Scream 4 is a scary reminder of what happens
when post-modern becomes past-modern. Everything that was once fresh in
the series – particularly the self-referential film school geek
deconstruction of its own form – now feels tired and overly precious.
Everything going on here is striving to be bigger and
better, but rarely does it attain these heights. Back in 1996, the original
film would have mocked this movie’s desperation – hell, even this new one
sort of mocks it, though it is a little toothless here – but here we are
stuck in a totally unnecessary reboot 11 years after Scream 3 had
succumbed to the same problem of obsolescence.
Perhaps legendary horror director Wes Craven is hoping
absence will make the heart grow fonder. Perhaps he’s thinking about
tapping into a whole new generation who were too young to experience the
original Screams first time around and always wondered what the fuss
Neither theory is likely to work out though.
The older actors (Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David
Arquette) trudge through their roles dutifully, but they’ve all done this
three times before and have nothing new to add. The hip
new actors brought in to make the film skew younger (Emma Roberts,
Hayden Panettiere, Marielle Jaffe, Rory Culkin, Alison Brie) just end up
being the same generic killer bait these type of characters have been in the
last two sequels.
You can tell right off the bat that the series is
pretty low on ideas, when the movie tries to one-up the series’
celeb-studded prologue with a triple celeb-studded prologue. Oh, geez,
they’re not pulling out the old movie-in-a-movie-in-a-movie trick are they?
Things get no fresher from there.
It’s the typical prodigal-child-returns type of
storyline. Fifteen years after the mayhem of the original massacre, the
remaining survivor, Sidney Prescott (Campbell) returns to her hometown for a
reading from her new, best-selling book about finding inner peace after
surviving a serial killer. (There must be a huge audience for that one…)
The town gets all worked up about her return, throwing a special film
festival of the Stab movies that are loosely based on her life (and
more specifically based on the Scream movies.)
Back in the town are Officer Dewey (Arquette), who is
now Sheriff and his wife Gayle, the muckraking journalist who has made a
pretty penny writing the books that inspired the Stab movies, but who
is now bored with small town life and is hoping for a little violent mayhem
to spice things up.
Plus there are a bunch of cute, jaded, pop-culture mad
teens just waiting to be murdered.
And, no big surprise, someone is celebrating the
anniversary and Sidney’s return by dressing up as Ghostface and carving up a
few co-eds. Hell, they even sort of resurrect some of the death methods
from the first movie, such as when the killer uses an automatic garage door
to trap and kill a fleeing girl.
Now, a very basic flaw in the premise – and one that
Scream 4 never bothers to address – is the simple question of why Sidney
Prescott has become the true star through her experience even though she has
tried to distance herself from it, rather than… say… the actress who played
her in the movie series. People recognize Sidney on the streets and tell
her what a fan they are, but as far as we can tell all she really did was
survive and attempted murder and eventually, nearly 20 years later, wrote a
book about how her life is more than just the one experience.
By the time they reach the “surprise” reveal, which
rides on a very hackneyed social commentary on instant fame in the internet
culture, the movie has pretty much petered out.
In fact, it had me contemplating completely different
scenarios, just because I was so bored with the action onscreen. I started
wondering, what would happen if one of these young hot teens answered the
phone (oh my God, in the old-fashioned world of Scream 4 they still
have land lines!) and heard a threatening voice asking “Do you like scary
movies?” and the girl responded, “No, I’m really more into romantic
What would happen, would the killer suddenly have to
change directions and wiggle and giggle his way into their hearts through
trite and predictable means? “I’ve been killing people for years, but it’s
just because I haven’t found true love…” Cue goopy ballad as the killer and
victim kiss, then hold hands and walk off in the sunset.
Now, that may be an interesting twist if Wes Craven
ever feels the need to revisit this scorched and infertile turf yet again.
Better yet, I think that he should realize what all the
kids he was trying to bait in with his film already know: Scream?
That’s so 90s.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: October 4, 2011.