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Friday, April 15, 2011

Scream 4 - review (2011)

EXCUSE - I wrote this over three nights, late nights. Some typos, or should I say, many typos will be found. If something is confusing let me know and I will explain or re-write. The review does not follow my standard formula in an attempt to not spoil the film, yet provide a hopefully entertaining read for you. My apologies in advance if it is not an easy read. Let me know what you think.

As horror films go, it is quite good.  For a third sequel, it is tremendous.  

Years ago horror was easy. Someone created a slasher film and after even mild success they would rehash the concept with a series of less effective sequels. A little bout fifteen years ago that all came to a stop when Wes Craven and company called out the makers of these slasher films with a movie called Scream. Scream was the first to discuss the unspoken "rules" that was making slasher films formulaic and essentially ineffective. Wes Craven's new film single-handedly changed a genre by tearing down the wall between characters and the real world. Suddenly, not only did the characters acknowledge that horror movie existed, they referenced them and used the knowledge they acquired from them as a means of survival. It did not take long before the self-knowing, rule breaking film itself began to sink into the fall into patterns of its own. Within a matter of 3 years there were two followup films, each one showing a decline in quality and offering little more than a cookie cutter film patterned after the original. After the third film, the series came to a halt and the slasher genre itself went into hiding - replaced with torture porn horror films like Saw, Japanese horror film like Saw and fake-umentaries like Paranormal Activity, among others. Slashers films were few and far between until the franchise reboots started up and just about every horror film from the 80's/90's was being remade, usually with little more to say than the owners of the rights to the characters wanted more money.
Fifteen years later after the original, the people behind Scream decided to bring back the series that made such an impact on the film world. With its return questions had to be asked, would it be a sequel or a reboot? Would it add to the story or simply be a senseless, money grabbing sequel the industry is known for? Would audiences still care?

After years of reboots or re-imaginings (or whatever bullshit you want to call them, I call them crap that killed believe beloved franchises) I was happy to hear that the main cast was back and not in cameo roles. The film picks up ten years after last and not much has changed. Dewey (David Arquette) is still a cop, but promoted to sheriff and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) is still an attention hog even though she is no longer a with the press. Sidney (Neve Campbell) has returned to Woodboro to promote her book detailing her emotional recovery from the tragedy of her youth. That is exact day when the phone calls, and killings start up again, by you guessed it, Ghostface.

The film from this point on is standard Scream. I am not saying that in a bad way, it just delivers what you are expecting and it does it well. You get a self-aware, self referential discussion of the slasher genre all while a killer is slaughtering co-stars one at a time and we try to guess who is behind the mask. This time the talk is all about the "meta" - the concept that the art is self-referencing - everyone involved in the film is some how in on the situation. i.e. the killer is influenced by the movies based on the killings. This film at times seems to take the concept several steps further - if it is the whole a movie in a movie in a movie or a referential wink to the audience about some real world connection. I think the cleverness of the writers/producers actually gets a little too deep to focus on - it is overpowered by typical horror movie inanity, killing and chasing. It was not until after watching the movie that I took the time to consider just how the meta concepts went. One so complex that I cannot discuss it because it would spoil the film. The whole meta concept may have gone a little too far this time around, becoming a turnoff to those that just want slashing and no brains, but not far enough to be attract the brainy audience.

What I always liked about Scream was it delivered its insight to slasher films, at the same time (like a character that walked into a to room that suddenly had a broken light switch) became a victim of its the obtained knowledge it should know better than to mimic. It stuck out its tongue at the mistakes of slasher films past and then made the same mistakes. Powerless to change. Like some a bad gene that someone is trying to breed out, that somehow continues to get passed on to the next generation. As a series, it is not above slasher films, it is one - it is what is mocks.

Being a fan of the series my score MAY be skewed. Sure some people are sick of the formula - not me. I found the way they linked this film to previous ones to be the usual stretch any horror sequel usually is, but when all is done they made it work. I would love to discuss more about the plot, but in attempt to not taint your viewing experience I do not want to reveal anything. The film is entertaining, a great opening, an interesting enough middle and an satisfying ending. There are some great moments and some stretches that could be improved - it is in no mean perfect. Still, I had a good time watching and that is what matters.

On a side note, I always had hopes for a revelation that a certain character would be the killer or mastermind... it did not happen. If you ever see this and want to discuss I will reveal, but at this point I can pretty much say it will never happen - it would have been cool. There is a lot to discuss here - cast, gags, the ending, etc - I will not to avoid spoiling. But, please feel free to reach out to me and discuss after you have seen it for yourself.

The box office for this film was lower than it deserved. My theory on this is it is a victim of the nature of the genre. What I mean is, usually at the point of the 4th film in a series the quality and definitely the plot of the films has dissipated to the point that purchasing a ticket in the theater is only for hardcore fans. Actually most horror films are in direct-to-DVD mode by the time they reach the third sequel. People were expecting a low-grade, stupid, plotless film.  I know several people that said they were interested, but wanted to hear how it was first. A third sequel is a tough sell for an average moviegoer.   If this was a true reboot/remake I think the film would have pulled in a heft box office. Sadly, it didn't.  I think we can say goodbye to Scream and Ghostface until 20 years from now when Michael Bay reboots it.  At least the original franchise is going out with some self-respect.

8 stars out of 10