Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Scream 4 ***

Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette,
Erik Knudsen, Anna Paquin, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere
Rory Culkin, Mary McDonnell, Kristen Bell, Nico Tortorella

When Scream was released fifteen years ago, a new generation of moviegoers were introduced to the way a horror movie should be made. Drawing inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock, Dario Argento and the entire French New Wave, Wes Craven crafted the first in a series of postmodernist takes on the genre. The film’s constant self-references and winks at other horror movies made it both refreshing and old fashioned, it would remain the definitive slasher movie of the late twentieth century. By the time Scream 3 was released, the genre had once again fallen to victim to overwrought plots and excessive gore, yet Craven’s series remained smart and ahead of its time because of its social commentary and obsession with the media’s effect on our lives. It’s not an accident that Scream still manages to be scarier than Saw in all its incarnations and funnier than the Scary Movies made to poke fun of it.
Fast forward eleven years and we get Scream 4, which is actually more of the same. Whether this means a good or bad thing is strictly up to the viewer. Those looking for gore and excessive amounts of movie blood, will get their fix in limited quantities, while those looking for a lesson in cinephile geekiness, disguised as a genre flick, will go home more than satisfied.
The thing with Scream 4 is actually quite simple: you either like it or you don’t. The film feels like a time capsule which chooses to ignore how much horror sensibilities have changed in the past decade. Instead of turning Ghostface into a serial torturer or a demon, it gives us the same old Scooby-Doo mystery the first ones made us crave: who is the killer?
This time around Ghostface has gone on a killing spree to celebrate the anniversary of Maureen Prescott’s gruesome murder fifteen years before. Maureen’s daughter Sidney (Campbell) has become a successful self-help book author and is back in Woodsboro to promote her book and pay tribute to her mother. Sidney seems to have forgotten that whenever she’s happy, Ghostface will strike.
Lucky for her, she still counts with her friends: Sheriff Dewey Riley (Arquette) and his feisty wife Gale (Cox having more fun than anyone else!) who has reluctantly given up journalism to become a small town wife. There’s also a new group of nubile victims in play, including Sidney’s cousin Jill (a simply delicious Roberts), her friends Kirby (a scene stealing Panettiere) and Olivia (Marielle Jaffe). There’s also her ex-boyfriend Trevor (Nico Tortorella) and high-school movie geeks Charlie (Culkin) and Robbie.
The dynamics of this installment are the same as before (although an appearance from Jamie Kennedy to help us understand the new rules would’ve been great...) and Craven seems to be at his best delivering playful scenes in which Ghostface plays with his victims like a cat would with a mouse he’s about eat.
This dynamic between primal fear and comedy is what makes this film so effective. It might be more of the same, sure, but it still manages to feel fresh even when it makes so much fun of how stale the genre has become. In the opening scene there’s a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie that takes meta out of proportion and turns it into a fascinating look at the Russian doll effect the media has achieved in the last few years.
The movie even comes with a dark message of sorts as Craven deals with the thirst for fame that drives people to do all kinds of crazy things. Scream 4 might be slightly misunderstood because it’s both the joke and the punchline. As much fun as it makes of unnecessary sequels it dignifies itself, in a totally self-aware way, thinking that it’s above them all. To call this film delicate might sound ridiculous, but in a way it is: it tries hard to grasp onto the last remains of a genre it helped refresh and like its scream queens, it seems completely unaware that it’s only a matter of time before they perish as well. As Dewey himself says “one generation's tragedy is the next one's joke.”


Lucas Dantas said...

yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!! yay twice becaus, not only you FINALLY wrote the review about my favorite 2011 movie so far, you also written out all the words i've been meaning to say about it.

i love the scream flicks ever since i first saw it; i spent my adolescence obsessed about them, writing slasher/scary tales that were nothing less than proud imitations, and i'm no ashamed to say the scream series made me the cinema lover i am today - as you said, all the cinema references it has made me crave for more and more movie knowledge.

i enjoyed this one just like you said. the whole scooby-doo mystery rocked my socks and i'm again not ashamed to admit i even felt scared and surprised sometimes.

yaay for wes craven! and i hope there'll be a new trilogy!

Jose said...

I'm here to serve. I love "Scream" too and people are often shocked when they learn it's my favorite trilogy but come on, they are freshest than most movies ever made, they made me want to become a movie geek and I'll love them for that forever!

Lucas Dantas said...


as for this one i love its self-indulgence! it's ridiculously funny and somehow it's more than aproppriate, because if you think of all the slasher movies as comentary and reflections of the american society [and every other for that matter] narcisism and sex/violence fettish, it's more than obvious that all these psychos loved primally themselves.

as you said "scream 4" continues what the others did and it's a lovely surprise that it still has so much to say about society. i love that scene you pictured from the kids' stab-a-thon - it's an example of how the screening of scary movies nowadays has nothing to do with getting scared [maybe it never were and i am a romantic] but with accomplishing that same fettish i mentioned above.

fuck the lord of the rings! THIS is decent social allegory!

but one thing i disagree with you. i wouldn't want another jamie kennedy cameo to explain the new rules. i prefer that craven and kevin williamson evolve them on two more movies.

Lucas Dantas said...

ohhhh and yes ho courtney cox!! she was hilarious and i think she deserved sooooo much more screen time!

and omg ho what a revelation emma roberts is! i didn't know she was julia's niece when i watched the film lol and now that i think of her on it... she has soo much talent! i loved panettiere too... somehow i always liked her from heroes - my interest for heroes is long gone but i've always hoped panettiere would get some more buzz, and in this she trully was a scene stealer.

Paolo said...

As much as i thought that the film was just ok, it made me fall in like with two young actresses, Panetierre and Roberts. The latter goes all out for the scenes in the last parts of the film. I'd say she's even braver, if not better, than her aunt.

Dan O. said...

Good review! I saw it myself, and wrote one up. It’s not quite as good as the first, but it ain’t no slouch either. I’ve had the good fortune (or misfortune, depending on how I’m feeling) of seeing all of em’ and let me tell ya. This is easily the best of the sequels. I did think it was too funny. Like, that scene where the killer goes all medieval on his/her own ass in the end was HYSTERICAL!!! The scares were good too.

Jose said...

Right on ho! LOL I love how you're hating LOTR everywhere, I don't think LOTR was ever meant to be an allegory for anything though, so relax.

Paolo: *gasp* how dare you mess with the Julia?

Dan: thanks, you're right, I was both jumping out of my seat and laughing the entire time.

Runs Like A Gay said...

I'm sorry but I felt Emma Roberts was disappointing compared to what I've seen her do in the past, not helped by the weird dialogue she had to spout, especially towards the denouement.

That said I enjoyed the film and Panetierre was brilliant.