What was great about the original Scream trilogy is how self aware it was. The characters were smart, the plot clever, and it was more of a spoof than the substandard Scary Movie. It was the definitive horror franchise of its time, and honestly felt like it could continue beyond the original three films.
Scream 4 (or Scre4m) does not have that. It tries to make a few jokes, but mostly fails and ends up falling back on the very cliches it once managed to transcend. The jokes are few and far between (mostly they are complaints rather than observations) and the kills are all the same. It is just another entry in the worn out slasher genre.
If that is what you want, then by all means enjoy this film. Director Wes Craven is very skilled at the genre. There is a lot of blood, there are some creative “kills” (my personal favorite is when the killer cannot break through the door, so he stabs someone through the mail drop). I know there will be many who likes it in terms of that. But there are a lot of films that have done the same thing, and done it much better. Do not expect Scream 4 to transcend the material as the original did.
It’s the anniversary of the original Woodsboro murders, and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has returned to her home town to promote her new book. She also goes to see her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), who is having trouble with her ex boyfriend Trevor (Nico Tortorella). Surprise- the Ghostface Killer (voiced by Roger Jackson) shows up to do some familiar slicing and dicing, while Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courtney Cox) try to help stop him, along with horror film fans Robbie (Erik Knudsen) and Charlie (Rory Culkin).
First, I would like to get the main problem is out of the way – its jokes are nonexistent. The film tries to skewer the whole phenomenon of remakes and franchise reboots. This is definitely a fair target, but it is one the filmmakers miss entirely. Mainly, they use it as an excuse to go over the the same story as before, down to some pretty explicit detail. I am sorry, but knowing you are lazy doesn’t make you any less lazy. Also, it is not really a way to spoof the trend of remakes. Here’s a thought – what if the film revolved around a Ghostface Killer that was such a horror neophyte he did not follow the original modus operandi and was terrifying because no one really knew what he would do next? That would have been an effective taken on reboots – the killer is not as effective, but still is able to rewrite some of the rules.
So, this is missing what a Scream film should always have. But still, it is an effective thriller, right?
Not really, because it’s still trying to constantly remind you of the rules that it is follow. I believe it was Mystery Science Theater who once proclaimed something “a film that says what it will do, then does it.” That description fits Scream 4 exactly. Again, I know that the film is trying to be clever, but it ends up sounding like a comedian desperate to explain his punchline.
So, it starts out as just a run of the mill horror film, something that a Scream film must never be. It doesn’t even really succeed as a horror film – we know what is going to happen. Also, the characters are not as knowledgeable (the killer, I swear, gets one of this own trivia questions wrong. I don’t care what this film says, Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom was not the first slasher film). The film is just going through the motions that were set by the previous films, and doesn’t even bother to refer to them accurately.
And then the ending comes.
I would never dream of revealing the identity of the killer, but I will see that, for a brief moment, the film actually does seem like it will become creative. And it almost succeeds and redeems the work.
Without going into too many details, the ending is basically a commentary on how Youtube makes everyone want to live a public life, and how that is something that is more attainable than ever. The killer has also been filming the murders, with the idea of creating art. This could have saved the film, and made it the effective commentary on celebrity and horror for the new generation.
It could have, but it doesn’t, because the film does not build up to it. There is never a scene, for example, in which the characters watch one of the murders online. Or there could have been an effective Saw spoof, in which Ghostface shows a person in one of those traps online. Yes, it would be different, but that is what is needed if the film wants to comment on evolution. One of the teens does carry around a camera that he uses to broadcast, but this never leads anywhere. It comes out of nowhere, and feels like an epilogue rather than the point of the work.
Before then, it is just a bunch of savvy horror fans commenting on their favorite moments and dying meaningless deaths. The most creative thing they can muster is to create a drinking game around their favorite horror films. The saddest thing is, that drinking game sounded more fun than watching Scream 4.