In the end, I didn’t bother to watch Scream 2 or 3; they just didn’t take my fancy. But that didn’t stop me going to see the fourth instalment of the series, known ‘cleverly’ as SCRE4M.
For those who read my review of the original Scream movie, my criticisms were mainly concerning how it wasn’t scary and that everything in it had been done to death (no pun intended) so many times since then that it had practically no impact on a first time viewer in 2011.
Now, quite rightly, people came back and said ‘But Stuart, the original film was supposed to be a pastiche of the films that came before it like Halloween, Psycho et al’ and while that is true it still wasn’t a particularly good one. It didn’t seem all that clever about it, and indeed, Scary Movie – a scene-for-scene rip-off of Scream – ended up being a far more enjoyable and satirical film. Of course, don’t get me started on the decline of the Scary Movie franchise. Beyond the first one it has to be up there as one of the worst film franchises in history…
So now, Scream 4 is on the cinema, and having familiarised myself with the original film, I went along to see it.
Would I enjoy it more?
Pretty much the same as Scream.
Well, that’s not quite true.
Sidney (played once again by That’s What Happened To Neve Campbell) has returned to Woodsboro to promote her book for the 15th anniversary of the original movie and this is the catalyst for another killing spree.
Officer Dewey (Former WCW World Heavyweight Champion David Arquette) appears to have become the highest police authority, while Courtney Cox – who looked so old that even I was taken aback – is also still there living off the success of the ‘Stab’ franchise, which – for those like me who missed Scream 2 & 3 – is a series of films that is based upon the stuff that happened in the Scream films. Essentially, self-referential fiction-within-fiction or ‘Meta-Fiction’.
Anyway, without spoiling anything, the plot appears to be once again about Ghostface going after Sidney, her friends, colleagues and family, as well as the occasional ‘Hot Young Teenager’ (in Scream 4, the teenage quota centres upon Sidney’s cousin Jill and her school friends)
The sequence of killings appears to be similar to that of the first film (and probably the 2nd and 3rd. If I’d seen them I’d be able to comment) and of course there is one massively obvious suspect. I won’t spoil who I think that is, nor will I spoil whether or not s/he is the culprit.
Also, this time, there’s a chance that the main characters won’t make it out alive…
I’ll nail my colours to the mast early on this one. I really enjoyed Scream 4. In my opinion, it was everything that people who defend the original say that film was, but done far better and more effectively. It’s like they decided to take the concept of Meta-fiction and just go all-in.
The plot of the film is secondary to the continuous references to the horror film formula. The idea is that having seen the Saw, Final Destination and ‘Stab’ franchises, people know exactly what is going to happen, to the point where they don’t take it seriously. The film starts out just like Scream, but cleverly it’s actually the start of Stab 6, which is really the start of Stab 7, which then in turn ends up being the start of Scream 4. I’m not sure if I explain that well enough, but it’s so ridiculous and ‘meta’ that it borders upon genius. It would have been the bravest film ever if the entire film was the initial scene just repeating itself over and over again.
What is also addressed is that the shock value of people being stabbed to death has been ruined by the Saw films, so the consumer doesn’t really react to it anymore and therefore Wes Craven doesn’t bother to devote much time to ‘grossing’
the audience out. Yes, there are plenty of murders – far more than in the original – but they are all done in a rather matter-of-fact way, allowing the film to develop more in the way of black comedy.
And the comedy hit the right spot. While I sat through the original laughing at it, I watched Scream 4 laughing along with it. It’s a crucial difference that is key to enjoying a film like this.
Even though it’s impossible, it seems as though the film has been made bearing my criticisms of the original in mind!
Another one of the things I liked about the film was the cast. It was like a Who’s Who of TV Actors from the past few years. Among the cast are Seth from the OC, Annie off Community, Claire The Indestructable Cheerleader from Heroes, Robin’s sister from How I Met Your Mother, Antwon Mitchell off The Shield, President Laura Roslin from Battlestar Galactica, Veronica Mars off…well, you know, Macauley Culkin’s brother and a few other recognisable actresses from shows I don’t watch like True Blood and 90210.
I think pretty much all of them meet a grizzly end, which is great.
Of that cast, the one who is the most heavily featured is Hayden Panettiere (Claire off Heroes) sporting a hairstyle which can only be result of a real life rebellion/crisis. The amount of time devoted to Panettiere is disappointing for me because I’ve long considered her one of the worst actresses in the world. She’s not that bad when she’s playing light characters, but when she has to do anything dramatic or emotional she’s an embarrassment. Her dreadful performance alongside the equally wooden Milo Ventimiglia in Heroes’ second season was the reason I gave up on that show.
So was she killed? I’m not going to say, but I spent the entire film hoping she would be, put it that way.
And on the subject of the guest cast, I have to make mention of Kirsten Bell’s small cameo as a ‘Hot Young Teenager’ at the start of the film. Come on! Really?! In Veronica Mars I could quite easily have believed she was a teenager. I even commented that I thought it was good that they cast a teenager to play a teenager in it before I found out she was actually a woman in her mid 20s. Now she’s just shy of 31 and to be frank, she looks it. She even played Jason Bateman’s wife in Couples Retreat a couple of years back for goodness sake. She can’t play teenagers anymore. That ship has sailed. Grow old gracefully love!
But I digress…
One thing that comes to mind while watching this film is that in the world in which Scream 4 is set, even if selling Ghostface outfits is a commercially successful enterprise, should the fact that it encourages murder sprees at regular intervals not mean that it becomes a morally irresponsible item to sell? I would think so. Without the Ghostface masks, surely none of this would happen?
On that note, Sidney Prescott is considered to be a heroine in the film, but in truth, she’s a serial killer herself is she not?
The only other negative issue I have with the film is what I call ‘Doctor/Dalek Syndrome’. If you’ve watched Doctor Who, you’ll know what this is about. Usually the Daleks will ruthlessly exterminate anyone without a second thought – no questions asked. But every time the Daleks find themselves in a position to exterminate the Doctor, they will either take him prisoner or get so excited that they’ll shout “You are The Doctor. You are an enemy of the Daleks. You will be
Exterminated” over and over again without shooting, allowing the Doctor to escape.
It appears as though Ghostface has the same problem. Without any thought, he’ll efficiently murder most people, despite their size or attempts to fight back. But when he’s faced with the opportunity to kill Sidney or Gale, he’ll panic, stumble around and allow them to fight back/escape. In among all the other meta clichés, this is something that they never address, which is disappointing.
Those criticisms aside though, it’s an enjoyable film. In particular, the final 20 minutes are very good. I’m not going to spoil anything for people who haven’t seen it, but there are a few plot twists in the last act of the film that actually caught me by surprise. I’m not going to say that I saw things coming when I didn’t, and I reckon that without those things I’d probably come away from the film thinking it was alright, but nothing more.
As it happens, it’s clever, funny, extremely self aware and keeps your attention.
But poor old Neve, this is it for her. A career in TV Movies awaits.
Should You Watch Scream 4?
Yes, I think you should. Some people have said the Meta-Fiction nature of the film is just too much. I don’t think it is. I think this is what Scream 4 has to be. People say that the first Scream is a parody of the genre, but it has absolutely nothing on the fourth instalment of the series.
I wouldn’t say it’s particularly fresh or ground breaking, but it doesn’t need to be. By now, everyone knows what a Scream film is about, and everyone in the film knows it too. But yet it still manages to surprise at the end of it all.
As I say above, Wes Craven addresses the issues I had with the first one and turned it ar0und completely.
Overall, it’s well worth a watch.