great timing and a lot of material to poke fun at from the past decade. We are also now in a world heavily involved in the internet, cell phones, Twitter, and Facebook. You can expect tons of these elements in Scream 4 as well.
We also live in a world of reality TV and people who are famous without having worked for it. "You don't have to achieve anything anymore, you just have to have f**ked up s**t happen to you," says a character in Scream 4.
The result of all of this is an enjoyable film that was a bit better than I expected quite honestly. It definitely stayed true to the spirit of the original Scream movie, and I can't think of a base that it missed in satiring every staple of the horror genre, specifically in the last 11 years or so. Try as it does to be "too cool" for regular horror flicks though, Scream 4 falls victim to the same structure as previous films, and some of the same trappings.
Part of the problem with Scream 2 and 3 were how soon they were released following the original. 11 years later for Scream 4 seems like the right timing for Scream to return with something worthy of shouting about.
With the same sense of style and personality, I could see another Scream movie coming out maybe every 5 to 10 years, to give wry commentary on the state of the genre.
Anything more than that would simply be over-kill.
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