As some of you may be aware, I am quite the Scream fanatic. It was really the movie that got me into the genre, and I’ve seen all the films in the franchise so far. Naturally, I had to actually bust out my wallet and go see Scream 4 in theaters.
. . . yeah, it had some problems. But I’m still glad I went to see it.
Until the Spoiler Section towards the end of review, there will be no spoilers for any of the Scream films. After that, all bets are off.
Ten years have passed. Sidney (Neve Campbell) is all grown up now, with a memoir/self help book to boot. She returns to Woodsboro to promote said book, but unfortunately, Ghostface ruins everything by starting to kill people again. Ghostface can often be inconsiderate that way.
1. One of the things I do like about this film is the basic premise. Usually, a sequel that takes place well over a decade after the last film is a bad idea—after all, who really wants to see their badass hero as a balding guy with bad knees?
But in a horror series—especially one as pointedly self-aware as the Scream series—the idea of seeing what the survivors’ lives are like a decade later is kind of interesting to me. And while I like examining the horror from multi-generational viewpoints, I’m even more interested in the question that drives this film: is Sidney still the heroine? Or is her time as heroine finished now?
2. That all being said . . . there are times that the script’s self-awareness actually hurts the film. The biggest problem with this movie is that the plot feels a little thin, that instead of taking the time to really form a solid three-act story, Kevin Williamson instead wrote a ton of meta humor and substituted it for a second act. The beginning of Scream 4 is relatively strong, and the ending is pretty strong too, but somewhere in the middle there, the film falters under the weight of too many jokes and not enough structure. Gale’s storyline, in particular, seems exceptionally weak and underdeveloped.
The glorious thing about the first Scream is that it’s both funny and scary, that it can talk about the horror genre while still being a part of that genre. But although Ghostface tells one soon-to-be-victim that, “This isn’t a comedy; it’s a horror,” Scream 4 really isn’t much of a horror movie. Yes, it’s got the stabbing and the blood and a certain amount of gore, but while it certainly brings the funny, it fails to even remotely bring the fear. Unless you’re exceptionally easy to rattle, you’re not going to be frightened of Scream 4. It’s just not a scary movie, period.
3. Surprisingly, though, I still did really enjoy watching Scream 4. Though it doesn’t live up to the first film, it is certainly not the worst movie in the franchise. (That would be Scream 3.)
One of the bright spots in the movie, surprisingly, is Hayden Panettiere as popular girl/horror geek, Kirby.
Sometimes, I have to remind myself that you can’t judge an actor’s work solely on their participation in Heroes. Heroes might have started out great, but it quickly devolved into a total crazytown show, and disliking Panettiere simply because Claire was often annoying as shit isn’t really fair to the actress. (Besides, I did enjoy her work in Shanghai Kiss. I found her enthusiasm sort of refreshing.) And out of all the teens in this film—including Rory Culkin, who I actually like—she’s easily the standout in Scream 4. She certainly outshines Emma Roberts in every scene they have together. Not that Emma Roberts is horrible, mind you. Panettiere is just better.
4. Although, while I’m talking about the younger generation of Scream 4 characters . . . look, it’s a well-established fact that teenagers are often idiotic and will do idiotic things, no matter how dangerous or ridiculous they are. Sometimes. But there are limits to people’s idiocy, and Scream 4 pushes those limits over the edge . . . and then jumps on top of them a few times for good measure.
The kids in the first Scream were dumb for going to a big party when there’s a psycho murderer about, yes. But the kids in Scream 4 seem like they’re on a collective mission to earn a Darwin’s Award for their entire generation. And while I hate to even bring up realism in a film like this . . . it might be nice if one of the younger kids at least acknowledges that something is a bad idea before plunging headfirst into lunacy.
5. In their defense, though, Stabathon does look like a lot of fun. I should host a drinking game to a series of horror movies sometime. Hmmmm . . .
6. Without giving anything away, there’s a part towards the very beginning of the movie that is AWESOME and easily the most surprising part of the whole film. (The Big Reveal at the end of the movie? I actually do like it . . . but I don’t know that I would call it surprising, exactly. It could have been, but somehow it’s just . . . not. More on that later.)
7. I also really like Alison Brie as Rebecca, Sidney’s publicist. She’s completely hilarious and bitchy and awesome. I just looked Brie up on imdb and found out that she’s in this show I keep hearing about, Community. Between her and the Levar Burton clip I recently saw, I may have to give this show a chance.
8. On the other hand, I don’t care much about Marley Shelton’s role at all. Not that she does a bad job, acting wise, but as the by-the-book, completely lovestruck, and kind of scary small town cop, she’s really very annoying, and her half-assed subplot with Dewey and Gale sort of detracts from the rest of the movie. The time the writers spent on them, they could have spent on making the story better.
9. Dewey’s kind of welcome change, though. While still not exactly the brightest bulb in the building, Dewey has grown up over the past ten years and is apparently no longer the village idiot. That’s very nice to see, actually.
10. But then again . . . excuse me, writers, but did you not see Mary McDonnell in Battlestar Galactica? The woman is a tremendously talented actress . . . why are you wasting her abilities this way?
11. There are, naturally, a lot of good quotes in Scream 4, and I do not remember half of them now. But here are some of them, at least:
Dewey: “One generation’s tragedy is the next one’s joke.”
Kirby: “I’m Kirby, by the way. I’m their friend.”
Deputy Judy: “And the killer didn’t call you?”
Kirby: “No. Is that a bad thing? Does that mean I’m not going to live as long as these two?”
Trevor: “Anyway, what are you doing in same house as Sidney Prescott? That’s like being in Top Chef with Jeffrey Dahmer.”
Killer: “Name the remake of the groundbreaking—”
Kirby: “Halloween, Texas Chainsaw, Dawn of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes, Amityville Horror, Black Christmas, House of Wax, Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine! It’s one of those, right?”
Sidney: “You forgot one rule of the remake: don’t fuck with the original.”
12. Finally, my sister and I saw this movie in a theater that only had about seven other occupants. Five of them were giggly teenage girls and two of them were horny teenage guys who were talking about the giggly teenage girls.
This annoyed me at first. But . . . they weren’t quite as bad during the movie as I thought they were going to be, and, well, it was only fitting for an audience of a movie like Scream 4. Mek and I were both teenagers when we first saw Scream (okay, technically, I might have been eleven, but like Rebecca says to Gale, “You were my 90’s!”) and now we’re the old ones, and these idiots are the new blood.
And like Dolly Parton says in a very non-horror related movie, Steel Magnolias: “Time marches on, and eventually you realize it’s marching across your face.”
There are worse things, I suppose.
Okay, first off: the intro starts with two girls being murdered by Ghostface . . . only to reveal that this is Stab 6, and Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell are on the couch watching it.
Anna Paquin starts bitching about how stupid these meta horror movies are, how nothing in them is ever surprising, and right when you assume Ghostface is about to make his first real appearance, Kristen Bell takes a knife to Anna Paquin’s stomach, asking, “Are you surprised?” And when Anna Paquin asks, “Why?” Kristen Bell tells her, “Because you talk too much.”
HA! Man, I LOVE you, Kristen Bell! She nails this delivery, all awesome and menacing and funny in her bit part here in Scream 4 . . . or should I say Stab 7. (This cuts away to another two girls on the couch watching this. It’s all a little silly, but Veronica Mars killing Sookie Stackhouse makes the whole thing worthwhile, honestly.) I desperately want to see Kristen Bell do something fun again.
Anyway, so then the REAL two girls get killed, and the action can begin. Gale is wounded halfway into the film because her storyline sucks (and because she’s a bit of an idiot) and the real “bloodbath” happens at Kirby’s house after Stabfest. It turns out that Charlie (Rory Culkin) is one of the killers, a fact that Kirby finds out after he stabs her to death. This is a little sad because, as I said, Kirby is easily the best teen character here.
As a film geek himself, Charlie is, naturally, equated to Randy from the original Scream, but Randy is kind of oddly endearing, a quality that Charlie just doesn’t quite have. He and Robbie (Erik Knudsen) are both funny, but neither are nearly as awesome as Jamie Kennedy. When Randy was killed in Scream 2, I was so bummed that I hated the movie for years. (I’ve more or less made my peace now.) When innocent Robbie is bumped off, however, I don’t care. At all. Scream 4 jabs at modern horror movies for killing off characters that no one gives a shit about, but I have to say, Kirby was the only death that even remotely bothered me. Everyone else . . . eh. I didn’t know any of them. I didn’t care.
Of course, Charlie is not the only killer. The other bad guy is . . . Jill, Sidney’s niece.
Jill asks Sidney if she’s surprised, and clearly this is supposed to be quite the shocking turn of events, but unlike Kristen Bell suddenly pulling out a knife . . . it’s just not that surprising, somehow.
The first Scream is much more of a murder mystery than this latest film in the bunch. There’s no suspense in Scream 4, no tension or mistrust. When Emma Roberts is revealed, it’s just sort of . . . oh, okay.
Despite this lack of mystery, though, I do actually like Jill as the bad guy—anyway, I like the idea that the killer is Sidney’s niece, but the murders aren’t about getting back at her. Unlike everyone else in the series, Jill doesn’t want revenge on Sidney; she wants to become her for the fame, the glory. Basically, she’s a media-obsessed little whore who’s willing to kill a lot of people for worldwide adoration.
And Emma Roberts does okay with the acting—she sells some lines a lot more than others—but I couldn’t help wishing that a stronger actress had been in her part. Jill’s cool . . . but she could have been so much cooler.
Anyway, Jill kills Charlie (more spotlight for herself), seemingly kills Sidney, and then launches herself face first into a mirror. She also stabs herself and falls backward onto a glass table. (Almost jumps onto it, actually. Jill shows a lot of dedication in her work.) When the cops come, everyone assumes that she is a victim, and the media goes wild for her, just like she planned. It seems like Jill’s about to live happily ever after . . . except that Sidney (not unlike Michael Myers) just won’t fucking die. Jill is forced to try and murder Sidney in the ICU, and with an assist from Dewey, Gale, and Deputy Judy, Sidney is finally able to kill Jill. (Defibrillators to the head! Yes!) (Also, I like that no one in the original trilogy dies. Not that I would have been heartbroken if they did. I just like that idea: it’s not only bad guys that can be immortal.)
The film ends with Sidney somewhat creepily telling Jill’s corpse, “I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better,” and a shot of Jill’s dead body as the media talks about what a brave new heroine she is. It’s a good end (and a very good final shot) but like I said before, the film falters too much in the middle to be entirely a success.
Then again, anything’s better than Scream 3, right?
Don’t fuck with the original.