Saturday, April 16, 2011

SCREAM 4 Review

"Scream 4" (2011)

In the multiple twisty and hilarious openings of "Scream 4," Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell watch the opening to "Stab 6" as they star in the beginning scene to "Stab 7" poking fun at endless horror sequels such as the "Saw" franchise. In this opening sequence alone, Wes Craven's return to his own slasher flick franchise acknowledges its own pointless existence--really, who needs a fourth installment of anything?--but in this acknowledgement, he creates a fourth-quel that is welcomed and even necessary. It's another send up of horror movie clich├ęs, which are reconstructed through clever wit and cheeky humor. As the movie's tagline suggests, we're in a new decade of horror now, and things have changed since the 90s.

With the original "Scream" trilogy, we've become familiar with these movies taking place within their own horror movie world to the point where even the characters know it. We are one step ahead because we've been there before, and so have they. The stakes are raised for "Scream 4." The characters in the movie refer back to the original "Stab"--based off Sidney Prescott's traumatic life in Westboro, a town that seems forever haunted with murders--while we as an audience refer back to the original "Scream." At this point in Westboro's history, and the point in which "Scream 4" takes place, the murders have become the town's mythology, a running joke for both them and a wink to us as the audience. Now everybody's in on it.

The guidelines of horror movie tropes the "Scream" films both reference and follow have been revamped. The new installment places itself more as a remake or reboot than a full-blown sequel, and there are new rules that come with such. One of Ghostface's ominous over-the-phone questions now asks victims to identify a horror remake. And when the scared teenager on the other line desperately rambles through the extensive list, we can't help but chuckle.

The new story exists in two generations: the young one that takes Westboro's murderous history as a joke hosting "Stab" watching marathons; and the older one, the adults who are scarred from their past experiences in the town. The leading lady in this is Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott who apparently doesn't age. Sidney has returned to her hometown of Westboro promoting her new self-help book on the very same day as the anniversary of the original murders. Courtney Cox as Gale Weathers and her sheriff hubby Dewey, played by David Arquette, also return. The two actors' real life divorce manages to get mentioned by a character in the film, another nod. Seeing these three back together is a treat in itself perhaps mostly in the perverse pleasure of witnessing how tired they all look.

The plot is essentially a retooling of the original "Scream," and Craven and his writer Kevin Williamson--who helped pen the first two installments--want us to recognize this; it's the whole point. There isn't, however, a lack of fresh faces and--more importantly--new blood. They include Sidney's young cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), Jill's friend Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and two leaders of the school's cinema club who provide us with all the insight on the newest horror fads, Charlie (Rory Culkin) and Robbie (Erik Knudsen). The latest rules? Killers now have a fetish with recording all their kills, and the only way to survive anymore is being gay.

"Scream 4" is wickedly smart, a horror remake that is simultaneously a big "fuck you" to horror remakes. Not to mention a big "fuck you" to current society trends of social media and internet stardom. More concerned about having a lot of bloody fun than being flat-out scary, it succeeds. I laughed more than I jumped, but there are definitely still moments of suspense as you cling to the arm rests. It's in its humor where Wes Craven finds irony even in between effectively gruesome and unfunny killings. From an entertaining opening to an over-the-top and ridiculous finish, it's a clever creation and a nostalgic look back.

And just think. Beyond the self-referential winks and the endless meta-humor, the return of Ghostface even excels as a stand-alone horror flick. It's certainly better than any of the usual horror crap out there today and a cut above. Pun intended.

1 comment:

  1. Great review! I didn't think I could have such a blast watching a 'scary' movie. A refreshing film to beef up this years current releases.