Anyone who read my Scream Retrospective earlier this week will know I greatly respected the first movie and was looking forward to this installment. When I arrived at the theater, the teenage girl behind the counter told me that the new one was ‘really awesome’, but that she had never watched any of the first 3 movies because they looked ‘stupid’ and ‘lame’. For some reason, her ringing endorsement did not instill me with confidence, even though she was clearly an expert on the franchise.
Once inside, I was surprised that a 7:45 show, on opening night wasn’t more full. The theater was probably less than 1/2 capacity, and of the kids there, probably most were still in diapers when the original was released. The movie started in the expected way, a phone call and a discussion about horror movies. This time however, it didn’t seem so fresh. Now you’re probably thinking: “Of course it’s not fresh, it’s the 4th movie“, but I was expecting something new. And they do mix it up a bit, but while I don’t want to ruin anything, this ended up feeling more like a comedy than a horror flick.
Never have I watched a movie so self-aware of how cool it’s predecessor was. Scream 4 largely revolves around talking about how great the Stab franchise is. Stab being the movie within Scream 2, based on the first movie. So here you have a script written by Kevin Williamson (who wrote the first movie) that never stops stroking Kevin Williamson’s ego.
Our 3 returning Scream Staples – Sidney, Gale, and Dewey – seem to be nothing more than charactures of themselves. Sidney has written a book about her exploits and is on tour. Her last stop is Woodsboro. Gale has settled down and married Dewey, who is now the sheriff of Woodsboro, and employees a star-studded police force that made me feel more like I was watching Scary Movie 6 than an actual canon chapter of the franchise.
Adam Brody and Anthony Anderson are deputies that define a new level of ineptitude within the genre. Sure, cops always wind up dead in horror movies, but they usually at least seem competent before hand. There is never a point in the movie where you are made to believe these could even remotely protect anyone. They’re too busy talking about how cops always get killed in horror movies. The sad part, they are the most believable cops in the movie. Marley Shelton (Sin City/Grindhouse) plays another Deputy that is openly crushing on Dewey and doesn’t care that his wife is right there. Her character is so strange you wonder how she could ever be allowed to carry a gun. No police force in film history has ever instilled less confidence. That fact is cemented by Dewey’s shooting ability, and later his hand to hand combat scene with the killer. I won’t ruin anything, but Dirty Harry he is not.
Sid is staying with her Aunt and her teenage cousin Jill. Once people start dying and phone calls are streaming in, Jill is asked to stay home for her own protection. This leads to hearing her do nothing but compare her bedroom to a prison cell annoyingly for the rest of the movie. Life is so hard.
The rest of the high schoolers are equally irritating (which may be a sign of my age), so much so that I found myself actually rooting for the killer to end them. They are headlined by Hayden Panettiere (The Cheerleader in ‘Heroes’) who is in actuality only 20, but looks about 30 in here, and was at no point believable as a high schooler. She reminded me of a college creeper who likes younger guys, or is around cause she can buy beer. Kind of awkward…
Then we have the entire ‘Gale’ storyline. Her fall from grace since becoming a cop’s wife is so epic that she basically has to beg the High School Cinema Club to hang out with her and help solve the murders! And could you find a couple of less likable film geeks than the kid with the web-cam on his head and Macaulay Culkin’s little brother? I doubt it. Randy is probably rolling in his grave.
The cast though is one thing that the franchise has always counted as a strength. The amount of name actors in this movie certainly helped add to the buzz. Aside from the actors already mentioned, we see a whole plethora of recognizable faces, including local Detroit News 4 anchor – Devin Scillian. Plus Friday Night Lights star Aimee Teegarden and Allison Brie of Community. (Thanks to Warming Glow for the picture)
Anyhow, no surprise, this movie was totally style over substance. To be fair, there were a couple of parts I liked. The Kristen Bell scene was good, and there is a fight where a girl gets smashed into a picture on the wall, that was hilarious. But there was no point at which I jumped, nor saw anyone else around me jump. Normally, no matter how cheesy the movie is, a horror movie audience will always have a few girls who actually scream at the ‘scary’ parts. I heard none of that, but there was quite a bit of laughing…
In the end the movie came off obnoxiously pretentious and so self-aware that you can’t help but think that between this and Scream 3, the franchise has hurt the genre just as much as helped it. This is why I was so surprised to find that it has a critics score 59% on Rotten Tomatoes. That means 59% of the reviews were favorable. That’s about 6 out of every 10 critics gave it a passable grade. I guess I’d be in that 41% minority…
I give Scream 4 a score of 2 Bears. 1 Bear, out of respect for the original movie. And another Bear for putting Kristen Bell and Allison Brie in one movie.