Scre4m – Review

SCREAM 4 (2011) 

Directed by Wes Craven. Starring Lucy HaleShenae GrimesDane FarwellAnna PaquinNeve CampbellDavid ArquetteCourteney CoxHayden PanettiereEmma RobertsRory CulkinAdam Brody

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.


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12 Responses to Scre4m – Review

  1. Nicely written review, Moviegeek, but I disagree with you in some areas. I don’t think they failed at all, if anything, they’ve succeeded. Scream was about horror movies, Scream 2 was about sequels, Scream 3 was about the end of series and Scre4m was about remakes and reboots. Scre4m was supposed to stick to the original rules but with a remade twist, as a certain character more or less said and the movie was successful in doing so. It also doesn’t really go against the cliches but embraces them. I don’t know about you but I knew who the killer(s) was/were when the cast were introduced. The characters and the story was pretty much a massive cliche but that’s the beauty of the Scream series. Scream 3 was the parody of itself but Scre4m brought it back a little to the quality of Scream 2 in my opinion as they poke fun out of the genre.

    I do agree with you when you say that they should stop but unfortunately there have been talks that Scream 5 (or 5cream) is in development. I don’t know if it’s true or not though. I’d rather them leave it now, I can’t think of any more they could do to the series.

    Personally, I thought Scre4m was great but hey, we’re all different, right? 🙂

    • moviegeek says:

      Thanks for your message. As I said, I did have fun with it, but I thought it added nothing to the previous ones (aside from the fact that it said “there have been reboots and remakes…” Well, I knew that even before seeing Scream 4″.

  2. CMrok93 says:

    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!

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  5. NICK says:

    I pretty much disagree with you, but that’s ok! Considering that it’s been 11 years since the last (and weakest) of the series, I think Scream 4 goes down in history as the 2nd best Scream film. i DO think it would’ve been interesting if it ended with that “brave and unusual” ending that you hint at (keeping this spoiler-free), but then we’d know the killer to 5 before it even starts…and that’s no fun. Should the series end here? Probably. But will I go see 5 when it hits? Definitely. My full review is here: Cool blog, though!

    • moviegeek says:

      I knew my review would have been slightly unpopular.. As I said, I really wanted to like it but by the end of it I was almost bored…
      You’re probably right, it’s out there with Scream 2, but that doesn’t mean a great deal… Having said this, I’ll be going to watch Scream 5

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  7. Dustin says:

    Great review! I have to say, though, I think there was much more intentionality in this film than people are giving it credit for. Definitely my favorite in the series.

    Thanks for the thoughtful review! 🙂

    • moviegeek says:

      Of course a lot of that was intentional… But obviously that doesn’t make it necessarily better. It’s hard to see the blurred line between what was intentional and what was a bit “by-the-numbers”. In the end it all comes down to the fact that I was not scared for a single second, something that had not happened when I watched the first one.

  8. venuszen says:

    This is no doubt going to be a hotly debated film, especially considering how one feels about the previous three Scream films. As I commented in my own review of Scream 4, it feels like Scream 4 was mainly designed for people who are well familiar with the former three movies as opposed to people who have never seen them. Thus, your opinion of the previous three movies will shape your opinion of the fourth.

    That said, I think several of your points are valid, moviegeek. Scream 4 feels more like a commentary on horror movies than an actual horror movie. It’s more clever than it is scary. It’s also true that it doesn’t seem to be truly in touch with the current generation, and fails to adequately send up topics like self-documentation, torture porn and the like. There’s more that could have been explored here.

    I still give Scream 4 a pass for being something different and fun though. It’s true that there’s character bloat with the cast, and the returning characters aren’t developed in any meaningful way, but the movie was still fun and tongue-in-cheek, which I appreciated. Still, I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about a Scream 5. If it happens and they can make it good, fine, but I think that I’m starting to feel like I’m done with this franchise…

  9. Thanks for commenting on my review of the movie on The Early Bird Catches the Worm, and sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you.
    I have to say I disagree with your sentiments of the movie: I think they reworked the original to make it even better. I don’t think they were “just back”: they were back, and better than ever!

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