16 April 2011

Scream 4

Scream 4

Starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Mary McDonnell, Marley Shelton, Nico Tortorella, Marielle Jaffe, Kristen Bell, Anna Paquin, Lucy Hale, Shanae Grimes, Aimee Teegarden, Brittany Robertson
Written by Kevin Williamson
Directed by Wes Craven
Release: 15 April 2011
Dimension Films, 110 mins., Rated R

Plot: Sidney returns to Woodsboro and is met by Ghostface, intent on creating its own horror movie.

As a fan of the franchise, I may be a little biased in this review. Also as a fan of the franchise, I really, really wanted this movie to succeed, to be something great and compliment the trilogy in a really spectacular way. So earlier today I walked into the theater for a SCREAM movie (at a age where I could actually comprehend the story; saw SCREAM 3 at 10 in the theater), giddy as can possibly be, and had to restrain myself from going super crazy fanboy when the Dimension logo came up. I was in a theater, watching SCREAM, with an audience, and a gorgeous digital screen. Nothing could be awesomer.

Unless Karen Gillan was my date. [Look her up]

So, now, two hours after I experienced the fourth film of the SCREAM franchise, what do I think? Director Wes Craven and writer/producer Kevin Williamson have crafted one hell of a fantastic movie that appeals to all generations of horror fans, is both clever and scary, and most awesomely, is a story damn well worth telling. This isn’t a sequel to make more money, this isn’t a mindless, zombie-like, HALLOWEEN 5-type sequel. Nah, Williamson has something to say about the horror genre of today, the reboot vs. original debate and the countless unnecessary sequels, and makes a thrilling story to compliment it. I was also very happy that the principle cast become entangled with the killer narrative without feeling forced, a real worry of mine.

SCREAM 4 opens with huge amounts of meta. Hell, this entire movie is like a horror movie version of COMMUNITY. There’s meta all over the place, but none more so than the opening ten minute metaverse. Initially, I wasn’t a huge fan of the double psych out, feeling more akin to one of those dream-within-a-dream cheap tricks of horror films (see any NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequel), but upon retrospect, I’m digging it (OhmygodKristenBellisAwesome!). In addition to the meta, we have the new rules of this generation: basically, all the roles of before are subject to change and pretty much anything can happen (a la SCREAM 3, where in the end of a trilogy all bets are off). The movie and characters make a case that SCREAM 4 can be considered both a sequel and reboot, and thus the ‘rules’ or lack thereof reflect so [virgins can die! Sidney could die! Bloodbath needs to happen at the anti-party! Noooo!]. But I’m not going to go into the rules and so forth of SCREAM 4, instead I’m gonna concentrate on the thread that keeps me interested in this series:

Sidney Presscott.

This is a character that has gone through Hell through three movies and five psychos intent on killing her. She has grown up from the reserved and sad virginal teenager to a woman who has confidance, who battles her demons and is one hell of an woman. So with SCREAM 3 ending on a beautiful note of Sidney not afraid anymore, where could SCREAM 4 go? Well, Sidney doesn’t have too much of a character progression in this installment, instead it’s a display of what she learned through her experiences, of facing that which hides behind a mask.

I think my favorite thing about this movie is actually something quite small (in the context of the movie), but quite big for fans of the series. When Sidney has her first encounter with the killer here, she doesn’t run from it like she has done before. In the first movie, it was her first experience, she was scared. In the second film, she initially ran for it, all in survival mode, but then fought back. And in the third she had enough of the running and she fought back against the killer in the climax. Here, we have the fruition of her character arc. Sidney jumps right into action – punching, kicking, slamming the killer. Of course she still feels fear, but she’s stronger than that now. She overcomes it and confronts her assailant. Another example, later on in the end Sidney formulates a rather clever plan even under pressure. Her plan eventually makes her fall out of the house, but instead of running, instead of waiting for backup or having the slightest bit of hesitancy, Sidney runs back into that house and straight for the killer. Like I said, in the context of the movie this is a small thing, but to see all four films and become deeply invested in Sidney Prescott, her actions here are monumental and entirely worthy of cheering and applauding. Sidney is done being the victim, and she faces danger head on, doesn’t run from it.

She is the ultimate Final Girl, someone all others should aspire to and/or be compared to.

What’s more, I was stunned by how much Sidney gets her ass handed to her, especially in the climax. Sure, she dishes out some kickass herself, but this is the first time in the franchise Sidney is getting truly battered and bruised. It is a brutal last twenty minutes, and at several points I entertained the notion that Kevin Williamson will pull the ultimate twist and have this be Sidney’s final hour. She is definitely put through the ringer here. Riveting, outstanding material.

As for the actors, there are all unbelievably on their A game. I only say ‘unbelievably’ because I was dreading the casting of Hayden Panettiere and Emma Roberts. In the TV show HEROES, Hayden was unbearably obnoxious, and I wasn’t at all impressed by her work, and Roberts just didn’t seem to fit in this world. But lo and behold, every single one of these actors were fantastic. I would love to say more about Roberts in particular, but that would be spoiling some really juicy material she gets to work with. Let’s just say she impresses, and Hayden was just as good. The newbies were all fantastic, and nicely fit into the SCREAM universe despite the diverse styles of the 90’s and now [you wouldn’t commonly see Rory Culkin’s frightening hair in 96, I wager]. The original actors, Campbell, Cox and Arquette are all great. Campbell is marvelous as the hero, Cox gets some decent material to work with, and Arquette for the first time in the series isn’t entirely annoying and cartoony – he was almost like a real person! All around stellar performances from everyone involved, and that added to the mystery of who the killer was – which honestly befuddled me until the reveal.

And the killings, what horror fans are most interested in. I will say for the first time I felt like Ghostface was a true, unstoppable force. Maybe it was the actor, or maybe it was the freakin' huge knife and the brutality of the knifing, but Ghostface was terrifying. I'd be scared shitless if I saw this guy around me. And the deaths are rather straightforward, as they normally are in SCREAM movies, with a whole bunch of knife use, but they are gruesome and definitely will make horror fans happy. By gruesome, do take note I'm not saying Craven went SAW on us - I think it's the mixture of sound effects and pretty decent makeup work with the wounds that made 'em gruesome. Also worth mentioning, and I doubt this is much of a spoiler, but Anthony Anderson rocks his death scene. I love you, man.

Looking toward the future of the franchise, I confess I am puzzled as to what ground Williamson and Craven can cover. According to multiple interviews, most notably FANGORIA, Craven admits Williamson approached the Weinsteins and he with the idea of a new trilogy, with the general concept of parts five and six mapped out. Personally, four just feels right; I love the number four. But if Williamson can conceive of two more stories that tie to Sidney without feeling far too forced, than I say full steam ahead, guys! Obviously I love these movies, and this installment proves that Williamson and Craven are still on their game, so if a five and six are greenlit and move forward, these two have earned my trust, and you better believe I’ll be there opening day.

SCREAM 4 is an success through and through. It pokes fun at its own art, it’s very meta, it’s clever, intelligently written and has great bouts of humor, it’s intense, it’s brutal, it’s bloody, the original cast and the newbies mesh well together never disrupting the equilibrium, and most importantly, it’s a good movie. I can’t applaud Kevin Williamson enough for coming up with a great script and a story worth telling, and for Wes Craven for proving that horror movies can still be suspenseful without obnoxious quick cuts and loads of gore. SCREAM 4 is exactly what the horror climate needs right now…but let’s hope it doesn’t inspire a few dozen similar flicks (a la this generation’s URBAN LEGENDS, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, etc.).

Ever your fan.


* STAB 5 has time travel!
* Is it just me or did the principal cast look better now than they did fifteen years ago?
* Did I miss something, or is this scene not in the finished product?
* Seeing as how the videotaping-the-kills thing was rather prominent in the trailers, I was expecting it to be more important in the overall narrative.
* As the reveal of the killer is happening, I realized my geektastic experience was almost coming to an end, and it saddened me. A part of me really didn't want this movie to end...
* I really, really, really want a STAB poster now.
* Speaking of STAB, I loved that footage from the original STAB, shown in SCREAM 2, is present and accounted for here, too. Although, it would be cool to see Ghostface time traveling in STAB 5.
* There's so much more to say about SCREAM 4, but I'll leave it at this. However, happy to discuss material, what with me being in love with this flick and all...
* Screw it, bring on SCREAM 5 and 6 nowish!

Rating: 9/10 = One hell of a ride from start to finish, a sequel that should not be missed by fans or newbies alike


Nick said...

I really liked it, too, but I don't think there should be a Scream 5 or 6. I think this was a good closing for the series. Like you said, Sidney's character arc just came to fruition in this film. It can't go any further. Everything was given a nice closure.

Jack L said...

I've only seen the first Scream, but I've decided that I'm going to watch the other two and then the four.
I rarely watch Horror films but I did like the first Scream quite a bit...

Great review Andy!

Anonymous said...

Surprisingly awesome for a series that seemed like it was wearing a bit thin towards the end there. The film is more suspenseful than it is actually scary, but being a fan of the whole series (even the 3rd), I had a great time with this film. Good review, check out mine when you can!