Anyone who read my Scream Retrospective earlier this week will know I greatly respected the original Scream 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 three 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 half-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 fourth movie,” but I guess I was expecting something new.
Never have I watched a movie so self-aware of how cool its predecessor was, but it’s a new day. Scream 4 largely revolves around talking about how great the Stab franchise is. Stab being the movie within Scream 2, based on the events of 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 three returning Scream Staples – Sidney, Gale, and Dewey – seem to be nothing more than caricatures 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 regularly wind up dead in horror movies, but they usually at least seem somewhat competent beforehand. There is never a point in the movie where you are made to believe these guys could even remotely protect anyone. The sad part, they are the most believable cops in the movie. Sin City‘s Marley Shelton plays another Deputy that is openly crushing on Sheriff Dewey, and either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care that his wife is in the room. 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.
The teens in this movie are so irritating (which may be a sign of my age), that I found myself actually rooting for the killer to end them. They are headlined by Hayden Panettiere (Heroes), who is in actuality only 20, but looks about 30 in here, and was at no point believable as a high schooler.
Then we have the entire ‘Gale’ storyline. Starting with her fall from grace since becoming a cop’s wife, which 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 number of name actors in this movie certainly helped add to the buzz. Aside from those already mentioned, we see a whole plethora of recognizable faces, including local Detroit News 4 anchor – Devin Scillian, Friday Night Lights star Aimee Teegarden and the incredible Allison Brie.
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 someone gets smashed into a picture on the wall, that was hilarious. But there was no point where they had set up a scare well enough for it to pay off.
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.
Overall Score: Scream 4 – 2/5 Bears
– 1 out of respect for the original movie.
– 1 for putting Kristen Bell and Allison Brie in the same movie.
Images: Dimension Films