3.5 out of 5 stars
The rules have changed.
That’s what Scream 4 would have you believe. A new decade has brought us a whole host of new horror films, and the genre has changed in ways that need to be skewered by the pseudo-parody only Scream can offer.
But outside of a few comments about the stupidity of the “torture porn” genre made famous by Saw, and a few “rules” about reboots that are fairly obvious (the kills have to be more over the top!) there’s not much being lampooned here, rather Scream 4 is identical to its predecessors in almost every way, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.
The Scream series has always been exceedingly meta, with its characters realizing they’re in a situation equivalent to a horror movie, and often acting in ways to avoid traditional deaths that might befall them. Such tactics rarely work, but provide some rather funny commentary in the process, and in terms of clever writing, Scream has always had a leg up on its competitors in the genre.
Aren’t you a little short for a serial killer?
But spawning another film out of what was supposed to be a pretty close-ended trilogy, you had better have one hell of a plan to make it worthwhile, and while I don’t take issue with the film’s grand plot as a whole, it’s not exactly revolutionizing the genre in any new ways. Rather, it’s simply reminding us how brilliant the original was for its time, and giving us a fresh dose of that in new packaging with updated technology and up-and-coming actresses we recognize.
It’s a decade after the events of the final Scream, and all the principal players are alive and well. Dewey (David Arquette) is sheriff of the now-peaceful town of Woodsboro, and has been married to Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) for ten years, her star long faded as she struggles for new writing material.
Finding success in the literary world however is Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), whose memoir, Out of Darkness, is a national best-seller, and she’s returned home for a stop on her book tour.
The guy on the left live video blogs his entire high school experience. Because that’s a thing we young people do.
But soon the phone rings, and a masked psycho murders some blonde with big tits. His words, not mine. The town is thrown into a panic, as citizens drop left and right, and we’re left to uncover the mystery of who the killer(s) are this time around, and why they’re bothering to bring Ghostface back ten years later.
The new cast is a fresh group of high school students who include Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), her shit-talking friend Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and resident bombshell Olivia (Marielle Jaffe). The boys in the mix are Jill’s obsessive ex, Trevor (Nico Tortorella) and film geeks Charlie (Rory Culkin) and Robbie (Eric Knudsen) who fill us all in about the rules of a reboot, which Scream 4 technically isn’t, but that’s just semantics I guess.
Everyone’s a suspect, naturally, and as they run around attempting (and often failing) not to be murdered, we have red herrings thrown at us left and right, until the answer is finally revealed. It’s a guessing game of who dies, who survives and who’s the murderer-in-chief. It’s the same as every Scream, but it’s an undeniably fun game, and though you might pick out parts where you guess correctly, it’s often hard to predict the entire reveals of these films, and that’s certainly the case here.
Pretty neat handwriting for being in blood. Does he bring a paintbrush?
But watching a Scream movie in theaters often transcends mere plot. It’s an EXPERIENCE, which is something that is sorely lacking from most movies these days. I actually can’t remember the last time I saw an audience this engaged in a movie, whether it be laughing at the jokes, or jumping at each Ghostface reveal.
There were pockets of the audience constantly yelling things at the screen. Now normally if that was happening, I’d tell them to shut up, or get a manager to do it, but for a Scream movie? It’s all part of the ride. The film has its characters talking about how best to act in a horror movie to avoid death, but then on purpose it’ll have a girl, who has just seen Ghostface appear on the hood of her car, to get out and search for him once he disappears, just so you yell at her. I actually agreed with the cries of the loud teenager behind me, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU DUMB BITCH?” It felt like a community in a theater, and that’s something you’ll rarely find these days.
The dumb bitch in question.
Scream 4 doesn’t revolutionize horror like its first chapter did. Yes, it is a welcome change from most current films out now in the genre, and uses character development and humor in ways we’re not used to. But the fact is, it’s only different from other horror films, not from any other chapters in the Scream series. So if you’ve seen those films, you’ve seen this one, albeit with more texting and less ’90s icons (was really hoping for a Skeet Ulrich cameo).
It’s a fun experience, and I highly recommend going to a show that’s likely to be a packed house. A theater with just a few souls, or waiting to rent it on DVD won’t give you the same movie, as the audience’s reaction is just as important as what’s onscreen.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Behold, the highlight of Kieran Culkin’s life.