Saturday, October 15, 2011

Scream 4 (2011)

Note 1:  This actually came from Redbox.
Note 2:  This review is spoiler heavy.  You have been warned.
The original Scream came about in the good old days when “self-referential” was the buzzword that described movies that were aware that they were movies and had a bit of fun with creaky old tropes.  We now live in a world where “meta” gets thrown around with alarming frequency and Scream 4-I refuse to type Scre4m more than this once- is rife with sheer meta-ness.  So much so that the movie forgets to actually have any fun with itself or it’s concept.  
After a really fun intro that gave me great hopes that the movie might –gasp!- be entertaining the movie settles into a rather desultory pattern of red herrings and silly jump scares until we get to the final reveal.  
Here’s a list of why the movie fails.
  1. The above mentioned Meta movie bullshit or OMG, ya’ll we’s in a reboot or something.

The first trilogy relied a great deal on the characters knowing genre clichés but still doing stupid shit.   I guess it was irony or something but it still worked.   Horror movies require people doing stupid shit to advance their fairly non-existent plots.   We the audience accept it because it allows us to feel superior to the characters and pointlessly shout instructions at them.  The characters in Scream were largely us.  You could imagine them sitting around watching some Wes Craven movie and yelling, “Don’t go up the stairs, idiot”.  Hell, 75% of the dialog in those movies were these kids getting their deconstruction on.
Roughly 75% of 4’s dialog is reboot/remake snark.   Here are some rules blah blah blah.  Kevin Williamson and Craven are either unaware that 4 is neither or we are entering into some sort of meta singularity where they are bitter that some original scripts were rejected and they were tasked to make Scream 4, instead.   I wouldn’t put it past them anyways.  So what we ultimately have here is a sequel that really believes itself to be a remake.  Then again the movie is warmed over Scream so whatever.
I was amused when Weathers calls Dewey and mentions meta and neither she nor Dewey know what it means.  
  1. The lack of Randy.

I’ve never really enjoyed Jamie Kennedy outside of these movies.  The Randy explains shit were generally the most entertaining bits.  They were the best parts of the second and third movies mostly because they were terrible otherwise.  And, yes, I know that a magical videotape showing up where Randy explains shit that he couldn’t possibly know about unless he was a psychic or something can’t happen but still.  Here we get a couple of kids in a cinema club to explain to us about remakes and reboots.  They really aren’t a good substitute and the rules provided don’t really seem to match up with the remakes and reboots I’ve suffered through.  It just breaks the movie even more.
  1. A cavalcade of cameos.

Since our main stars of the movie-Campbell, Arquette and Cox – seem to be fairly disinterested in being in the movie and largely seem to be in the movie so that the audience doesn’t have to put up with a completely new cast most of the heavy lifting is done by the other people in the movie.  We get semi-familiar T.V. faces to pad out the running time.  There’s the cheerleader from Heroes, the cute overachiever from Community, someone from the newer 90210 and Marley Shelton.  In other words, people we don’t care about getting killed or killing people.  There really isn’t any tension because we all know there is no way that Sidney, Dewey or Gail are going to die or be the killer because someday we’ll get a Scream 5 and people aren’t as likely to see a movie where those characters don’t appear. So we are left with one-dimensional characters that we aren’t invested in going through the Scream franchise paces.
  1. What’s my motivation or has the butler done it yet?

Shannen Doherty’s line about Wes Craven not even caring anymore from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back kept popping into my head as the killers explained their motive.  In the first we had Ulrich killing because Sidney’s mother was a home wrecker and Lilliard because he was either bored or had a latently gay thing for Ulrich.   Both are fairly dubious motives but I liked the movie and went along with it.  The second had the mother of Ulrich and somebody I can’t remember.  The mother getting revenge thing was probably the strongest motivation for killing since Friday the 13th’s Mama Voorhees getting revenge thing.  Still she killed people that weren’t even in the first movie to get revenge but I didn’t mind all that much because I didn’t care about the movie.  The 3rd had Sidney’s half-brother or something getting revenge for reasons I don’t recall but I’m guessing it was something stupid.
Here we get a killer who wants to be internet famous and a guy who really likes her. Even in my dry nookie years I don’t think I’d kill people for it.  So anyways, we get some sort of indictment of people who are “famous” for no apparent reason which if we were in the year 2008 or 2009 might have seemed timely here it just comes across as empty grousing.  Her plan doesn’t even make sense.  While we may all be aware of who the Numa Numa Guy, Star Wars kid and Leeroy Jenkins are we don’t actually care about them enough to know their real names or buy their memoirs if they wrote them.  Their fame is built upon a Youtube video we watched once to see what all the fuss was about.  I suppose it is possible that the script is also aware of how of empty the motivation is and there is another Meta thing going on here, although the reporters at the end seem to belie this.  
What we have ultimately is a current generation horror movie that adheres to most of the recent clichés.  The best things I can thing to say about it, other than the beginning was fun, is that it wasn’t 3D or PG-13, although it is a fairly bloodless affair and it could have been PG-13 if not for all the “fuck”s.   I also suspect that the webcam stuff was thrown in to allow for a bit of found footage shaky cam nonsense.
Watch it if you must.  But, you’d be better off just watching the first one for the umpteen time. 

- Bill Brock

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