Scream 4

The cash-in.
Wes Craven
Neve Campbell, Hayden Panittiere, Courtney Cox, David Arquette
The Setup: 
Bald-faced money-making scheme by those who thought they could squeeze a few more dollars out of this.

I've actually never seen any of the Scream movies--I walked out of the first one--so when a copy of this arrived for free I thought Sure, it might be fun. I had heard that it was awful, but that's never been an impediment, right? Well, all the criticisms I had heard about it turned out to be quite true, in addition to the fact that it is way too long, and neither interesting, funny nor scary.

We open with two young women watching a scary movie. They discuss the Saw films and how they're so over torture porn, then receive a menacing phone call, then get killed. Then--turns out that was Stab 4. And then we see two other young women watching that, and they discuss how horror is dead, because of movies like that, and there's no surprises anymore, then one of the women stabs the other. Then--turns out that was Stab 7. Then we gave two more young women watching THAT, and they receive a menacing call, suspense, and they're both killed by Ghostface. Then finally the Scream 4 title. Woah man, that was like so, so meta.

We now have the arrival of Sydney, Neve Campbell from the first three films, who is returning to promote her book about the killings. We re-establish Courtney Cox as duplicitous reporter Gale, and her husband, David Arquette as Dewey. Then we meet a younger generation of victims, led by Hayden Panetierre as Jill, Sydney's cousin. She has two friends, and there is talk of a stalker boyfriend, Trevor, who she broke up with but is still lingering around. Blah, blah, they find the bodies, they know there's a killer in town, and the murders are connected to Sydney. The movie flirts with the idea that people think Sydney herself is the killer, before that angle is dropped.

I can always tell when a movie is boring when there's almost nothing I am inspired to write down to remember about it. A bunch of people get killed in ways that I just never found that scary. At this point Ghostface looks like a silly Halloween costume, not a figure that has any scary resonance, like Michael Myers. The movie name-drops a ton of classic horror movies, many of which are Craven's own, which only adds to the general feeling of cynicism. There is one gory murder, in which we see intestines spilling out of the victim, but for the most part they're just relatively tame stabbing with blood that is almost black. Then we go to this gathering at a character's house that goes on so long it stops the movie dead. Around this time I checked this thing's running time--you can usually count on these things to have the courtesy not to exceed 90 minutes--only to find that this is an inexcusable near TWO HOURS! But around now, with 20 minutes left to go, the SHOCKING REVELATION!

Sydney is working to protect her niece Jill when--Jill stabs her in the stomach! Jill is the killer! She then gives the long speech explaining her motives, which is that she grew up in the shadow of Sydney her whole life, and now SHE wants to be the hero and get all the attention. Jill has been taping all the murders, and is going to post them on YouTube, and be a star! When Sydney asks her how she could kill all her friends, Jill responds "I don't need friends, I need fans." There is another teen who has been helping her all along, the patented Scream two-killer formula, but Jill kills him and her stalker Trevor, making it look like THEY are the killers. Then there's a scene--a too-long scene--where she sets up the evidence and stabs herself, smashes herself into a picture, and throws herself onto a glass table. It can't help but recall the similar scene in Fight Club. They're all brought to the hospital, and we see a line of TV reporters hailing Jill as a hero.

Then Dewey let's slip to Jill, in the hospital, that Sydney is still alive. Jill sneaks out--this is the Halloween II-type deserted hospital--and goes into Sydney's room to finish her off. We manage to bring all of the older principals into the one room, have a big showdown, and all the principals live while Jill dies. The end.

Ick. I felt like quite the chump after watching this whole thing. The main thing is it just wasn't scary or funny. The scares are primarily jump-out-say-boo scares (at least the were no false jump scares), and the script seems to think that just mentioning a bunch of other horror films will automatically be CLEVER and meta, without thinking about whether it's meta in a way that says or MEANS anything. I have had my doubts when I hear the earlier films praised as akin to the works of Derrida, but my friend told me about one bit from an earlier film in which we see a menacing shot of a hand reaching out to cut the phone line--only to have a character pull out her cell. Which is clever and tweaks the conventions of horror films in a knowing way. So maybe the was some cleverness at some point? By this time all that's left is name-dropping and cynicism.

Speaking of cynicism, the revelation of the killer's motives is just cynical, something we have seen before, and reeks of an easy solution based on the reading of a teen culture piece in Time magazine. Not to mention that the film is ungainly in trying to shoehorn in the cast of the original films, who are looking a bit old for this kind of thing, and a new cast of young hotties. This leaves the original cast without much to do--Sydney seems to spend the entire movie stirring tea and wondering if she heard something, Cox does variations on unscrupulous reporter trying to horn in on the action routine, and poor Dewey, who fares the worst of the lot, spends the entire movie somewhere else, receiving news of a murder, and shouting "I'll be right there!"

Any and all of which would be fine if this thing were the least bit scary, or had some real scary resonance, or something worthwhile to say. It's pretty sad when a movie like this makes Halloween H20 look like the RIGHT way to revisit a horror franchise years later.

Should you watch it: 

I would think you'd have to be pretty desperate.