Scream 4

“Where is the next Wes Craven?” That’s how I ended my review of Wes Craven’s Scream fifteen years ago. Now I have to ask, Where is the current Wes Craven? Scream 4, which nobody particularly wanted except executive producer Bob Weinstein, is further proof that the director who unleashed such horror classics as Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street is long gone. All of those films have been poorly remade in recent years, and Scream 4, I think, would like to consider itself a commentary on the remakes and reboots that have choked the horror genre for the last decade. Instead it just becomes part of the problem.

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the Final Girl heroine of the previous Scream films, returns to her hometown of Woodsboro after ten years as part of a book tour for her new memoir. Almost immediately, the Ghostface killings start up again. Who’s the killer — or killers? Does it really matter? The Scream movies have offered increasingly ridiculous reveals of the killers’ true identities, and this one is no different — actually, I take that back; it’s even more ridiculous, given that the people involved are so tiny and spindly they’re hardly credible as slashers who can ram a blade into tough flesh and, in one case, a forehead. Do the filmmakers (including returning screenwriter Kevin Williamson) have any idea how hard the human skull is? That’s why brain surgeons use bone saws.

The movie takes easy shots at such fat targets as the horror subgenre “torture porn,” which is generally agreed to have died on June 8, 2007, when Hostel Part II opened to the sound of yawns and crickets. But you just go ahead and snark about it anyway, Kev. There’s also a good deal of movie-within-the-movie meta-nonsense involving the horror series Stab, based on Sidney’s experiences; we’re told there are now seven Stab films, all of which look more fun than the movie we’re actually watching. The clownish cop Dewey (David Arquette) and the erstwhile reporter Gale (Courteney Cox) are back, seemingly re-enacting the actors’ marital troubles we’ve heard too much about lately; Gale is bored of Dewey and he knows it (but stops short of whining to Howard Stern about it).

The secret of the original Scream‘s success was trumpeting Drew Barrymore’s presence in all the ads and then killing her off in the first scene. From there, the movie was on wheels: all bets were off, anything was possible. There wasn’t yet a lucrative franchise to endanger by picking off a major character. There sure is now (word is that Bob Weinstein hopes Scream 4 will be the first of a new trilogy). And so we never fear for Sidney, Dewey or Gale, much less any of the newer characters (Alison Brie, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettierre), whom we barely care about. Needless to say, the movie is never less scary than when it tries to be, and oftentimes it doesn’t even bother to try. If people being murdered made something a horror story, then ABC’s Castle would be a horror series (and Castle is consistently more tense and entertaining than anything in Scream 4). All that’s left is someone running around in a cloak and Edvard Munch mask, a visual parodied so often by now it’s lost its punch. Fifteen years ago, I ended my Scream review by saying that the horror genre needed a new face. It now needs considerably more than that.

Explore posts in the same categories: horror, one of the year's worst, sequel

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