[In the interest of not being a total dick for once, I won’t reveal any major spoilers here (the biggest two below will be blacked out – highlight them to read ’em). Still, it’s impossible to discuss this movie without giving large chunks of it away, so just see the damn thing first if you care that much.]

Let’s face it – all we Scream fans really asked of this fourth installment was that it was at least better than Scream 3. Call it a Rocky Balboa scenario; we’ll overlook the fact that so many years have passed, if you just give us a movie that makes up for the abysmal previous one, and lets the series go out on a respectable note. Now, there’s long been talk of a Scream 5 and 6 (and if the crowds at the theater last night were any indication, this movie will make more than enough to warrant more), but if we were never to see these characters again, it’s certainly not a bad way to go out. What I wasn’t fully prepared for, however, was just how carefully crafted this fourth movie would be. I sort of suspected as much given series creator Kevin Williamson’s sudden reappearance in the public eye waving a new script around, so it seemed that, Weinsteins aside, this was a movie naturally born from a good idea rather than another money-making scheme.

For much of its running time, Scream 4 seems to continually point out the odd nature of being an 11-years-later sequel. It makes sure to name-check nearly every horror franchise, remake and reboot to happen since 2000 (many of which are rattled off like machine gun fire in one particular scene), while also playing catch-up with media – Facebook, Twitter, webcams, blogs, macbooks, iphones and apps are all prominently featured or referenced in some way or another (sorry MySpace, you didn’t stick it out long enough). It does get a little excessive; you won’t have to look too hard to find a review for this movie that berates it for being too meta for its own good. Perhaps it tries too hard in justifying its own existence, but who cares?

For all its modern name-dropping, the movie most effectively conveys the passage of time with its cast of younger high school characters, who were barely learning to walk when the events of the original Scream took place, and therefore view their town’s bloody history not through memories, but from the ever-growing succession of Stab movies (now up to 7 here). They spend their weekends hosting Stabathons, and when they do encounter somebody like Sidney Prescott or Gale Weathers, they view them as the inspirations for the movies more than real-life survivors. When a real killer does surface, their only reference point is the series of movies they grew up on (sound familiar?).

Oddly enough, the movie falters the most in bringing back its three principal characters. Who would have thought that out of Sidney, Gale and Dewey, it would be Sidney who makes the most effective return? Just when I thought her character had been played out by the end of Scream 2, they found a fresh angle by introducing her estranged cousin and aunt, and I’ll be damned if she’s not the most interesting out of the three returning characters. I never imagined I’d say this, but Gale and Dewey were practically wasted here. Despite the occasional line or two, Courteney Cox doesn’t have the same bite she once had (the fact that her face looks different doesn’t help either), and the usually inept but lovable Dewey is simply inept here, as he no longer has that boyish charm that used to come naturally for Arquette. Actually, all the cops in this movie are a fucking joke. Literally. So much, in fact, that [SPOILER:] when one cop gets stabbed in the forehead, his prolonged, bloody death is played for laughs (how do you make time to fire off a final one-liner with a knife in your brain?). Since much effort was put into making the murders more gruesome this time, some of the odd attempts at making them funny just fell flat.

And speaking of gruesome, holy shit. I never thought I’d complain about a horror movie being too bloody or gory, but I could’ve done without the intestines spilling out of that one chick, which just felt out of place in a movie that roasted the Saw series in its opening scene. Elsewhere, very few deaths are cut away from to be finished off-screen; when Ghostface brings the knife down, you see the actual stabbing more often than not. This is one bloody movie (surprising, given the hell the MPAA brought down on the original – maybe several years’ worth of “torture porn” removed the sticks from their asses?).

Random assorted problems: Did I mention Gale and Dewey? Neither of them are given anything to do. Dewey seems to spend half the movie “rushing” to the scene (how big is Woodsboro anyway? And why does Sid bother calling him in an emergency when he’s always gonna arrive too late?). At one point it literally takes him 20 minutes of screen time to get to the scene, as nearly the entire climax unfolds without him. At least the movie briefly pretends to have Gale (now a bored fiction writer) trying to tap into her tabloid reporter past, but that’s dispensed with roughly halfway through. Then there’s the inexplicable (but I guess unavoidable) phenomenon of people doing insanely stupid things when they know there’s a killer in their very town, such as wandering around outside by themselves when there’s a body count steadily building around them, or worse, getting ripped drunk and then wandering around outside by themselves. And while the Big Killer Reveal is a bit underwhelming (at least in the way it happens), my biggest gripe is how [SPOILER:] the physical strength displayed by the killer throughout doesn’t make much sense considering who it really is. And as with most slasher movies, any scenes with an attacking killer seem to occur in a vacuum; if a character is stalked, terrorized and eventually stabbed to death (even in a relatively public place), rest assured NO ONE will be around to come to their aid, or simply be there to witness it.

Kudos to: Wes Craven, who’s undoubtedly at his sharpest since Scream 2. Kevin Williamson, who made a movie with a 4 in the title surprisingly original. A pretty good new cast (holy shit did I ever think a spray-tanned Hayden Panettiere could sell herself as a bona fide horror geek?) and enough unsettling violence and gore to keep the wink-wink humor relatively in check.

Wrapping this shit up:

The beginning? Pretty damn good, lest some dickwad spoil it for you. At this point nothing will beat Drew Barrymore’s 10-minute tour-de-force, but at least they took a different approach instead of trying to replicate it.

The ending(s)? Not bad. If the killer reveal was a bit anticlimactic, the scenes that follow (and the eventual climax) certainly make up for it. Even the killer’s obligatory motive seems surprisingly of the times, even if the reveal itself makes for a few plot holes. Best ending since Billy and Stu poked each other a few times with a kitchen knife.

Apparently Kevin Williamson has a vague idea mapped out for the next two installments, should they actually happen. One thing this movie isn’t guilty of is leaving the end wide open for more. Considering how it plays out, I’m not really sure what he could possibly have in mind. I’m cautiously optimistic.

(Kudos to FilmDrunk for this)


One Response to “SCREAM 4: THE RESULTS”

  1. […] I know I reviewed this back when it opened, but a second viewing a few months later helped (I think) finalize my […]

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