December 10, 2012

Scream 4 (2011)

Scream 4, directed by Scream vet Wes Craven and starring sole survivors Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courtney Cox, is so frickin' meta it even refers to itself as meta. While the original characters serve their purpose, anyone new exists to tell everyone how truly meta they are. Scream 4 should have been titled Meta-Scream 4 because, while Kevin Williamson's dialogue is as sharp as it was in the original film, the plot is a different story ... well, a meta-one, in which Scream 4 utilizes the Scream template and creates a film where the only surprise might be just how meta it will all get.

I can't say I didn't enjoy the movie. The opening 10 minutes is creative and effective at tricking you multiple times. And the ending offers a few interesting surprises, including the identity of the killer (something none of the Scream films post the original have been able to fully pull off), as well as one of the best film one liner I've heard in a loooooooong time.

But it's the middle that hurts: so much of what could have been, so much talent, so much effort. That is the big thing: effort. Williamson, the screenwriter, tries so very hard to make this meta-piece so clever and genius that it looks like a kid trying way too hard to impress his parents. The effort is there ... the delivery is way short, with the best of intentions.

Scream was a revelation, a film that changed horror films forever. It is not easy to replicate. Just look at Scream 2, which took everything good about the first film, simply regurgitated it and made it 'trendy'. Aside from the stellar opening sequence and some fantastic cinematic flourishes by director Craven, Scream 2 was kind of a big budget mess.

Scream 3 was a surprise in that it tried to get back to the heart of what made Scream 1 work ... mystery and a connection to characters we loved. Though the suspension of disbelief in Scream 3 was pushed to it's very limits by the lengths you had to go to in your mind to connect Scream 3 with Scream 1, the delivery of what was a great script, filled with humor and the mixture of dark comedy violence and genuine scares, is what makes Scream 3 a worthy entry in the franchise.

But Scream 4 lacks consistent humor. Anyone could have directed the film as Craven shows no artistic ability whatsoever with the film, doing a plain by-the-numbers approach to the proceedings. Sadly, Scream 4 also abandons it's heart: the love of characters. Craven and Williamson expect us to be behind Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) simply because she is in the movie. The duo also expects us to find Gale (Cox) funny and bitchy because she was before. And good old Sheriff Dewey (Arquette) ... funny simply because he was funny before.

Williamson was so focused on making clever connections to today's horror films (many of which he does hit right on the nose) that he forgot to make us genuinely feel for the remaining characters from the previous three films. Also, the victims, though acted surprisingly well from top to bottom by the actors, are nameless creatures ... as lifeless before their deaths as they were once dead.

The cast is impressive. Aside from the main cast, Emma Roberts, who I can't figure out if she is hot or not, gives a very Neve Campbell performance as the latest teen focus of the most recent bloodbath. Hayden Panettiere, who I have no problems with finding hot, is very good as movie-buff unattainable-hottie Kirby. Alison Brie, Anthony Anderson, Rory Culkin, and Marley Shelton make up the rest of the main cast and do well with what they are given.

Sadly, and I never thought I'd say this ... ever, is the film really misses Jamie Kennedy. Seriously. In Scream 3 they found a way to fit him in despite his character dying in Scream 2. But no go here ... even in this fancy internet age when everything and everyone is online in some capacity. But it is tiny attention to details like that that make Scream 4 kind of lifeless: no attempts at connecting us to what we loved in the first place. Kennedy is just one example. Scream 4 has this problem all running time long.

But the film is worth viewing for it's great opening 10-15 minutes and multiple sleight of hands as well as the killer reveal and the electric, literally, final 15 minutes. But if you can stand an hour and a half of the middle, I salute you. Even Scream 2 is worth repeat viewings ... Scream 4 is relegated to my memory banks to stay.

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