One Last Scre4m. Movie Review By Jessica Dwyer
Return to Woodsboro
Scream 4: Movie Review
By Jessica Dwyer
It’s been a while since we’ve visited the town of Woodsboro, CA. The town where Stu and Billy took to offing their fellow students for the more scary reason of…no reason.
The original Scream was and still is one of the best slasher flicks of the last twenty plus years. It spoke to horror fans and had a brain. It didn’t pander, it was well written, and Craven gave the film a great look and feel throughout. The actors were believable and there was a sort of menace that coated everything.
Then came the 2nd and 3rd entries into the franchise and things started going downhill. The films were becoming parodies of themselves and not in a good way. The self-referencing went over the top in the third film to the point of annoyance. And we just won’t speak of Jerry O’Connell and his breaking out in song in Part 2.
Out of 2 and 3, 2 I would have to say was the better of the original trilogy. But there was something lacking there. Kevin Williamson, the man who scribed the first film wrote 2 and that was part of the reason no doubt it stood up a bit better than the third film. The scenes from STAB were also enjoyable (directed by Robert Rodriguez and doing a great job of doing a flattened Hollywood version of the first films events.)
But the third film was just a floundering mess and it hurt the series. While the twist of who the new killer was and his influence on everything leading up to that point was interesting, it had all become cartoony. Over the top acting by Parker Posey as Gail Weathers 2.0 didn’t help things nor did distracting cameos by Carrie Fischer and Jay and Silent Bob. And while maybe that was the point, to show a stylized version of Hollywood…that wasn’t what made the first film great. That time around Kevin Williamson wasn’t penning the script, Ehren Kruger (no relation) was the story maker.
Now eleven years later we return to where it all began, to Woodsboro and to Williamson and Craven once again partnering to bring Ghost Face and his victims back to the silver screen with Scre4m ß actual name.
Sidney Prescott returns to her hometown as the first stop of her book tour. We discover that while Sidney has become a prolific writer, Gail Weathers (who has married Dewey, the now sheriff of Woodsboro) has lost her knack for the printed word. It’s been 10 years and nothing has happened Ghost Face related other than a plethora of Stab sequels. But when Sidney comes to town things start the familiar path of slaughter. Who is it behind the murders that are happening fast and furious? Her younger cousin and her friends are being stalked as Ghost Face tries to show Sidney she’ll never be free of him or her past.
Scre4m gets some good yet predictable jabs in at the new breed of horror films. Torture porn takes it on the chin as do remakes. This is more of that self-aware state of mind that the Scream franchise is known for.
There are some ingenious parts that happen at the very beginning of the film and include a couple of cameos (not quite as jarring and more understandable than Princess Leia) by Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell. And there are some well-done set pieces for the murders that work well. In fact I will agree with many of the people out there who have already seen the film that it feels more like a direct sequel to the first movie than either of the first two sequels do. Scre4m looks more like the first and feels more like the first. The scare quotient is better and so is the acting, at least in some instances.
But Scre4m has some major problems that cause we, the eager audience, to not connect with it, at least in my case. And that lack of connection comes to the fore with Emma Roberts who plays Sidney’s cousin Jill (who we’ve never ever heard of before this film.) Robert’s performance has nowhere near the empathy inspiring levels that Neve Campbell’s did in the original Scream. You actually gave a damn about Sidney and you could believe her as a regular, everyday teenager. Robert’s came off like a stick of wood with some long hair attached. I just didn’t care about her, and in fact when the film veer’d off to focus on her I got annoyed. And boy, towards the end do you really wish she was someone else.
In fact the “new generation” were as a whole uninteresting and boring. The only ones who came off with some sort of personality were the movie geeks, and neither of them were as fun as Randy. Nico Tortorella as Jill’s boyfriend Trevor is as bland as could be and Hayden Panettiere, while probably the best of the newbie actresses in the film, just doesn’t really click to me as the horror movie geek she’s supposed to be. It all seemed off.
And that’s really the main problem with Scre4m, it seems off. While the awkwardness of watching Courtney Cox and David Arquette’s characters talk about how their marriage is on the rocks is no doubt part of that off feeling, the core of it is the fact that what made the first Scream so good is missing. Scre4m’s big twist of an ending borrows heavily from the third film but with even less reasoning. And it’s message of what “new celebrity” is gets old fast. The killer filming his murders is also nothing new, having been done in not only one of the worst Halloween sequels ever made, but done far better in The Poughkeepsie Tapes.
Scream still holds up to this day, something that cannot be said about its schizophrenic brothers 2-4. Great characters that were believable along with a witty and unforced script and some great visuals and style by Craven created a classic. And so far nothing has been able to compare to it that has come since. But really, I think Billy and Stu said it best in the first film. It’s a lot scarier when there’s no motive.
I also have to put a lot of blame on the studio in regards to Scre4m awful take at the box office though. The Weinstein Company/Dimension Films did hardly anything to promote this release. It seemed like with the final week to go they started scrambling to try and do some promotion. But having Ghost Face on the cover of EW the week your movie is coming out is hardly promoting your film. In fact, the only person who seemed to be doing anything to get the word out was Wes Craven himself on Twitter. Good job minions of Bob and Harvey. I think I could count on one hand how many ads I saw for Scre4m on TV.
So between the weak story and even weaker efforts by the studio to do anything with the franchise I sadly think this is the last trip to Woodsboro we’ll see for a while, if not forever. Money is the coin of the realm in Hollywood and with the lackluster return of around 8 million bucks for an opening I think we’ve been stabbed for the last time.
And lest we forget