Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette
Running Time: 111 minutes
Genre: Slasher | Comedy
What’s your favourite scary movie? Not this one...
For all extensive purposes, Wes Craven is a massive hipster. You’ll have a hard time finding any other movie on earth that rivals Scream 4 at being this meta. In fact, Scream 4 is so meta, Wes even gets series veteran Courtney Cox to spout off some corny one liner about how meta this damn film is. I hear you ask, “but the Scream films define themselves on being self aware, a parody if you will of the genre! My argument being that, while both Scream and Scream 2 are parodies of the tropes and trappings of the genre, their also damn good horror films. In all fairness, Scream 4 is a lot of fun, it’s the most fun I’ve had sitting in a horror movie in a while. It just feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity.
Whereas Scream 3 went off the reservation, being an all out horror film and forgetting to define itself as a parody. Scream 4 does the polar opposite, this is self aware - to the point where it becomes obnoxious. Don’t worry, Scream 4 is a considerable step up from the pits of Scream 3. For one its actually entertaining, with Kevin Williamson back on board for another round of slicing and dicing. In all, this isn’t a very interesting story. It’s a new generation; and the rules have changed and blah blah blah, we get it. Pile on some appalling dialogue and exposition that would shame even the corniest soap opera writers and you have “Scream 4”. The mystery is easily solved and the only real surprise is the reprise that follows the third act, a fun, frantic way to end it indeed. Its problem is in Williamson’s writing. If you didn’t catch my intro, this film is very meta, every single joke is about how damn meta this movie is; the film opens with a clear and unmissable dig at Wes Cravens career and the state of horror right now. “Urgh, I hate all that torture porn shit” spouts one character. Ok, we get it...this is a spoof. What it’s lacking is the balance, while the first two films oozed humour and genuine horror, this falls flat on the horror element, as an audience member I pined for some genuine frights or moments of inventiveness. Only in the last few minutes do we get what we’re all looking for.
Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) comes face to face with her greatest fear after returning home to Woodsboro and getting caught in the centre of another bloodbath in this sequel from director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson. Touring the country in promotion of her new self-help book, Sidney arrives in Woodsboro and quickly reconnects with her old friend Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette), who has recently gotten married to Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox). Though a much-welcomed family reunion with her aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell) and cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) goes a long way in helping Sidney lay her tragic past to rest, old fears come back with a vengeance when Ghostface reappears on a murderous mission to make up for lost time.
Nobody’s felt the cruel sting of time quite like Wes Craven, we all assumed that the 5 years hiatus he went on would be the best way for him to re-invent himself, and he follows it up with “My Soul To Take”. Right, so we’ll let that one slip. His direction is fluid and expertly paced, if a bit unspectacular. Any hope for tension or intrigue? Scrap it! The film lacks it completely. Instead think of this as a glorified frat comedy with buckets of blood. Its worrying that the guy responsible for genre classics such as “Last House on the Left” and “Serpent in the Rainbow” can make us jump quite like he used to but, he still knows how to make us have a good time. True, the meta jokes may drive you crazy. The scene where they actually use the ‘screeching cat’ sound effect is especially gag worthy, but none the less; you got to give it to the guy...he’s trying.
Acting wise, Scream 4 does a good job at assigning actors to characters, some people articulate their way into being suspect number one (Rory Culkin) while others do a great job at being the hapless victim (Alison Brie). The main cast always had something going for them, their chemistry. Here it’s a bit toned back with interactions between the three kept to a minimum. Its feels a bit cold and callous - as if you can almost feel the tension on set. Regardless of everything, the film is well acted with bit parts standing out just as much as the main three. Watch out for a specifically funny scene between Anna Paquin and Kristen Bells witch, for me, is the standout scene of the whole movie.
We’ve come leaps and bounds from the days of corn syrup and red food colouring, and boy does Wes Craven know it. Despite its 15 rating, this is a bloody film. Blame the 15 rating on the fearlessness of today’s audience and the total lack of boobies. The score fairs pretty well with tunes from personal favourite “The Sounds” providing attitude and character to the film, oh an kudos to the makeup department for being able to keep Courtney Cox’s face together long enough to shoot - here’s a hint honey, lay off the Botox.
Verdict: What’s missing is the balance. That feeling you got when you first saw the original - the freshness of the parody with the genuine enjoyment you got from watching an 'A grade' horror movie. By dropping the horror element almost completely until the end of the last act, Scream 4 reaches much higher than the putrid Scream 3, but fails to reach the hights of the first two movies. Don’t get me wrong, this is a lot of fun, its expertly paced and its honestly a great feeling to be back in Woodsboro, it’s just feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. It’s as if Wes let the joke become the movie...and while doing so, forgot the make an actual movie. To put it simply, nobody’s gonna be saying “Scream 4” if they were to be asked, “What’s your favourite scary movie?” Scream was snarky, insightful, and sorta cool. Scream 4 is an aging hypocrite with delusions of insight.
+ No pun intended, you’ll have a scream.
+ Its genuinely nice to be back in Woodsboro one last time.
+ The welcome faces as well as the new blood all give great performances.
-The story is so self aware and ‘ironic’ that it becomes obnoxious.
- The balance is all wrong, instead of being frighteningly funny, this just aims for laughs. Missing a great opportunity to rank up there with 1 and 2.
- The killers are painfully easy to figure out.