Movie Review - Scream 4

Scream 4 is as its predecessors were. It's a slasher film that also stands as a critique and parody of other slasher films, and the Scream movies don't simply critique and parody other slasher films, but also other types of films, be they horror or even action flicks. In doing so, each always operates under an umbrella of certain rules and conventions, conventions that typify whatever genre of movie they happen to target. Scream 2 operated under the conventions of sequels, probably because it was one. Scream 3 took on trilogies.
With all the talk in Hollywood lately about remakes and reboots, Scream 4 works under that umbrella. Written by Kevin Williamson who wrote the first three and who also created the TV series Dawson's Creek, he delivers a warped, Dawson's view of remakes and reboots, but placed into the minds and mouths of deranged, teenage film geeks who now use digital technology to document and manipulate their lives.
The problem is Williamson doesn't tread any new ground or hit any notes that weren't already hit in Scream 3 in terms of the whole movie-within-a-movie idea. He merely takes it to extreme levels here. He recycles a lot of his own material and because this is supposed to be a reboot of the original movie some 15 years later, but with mostly the same cast, Williamson mostly recycles everything from the first Scream. It's almost to the point where every major scene from that first movie is basically replayed here as well as some major scenes from the other two just for good measure.
Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, returns to her home town of Woodsboro, California. It's the last stop of her book tour. Sidney wrote a self-help book based on her experiences in the first three movies. While she's in Woodsboro, murders of innocent girls start up again. A killer wearing black shrouds and a ghostface mask goes around and stabs people to death after first calling them on their cell phones and taunting them with movie trivia.
David Arquette plays Sheriff Dewey Riley, Sidney's long-time friend and soft-spoken investigator looking into the murders. Courteney Cox plays Gale Weathers, Dewey's wife and the sassy, in-your-face journalist who reported on the original killings. Dewey doesn't want Gale getting involved but Gale thinks she can get another book out of it or merely the satisfaction or rush of solving the case.
It's a murder mystery that may keep you guessing, but the revelation at the end is nothing more than an amalgamation of the revelations from the first three movies. Director Wes Craven accomplishes something, however, that makes all this recycling and all this self-referential, meta-filmmaking tolerable. Craven crafts this movie so that it's fast and fun. Though there are some crazy murders, it's all done rather tongue-in-cheek or over-the-top. It's almost intentionally ridiculous, as if Craven is trying to embrace a type of humor here. At times, it feels like Craven is doing a comedy. In one scene, characters are watching Shaun of the Dead (2004), which in many ways took its queue from Scream. The comedy isn't the same as Simon Pegg or Edgar Wright's, but some parallel lines could definitely be drawn between the two.
Yet, when I say that Craven crafts this movie so that it's fast, I mean that he does what I noticed about both Christopher Nolan's Inception and The Dark Knight. This movie could have been three hours long, but it flies by pretty quickly and you never truly feel like there is a dull moment. Craven builds a momentum here and doesn't really slow it down. It feels like the body count is higher than in previous films, and some may criticize that Scream 4 is just one senseless kill after another, but isn't that what a slasher film is supposed to be?
It's okay because the movie is energetic enough and tense enough, and some death scenes are choreographed well enough that it makes up for any flaws. Campbell's performance has been consistently good throughout the Scream series. She always brings a strength and a gravitas that has evolved her from generic movie victim to genuine horror heroine. Arquette and Cox are just cool and entertaining. The meta-commentary on their marriage was also quite funny.
It perhaps didn't help that literally hours before watching this movie I saw Sidney Lumet's Deathtrap (1982), starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve. Craven's Scream 4 devolves into a killer planning a movie-within-a-movie with hopes of celebrity and stardom. Lumet's Deathtrap was similarly about a killer planning a play-within-a-play with the same hopes. If I hadn't seen Lumet's film, I might have been more impressed with Craven's, as Lumet's film was better written in terms of dialogue and character. But, Scream 4 is certainly the Deathtrap for the Twitter generation.
Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some teen drinking.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 51 mins.


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