Saturday, April 16, 2011


In 1996 Scream was released to great fanfare. During the hype fans gave the film the mantel of ushering in of a new era of horror. The Scream era was hipper and more aware era, showing how irony and movie knowledge could be injected into scary movies. No longer would characters in horror movies act as though the horror genre didn’t exist; now it would be an intrical part of every horror film to follow. The problem with Scream came with the convoluted sequels and, sadly, the fact that it did usher in a new age of horror. Since the original Scream the horror genre sank to a hollow low, taking the self-aware ideas in Scream and exploiting them until whatever original ideas the series had, was lost.

Fifteen years after the first film, the gang that survived Scream is back for Scream 4, and a whole new generation will be sucked into what Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson promise to be a new trilogy. I must warn anybody that was the same age, as the original players from Scream will feel ancient during this movie. Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette all look good, but they also look old. The new film centers on Neve Campbell’s character Sydney returning to Woodsboro, her original home and site of the murders, to promote the self-help book she’s written. As soon as Sydney arrives in town the brutal killings start up again and off we go.

Scream 4 has a number of things going for it and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. The film has lost the self-importance the second sequel possessed, and isn’t nearly as convoluted as the third. It’s the same kind of scary, good time fun that made the first Scream such a classic. The murders are outrageous, the dialog witty and the twist ending is sufficiently surprising. The new cast of young people on the chopping block are still pretty but much more technologically advanced, something that plays heavily into the structure of the movie.

Two major problems keep Scream 4 from being outstanding, and oddly enough one is old and one is new. The new problem is that the movie misses the opportunity to do to the current genre of film what the original did for that era. Scream 4 should have been a straight a to z horror movie, without any of the nods to other movies or self-aware one-liners that peppered the first trilogy. It would have said, in a subtle way, that the filmmakers realize what they started with the first films and now they want to reinvent the genre out of the repetitive mire it was responsible for creating. This should have been a movie about a slasher that left all the other hip nudge-nudge-wink-wink stuff at the door.

Instead Scream 4 is overloaded with it. It felt as if every scene was either slightly or overly saturated with references to the “rules” of other horror movies but how the new rules are the old rules without rules, etc. There are still film geeks who guide us through the maze of understanding modern horror but who seem outdated. In the era of digital downloads, netflix and youtube, the idea that we need specialists in this kind of thing is rather antiquated. Scream 4 didn’t need to remind us how hip it still is, it could have proved that by stepping out of its own shadow and not being so hip.

The “old” problem comes with the victims. For a film that seems so set in teaching everybody the rules of surviving a horror movie, none of the characters in Scream follows them. Somebody says the first rule of surviving horror movies is to never go out alone, yet the first thing a character does is strut on out into the empty house by him or herself. For every rule laid down, there’s a character that does something incredibly stupid to break it. This issue has stood against what the Scream movies try and accomplish since the original movie.

Overall Scream 4 is an enjoyable movie, one good enough to interest me in the next one. Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson finish the ending off in such a way that you’ll be flummoxed as to how the next movie will continue, making it all the more intriguing. I’ve always had a crush on Neve Campbell, so it was nice to see her back again. If Scream 5 can forget it’s own hipster legacy and allow for the characters to be a little less foolish, it might once again revitalize the current lost art of making horror movies.

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