Before I can begin even talking about this film I must give you a little bit of background… Allow me to go off on a tangent for a bit.
Back in 1996 Scream was a smart, ingenious and witty take on the slasher-films. It single-handedly re-vitalized the horror genre by re-defining its rules and by combining elements of thrills and comedy like few films had successfully done before (in fact I can only think of An American Werewolves in London).
At the time, we all fell for it, but still to this day that opening scene with Drew Barrymore is arguably one of the best executed, most intense and shocking sequences of any slasher/horror film… but also one of the cleverest too, with its many references to other horrors, the film was able to send all the old rules out of the window. It all felt fresh and new, terrifying and funny at the same time. In the end it was all ludicrous, but while with it I had a ball!
A year later, screenwriter Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven re-teamed with Scream 2 and tried to do the same for slasher sequels. Some of the originality was obviously lost, the plot got more convoluted and far fetched and certainly the scares were a lot fewer, but Scream 2 had enough tongue and cheeks to get away with… murder!
Once Scream 3 came along in 2000, the formula seemed to have run out of stream. It was still quite entertaining, with its film-within-a-film formula, but even then we all knew that it could not go on.
Then all the various “Scary Movies” came along. Cheap, vulgar, spoofs that wanted to be as clever and funny as Airplane! but in fact got worse and worse as their numbers got bigger and bigger (number 5 is in development, according to imdb).
What had begun as a sort of “piss-take” of horror films was now the subject of spoofs. It became impossible to imagine how the “Scream” series could go on.
The only way for horror to move forward seemed to be the so-called “torture-porn” (the “Saw” series, Hostel (1&2), The Devil’s Rejects, Wolf Creek and so on…) or the “re-boot” of those 70s and 80s classic (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre), all of which were bloodier and nastier than their original counterpart, but as it happened a lot less effective.
And now, 11 years after the Scream 3 closed its curtains (and 15 after the first one), Williamson, Craven and the main surviving cast from the originals, are all back in what’s promised to be a new trilogy (though it’s hard to see where they might take this new series after this already tired fourth installment).
But if their aim is to re-define the rules once again, this time for the new generation, they fail completely, as this feels just like a cash-in exercise and an excuse to revive something by re-hashing and regurgitating everything that we have already seen.
The main rule this time (or excuse) is that there are no rules! Or at least that’s the official line, because actually behind all the talk about going against the clichés and trying to ridicule the various the character-less horror of the last few years, there is actually very little new. There a sense of Déjà-vu throughout and (aside from its far fetched ending) it is all rather predictable in its non-predictability.
Back are the usual movie references, the many (too many) characters, most of them are just there so that they can be killed off at some point (and yes, the rating system has relaxed a lot more since the 90s, so the death sequences are gorier).
Williamson’s script spends a lot of time criticizing old clichés and paper-thin characters, but more often than not falls into the same pit (and I don’t really think it’s intentional). There are undoubtedly some clever remarks and, particularly if you are an horror fan, you’ll have fun in detecting all the various in-jokes and references (is the film really trying to say that nothing good has come out since the first Scream Trilogy?It seems a bit of a pompous remark, doesn’t it?); but clearly all this post-modernism is just a smokescreen, hiding the film’s real weaknesses as Scream 4 quickly falls into the same traps as the many films it’s referencing.
Admitting a theft (or a reference) may ease the conscience, but it certainly doesn’t make it OK, nor it makes it a good film.
The problem is that none of behind the scenes seems to know what this new generation really is like: yes, of course, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, webcams, torture porn and phone apps are all name-checked, at some point or another , but that’s it: they are just name-checked.
Never during the course of the film you get the feeling that this is really what kids are like. Their dialogue fits rather awkwardly in their mouths and they feel more like a version of what an older person might think kids are like. Their comments on the horror genre today is way too self-conscious and feels rather forced and heavy handed, but more importantly, they are always unrelated to the actual event of the films.
it’s as if Craven was saying: “Oh look, some jokes and references!… Ok, now let’s get on with the film”.
Everybody in Scream 4 seems to have the same voice: they are all horror-fans, they all quote movies, and they all know the rules of slasher films, whether it is policeman or a hot young teenager, of a nerdy blogger.
In the end it’s just like a big parody of itself, slightly funny but definitely not scary. The only way the film can make you jump is by relying on loud and sudden noises… Well, that’s not very hard is it?
This might be a film about horror films but it’s certainly not a horror film!
As I said, Scream 4 is not without enjoyment and the fans will certainly like to see familiar characters back, but that’s all the do: they are just back. They are very little developed among the over-crowded cast and they have very little to do.
And then when you think the film might finally have done something quite brave and unusual, towards what you might think is the end, you’ll be disappointed to find out that there is another 15/20 minutes coda which will bring back the clichés and will leave the door open for our tired characters to come back for a possible Scream 5.
It’s hard to see what it might add to the series, as this one added next to nothing. What a shame, I was so looking forward to this film!!!
I’m sure the making of the film itself (with all the re-write, people quitting, getting divorced, re-cast and re-shoots) must have been hundred times more interesting and new than the actual film itself.