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April 15, 2011

Scream 4

(2011, Dir. by Wes Craven.)

I'm just going to come right out and say it.  I am absolutely in love with the ending of Scream 4.  It's not be the smartest thing I've ever seen - in fact, it might be one big joke - but it's completely what you wouldn't expect from horror in this day and age.  In fact, I almost want to say that the entirety of Scream 4 is one big middle finger toward the horror remake craze of the 2000s.

After an unpredictable (if not entirely ridiculous) opening, Scream 4 brings us back to good ol' Woodsboro, home of the original massacre, on a day that just happens to be the anniversary of the series' first on-screen murder.  Also returning to town on that day is Sidney Prescott, the object of Ghostface's desire through the first three Scream films, who's still played by Neve Campbell.  (By the way, Campbell appears to have aged no more than 3-4 years in the last 15 years.  Just thought I'd throw that out there.)

The other two-thirds of Scream's original trinity are also back, as we find David Arquette's Dewey and Courtney Cox's Gale are married and living in Woodsboro, where Dewey is sheriff and Gale is a struggling writer.  Oh, and - most importantly - people are dead, and the killer's mimicking Ghostface.  That leaves Sidney's young cousin (played by Julia Roberts' niece Emma Roberts, an inspired bit of casting) and her friends (former Heroes babe Hayden Panettiere - who's really quite good in this role - and Marielle Jaffe) to wonder what's going on in their high school, while the elder trio continue to deal with the problems that come with a mass murderer who's recreating their traumatic life...again.

Scream 4 takes a few clunky turns setting up its plot - the first two acts are filled with scenes that seem like they were added to up the gore factor, which is substantially greater than the first three films combined - but once the herd is thinned the film takes a nice turn and starts to resemble the original film.  And just when it's back where we expect it to be, it of course turns the tables once more - and the result is certainly the most unpredictable Scream film. While I'm inclined to say that the unpredictability comes from a script that may have been written while playing a game of Clue, the manic nature Craven and Williamson give the film is kind of refreshing. 

Seeing the film with an audience certainly adds to the film's charm; it's clear from the opening that Williamson and Craven want the audience's memory of Scream and other horrors to be a part of the experience.  At the same time, the duo don't overstep their comfort zone by making the film a modern-style "found footage" horror, and their nods to that subgroup of recent horrors are handled quite nicely.  The horror references are updated for modern audiences - I had a good chuckle the first time Saw was mocked - and the horror fans within the film seem to have grown with the times (though nobody seems to notice that Anthony Anderson's character is named Anthony Perkins).  The audience I saw the film with certainly bought into the film's winks at the audience, and that air of willingness to return to Scream-land certainly helped make a few jumpscares more effective.  (Credit must also be given to the film's marketing department, as many of the moments in the film's trailer that appear to be "reveals" were edited differently in the final film.)

The bottom line is that - unlike Scream 3, and maybe even Scream 2 (which I love, but do find a little snooty for a slasher) - Scream 4 is a really fun slasher film.  I'd say it's the most fun this series has been since the original.  I'm not sure if younger horror fans - the ones who expect something like Saw or the recently-gloomy Insidious - will be up for what Scream 4 is offering, but I look at the film and realize that these are my generation's horror icons.  Campbell and Ghostface (still voiced by Roger Jackson) can still compete with the kids, and I find that fact to be surprisingly refreshing.  Maybe I'm getting old - I did find the film's use of the theme from Beverly Hills Cop to be one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time - because Scream 4 seems like a welcome throwback to horrors gone by.

And, until this week, I had kind of forgotten that I missed them.  Without warning, Craven and Williamson's series has become "old school".


Anonymous said...

Checking it out this morning. Great review, you have me excited to see it despite the naysayers.

R.D. Penning said...

I'll agree with you on a solid ending, but it just couldn't make up for the rest of the film for me.

Great review though Mike

Enbrethiliel said...


As you already know, I LOVED IT!

OMG--that ending!!!

And I totally get what you mean about it being fun!

I'd better stop now before I use up my quota of exclamation points!!!

mge said...

I love the Scream series and I agree, Scream 4 is a really fun slasher film, and probably the best since the original.

It's interesting to compare the saga with the Toy Story films. Toy Story 3 and Scream 4 returned 10 years after Toy Story 2 and Scream 3 were relased. However, TS3 was a huge success and S4 failed at the box office.

I know the audience of TS3 is and has always been bigger but it still shocks me when I read Scre4m couldn't reach $100 m. worldwide.

Maybe we are experiencing the death of horror right in front of us and, like Scre4m implies, all we can do ir return to the classics.