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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.17%
Worth A Look: 30.43%
Average: 15.22%
Pretty Bad36.96%
Total Crap: 15.22%

5 reviews, 16 user ratings

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Scream 4
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by Erik Childress

"We All Scream 4 For A Better Reboot"
2 stars

With Scream 4, original creators, Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson, have finally managed to make the series a paradox onto itself. When they set out to revitalize the slasher film in 1996 ostensibly by satirizing it at the same time, they also in essence created 15 years of self-referential "meta" storytelling. The Scream series was more than just a giant in-joke for horror fans though. It was also a very successful example of the very genre they were goofing on, years before Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg raised it to an absolute art form in Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead (which some of the kids watch in this film.) Scream 2, while goofing on sequels in its own right, even expanded upon many of the ideas of the original with a hefty dose of social commentary about life-imitating-art and upping the game to a point it actually became one of the rare follow-ups better than its predecessor. Returning to the series more than a decade after the trilogy ended, Craven and Williamson re-establish their players with a desire to return to the way things were, for better or for worse. Amusing that a joke about time travel mucking up a worn-out horror franchise might seem like a throwaway, when in fact it is a ironic comment about itself without getting the irony in a film where talk is cheap and the scares are even cheaper.

The film opens promisingly with a goof on its standard prelude of name actors being killed off pre-credits. This time they triple-down on the concept while characters talk about the latest trends in horror such as "torture porn" and screaming Asian children. The deaths that follow correlate to the anniversary of the original Woodsboro massacre which, as much as Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) would love to put behind her for good, is still launching her new book tour about said events in the very town where it happened. Deputy Dewey (David Arquette) has now fixed his "severe nerve damage" and is the Sheriff while his wife, Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox), is no longer a reporter and is struggling over the weight of trying to write about something that didn't happen to her.

Front and center in these murders is Sydney's cousin, Jill (Emma Roberts), whose friends are starting to drop right in front of her eyes and any number of suspects surrounding the both of them. There are the leaders of the high school cinema club: Robbie (Erik Knudsen) who runs a live webcast with a camera permanently attached to his head, and Charlie (Rory Culkin), who helps him run the annual marathon of Stab movies at a secret location. Jill's recently ex-boyfriend, Trevor (Nico Tortorella), is a grade-A jerk with a habit of popping up right after a slaying, and her best friend, Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), knows more about classic horror than her snooty, hottie ways may be leading on. Sydney's followers are not above suspicion either, including an in-tow publicist (Community's Alison Brie) a little too delighted with the prospect of a copycat, and Dewey's flirty Deputy Judy (Marley Shelton) who makes a past connection to Sydney seem more ominous than it might actually be.

The Scream films fit firmly within the horror genre and it is here where someone may upset the fanboys by pointing out that its strengths have been more in the suspense department. However one might be scared, whether it be by a jumping cat or a musical cue on the soundtrack, Wes Craven has nevertheless crafted wonderful set pieces throughout the series that have been every bit about the build-up as the bloody payoff. The first phone call to Drew Barrymore, the hunt for the caller in a crowded college square while a well-liked character was unknowingly being served up as bait, and Sydney's attempt to crawl out a car window over an unconscious killer are precisely the sort of filmmaking that Craven should be reeducating the next generation about. Instead, aside from the prologue, there is not a single ounce of ingenuity to any of the kill scenes in Scream 4 and trying to cower behind that tactic as being intentional is way too big a cop-out for a "master of suspense" who looks to just be coasting.

Talking it and walking it are too very different things and the manner in which Williamson takes shot after shot at all the other films doing it wrong, he better be prepared to do something right, otherwise the whole enterprise smacks of extreme arrogance. The Scream films may not exactly have thrived on a cacophony of rooting interest in who survives the more they have loaded up on the day players, but we certainly remember each and every one from the original, even if they were as annoying as Matthew Lillard. Colorful, amusing, well-played or just nicely written, those characters feel like an Alqonquin Round Table compared to the walking stiffs in part four. Tortorella's Skeet Ulrich substitute is neither a smoldering charmer nor an interesting jerkwad. Emma Roberts' cuteness does not a new heroine make. And the movie geeks played by Knudsen and guess-the-Culkin are so blandly written that critics may, for the first time since the midway point of Scream 2, actually be begging for the return of Jamie Kennedy.

Are these two geeks supposed to be the fanboys that know all the rules or represent the new generation who barely have a grasp on recent cinema history to even dare contemplate about the predecessors who paved the way. Williamson's script wants to point out how horror films have either gotten way too elaborate or way too safe. Throwaways mentions to Final Destination and Jigsaw's methodology in the Saw franchise then never produce an actual wink to the insane creativity of their dispatchings. Odder still that Craven got his start in the revenge business by having an outraged father go all Rube Goldberg on his daughter's killers in Last House On the Left. The surrogate Randys in Scream 4 claim that "the unexpected is the new cliche" but that also the 4.0 version of this rampage should also have the killer filming the murders. Guess neither of this experts saw Strange Days or 15 Minutes. Though Michael Powell's Peeping Tom does turn out to have a connection here, not once is one of modern horror's new standards ever given its due. The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead, [Rec] and countless others always inspired the question, "why don't you drop the camera?" But not inspiring enough for Craven to have any fun with a guy witnessing his own chase. Instead, once again, pointing the camera in the wrong direction.

If the Scream franchise was the meta influence on more non-horror projects than its intended targets and the Scary Movie series turned satire into straight parody, then one owes it to themselves to see Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, a mockumentary/horror film that takes things from an aspiring killer's point of view. It is the film some would happy to label as Scream 3, except maybe for Williamson whose absence from that conclusion may have motivated him to rewrite many of its ideas for part four. As the remake theme becomes the prevailing one, Scream 4 begins to take on the aura of the anti-Gremlins 2, another sequel which found its director goofing on his own film's ideas. Only Joe Dante did it with such an unabashed flourish that it has been heralded as the ultimate satire of unnecessary sequels. All Craven and Williamson have done is basically dress down their baby to resemble the lot of unnecessary remakes with no fresh take on the material, attractive but personality-free role fillers, and a finale so unsatisfying that one prays for all the deceased to make one last appearance to yell "April Fools." They could shout it directly to the audience. Or, at least, to a photo of Harvey Weinstein.

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originally posted: 04/15/11 06:00:00
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell not as good as the 1st one better than 2&3 though 4 stars
8/07/14 David Hollingsworth Wes Craven nails it again! 5 stars
6/18/14 Haley S. This was actually pretty good. It was funny and entertaining. 4 stars
2/07/12 David Hollingsworth Better than expected, funny, scary 4 stars
12/15/11 cr the weakiest in the scream series, great one liners and some scary moments, ok flick 2 stars
10/10/11 ashley rexrode lots of action!!! i love it!!! could have had better acting though 4 stars
5/04/11 Luis I thought it was good! Funny and scary! 4 stars
4/28/11 mr.mike Wasn't bad at all, avoids becoming a self-parody. 4 stars
4/28/11 damalc the audience used to be in on the joke. now, the audience IS the joke. 2 stars
4/24/11 Alex Hadn't had this fun in a while at movies. With the right attitude it more than delivers 4 stars
4/21/11 Chris F very average 3 stars
4/20/11 peter jokeson Bad: 2 Much Self refrencing ruins laughs and scares in film Good: Red herrings 2 stars
4/20/11 Ace-of-Stars Kept asking myself if the movie was over yet several times bef halfway mark; more afterward 2 stars
4/19/11 Anthony Feor Funny, bloody and genuinely scary. I enjoyed Scream 4. 4 stars
4/18/11 Stop Terrible. Craven has lost his touch. 2 stars
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  15-Apr-2011 (R)
  DVD: 04-Oct-2011


  DVD: 04-Oct-2011

Directed by
  Wes Craven

Written by
  Kevin Williamson

  Neve Campbell
  Courteney Cox
  David Arquette
  Brian Cox
  Simon Gruber
  Bianca Cutrona

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