Saturday, April 16, 2011

REVIEW: Scream 4

(dir. Wes Craven, 2011)

I like tacky movies.  Sue me.

The plight of Sidney Prescott continues.  One of horror’s most prolific survivors (Neve Campbell returns as the scream queen) needs to ward off Ghostface for a fourth time when she returns to her hometown to promote her new memoir “Out of Darkness.”   Also returning to scathe death are series regulars, and former Scream romance, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, now reformed trash reporter and town sheriff respectively.  Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s Scream series is successful because it caters to an intelligent audience.  The first three Screams commented on—literally—and played with certain slasher clichés, most famously asking of every opening scene heroine “What’s your favorite scary movie?”

Only 4 pictured survive,
can you spot them?
The reason these movies work, and why Scream 4 works, is because he characters talk about what’s just about to happen to them, and the viewer is either surprised that the cliché has happened or surprised that it’s broken.  Since the franchise’s last installment 11 years ago, the horror genre has gone from pseudo thriller/mysteries and more torture porn with awful characters.  Scream had fun character you actually cared about and missed once Ghostface cut them down.  The fourth installment is no different, touting fun fleshed-out characters like Sidney, but also her niece cum new lead, a duo of film geeks, Arquette’s awkward love stalker/deputy sheriff, and Sidney’s pottymouthed press agent.  Because of this horror rarity, what we experience is a true combination of horror and mystery; you’re always looking for clues, eliminating suspects, and trying not to be fooled by oh-so juicy red herrings.

In the end Scream 4’s self-aware tackiness is what makes is succeed.  It’s what made my entire theatre applaud and scream when the final you-can-see-it-coming-from-a-mile-away line is delivered before the killer is taken down.  You can get away with those type of lines, and even celebrate them, if they are handled with finesse, which—in the hands of apt Craven and clever Williamson—they are.

The twist and reveal, as it turns out, is ultimately a little disappointing since none of the red herrings pan out (not that they should, yet I was foolish to believe I was onto something), thus making the killer and the motive seem forced, if not a little uncomfortably self-reflective on society.  The problem is…you don’t believe it, which, for me, it something than simply can’t be forgiven. 

New "Sidney" Emma Roberts can't
escape her family's ghosts
For all the film’s smarty-pants horror movie references, I was a little surprised when Halloween: Resurrection wasn’t mentioned.  Scream is a franchise, much like Halloween, where the main killer fruitlessly tries to kill the same person over and over, and in Halloween: Resurrection Michael Myers finally kills the star of the franchise Jamie Lee Curtis.  For a series hell-bent on commenting-on and breaking established slasher film rules, the least they could do is drop a knowing reference to a series that famously killed out someone who has survived 4 films.  Yet, in Scream 4, you never know if the returning heroes are going to live or die…not even Sidney is safe.

I liked Scream 4, and on a good day, I might even say I loved it.  It was one of the most fun times I’ve had in a multiplex in quite a while.  When you hook the audience, you know you’re golden.  Scream 4 isn’t a masterpiece, but it is the best movie I’ve seen all year.  GRADE: B

Number of movies Sam has been in 2011 including Scream 4: 1


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