SCREAM movies have literally spanned half of my lifetime (and all of my loosely defined adulthood) now: SCREAM in 1996 (been there, done that, had an unhealthy crush on Matthew Lillard?), followed quickly and effectively by SCREAM 2 in 1997 (been there, done that, bought the soundtrack), and not so quickly and effectively by Scream 3 in 2000 (been there, done that, and somehow all I remember is Scott Foley and really bad highlights on everyone) and now-10 YEARS LATER ALMOST EVERYONE FROM THE ORIGINAL SCREAM TEAM RETURNS TO WESTBORO. (what does it say about the original team that 15 years since the 1st one and a decade since the last one they are all ready and available to be in a slasher movie-I don’t know and I don’t want to know?).
So-we could go about reviewing this 2 different ways: by comparing it to the previous 3 (it is probably somewhere in the middle quiality wise and way up on top gore wise) or just judging it on it’s own merits (harder, but worth the shot).http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5TsZ6iyaH4
After the obligatory meta-meta-meta-meta opening in which every young actress that was ever on a TV show dies (and which, while regurgitate throughout the series still manages to elicit both jumps and laughs), we’re ready to roll…
The year is 2011, Deputy Dewey and Reporter Gail have been married for 10 years now, there is a whole new generation of teens (born around the 1st murders) and it is the anniversary of the murders in Westboro which sees Sydney (Neve Campbell, looking great) arrive on a pretty shameless publicity tour for her book “OUT OF DARKNESS” (orchestrated by her PR woman Rebecca (played by Alison Brie with her trademark darkly shiny spunkiness making me wish she was in every single thing I watched, always) AND THE CREEPY PHONE CALLS FOLLOWED BY TRIVIA QUESTIONS FOLLOWED BY MURDERS FOLLOWED BY A STATE OF GENERAL WESTBORO PARANOIA START HAPPENING AGAIN. You can run from the past Sydney but you can’t hide. (read that sentence in the Ghostface voice)
Craven and Williamson (who is reportedly not on speaking terms with producer Harvey Weinstein as a result of this shoot) go for the (At this point, if you’ve seen the previous movies) predictable laughs and jumps in a fast and furious fashion (with some pretty intensely gory moments which I give them kudos on) all the while the overly botoxed Gail (it’s always bad to be in a horror movie when YOUR FACE CAN’T MOVE AND YOU CANNOT EXPRESS FEAR, and I, for one am a longtime Courtney Cox fan) gets her investigative mojo back and the kids in town discover new, more 2011 appropriate ways to be insensitive about everything that goes on around them.
What happens is that despite the solid gore and knowing nods to previous movies throughout (Hayden Panettiere has her Drew Barrymore moment but much later on, etc) the movie is just not all THAT clever. In 2011, the CINEMA CLUB kids would be way past the old, tired cannons of the horror movie genre and probably more into talking about, say, Carnival of Souls or Maniac or Wolf Creek than Friday the 13th over and over AND OVER AGAIN. (Trust me, I have interns for reference). And young actors like Emma Roberts or Rory Culkin are way too smart for the essentially canned dialogue they’re given. The real winners here are the grown up supporting cast: Mary McDonnell as Sydney’s Aunt and Emma Roberts’ mom, aforementioned Alison Brie (4ever), Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody (come on! you have Seth Cohen in your movie and you don’t let him play pop culture puzzle games? SHAME ON YOU KEVIN WILLIAMSON) and Marley Shelton (working the blue crazy eyed angle to comic max) as the 2011 Deputies to now Sheriff Dewey-they all have fun with what little they’re given and elevate every seen-before scene they’re in.
Cox, Arquette and Campbell do a decent job too though really, nothing to write home about (they each have a trademark feature: Cox is frozen in time due to botox, Arquette is perpetually perplexed and Campbell does her squinty eyed determination thing pretty well still).
As such, SCREAM 4 is a fun movie to go to if you’re in a mood for a fun movie to go to (I was entertained enough and never once looked at my watch which is rare for me these days, and a testament to the pacing employed throughout). But unlike 15 years a go, what you’re seeing here is a demise of a franchise, not a birth of one.