Film Review – Scream 4
I was ten years old when the first Scream movie hit theaters. I think it’s worth noting that this is actually the first Scream film I’ve seen in an actual cinema as I was a lame kid who always went to the movies with his parents and I didn’t want to see horror movies with them. It wasn’t until I was sixteen with my own car that I started seeing movies on my own and I soon learned how easy it was to find theaters who would let you into R-rated movies even if you were like nine years old without parental supervision. Horror movies to me came in the form of late night broadcasts on cable movie channels or VHS tapes dying their last breaths after years of abuse. I saw Aliens at a friend’s house when I was ten. He also introduced me to Halloween and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which I’d seen the box for in a video store two years prior and had nightmares about sight-unseen.
I didn’t see the original Scream until the third one hit VHS and a group of middle-school buddies and I marathoned the whole series. We enjoyed the first two but I distinctly remember the third one leaving the foul stench of acrid ass-juice in our collective mouths. By the end it had become a joke. And then shortly afterward Scary Movie came along and I think we all agreed that the slasher genre was pretty much done for. It just wasn’t doing it for anybody anymore. Jason X coming out my sophomore year in high-school furthered my belief that horror icons like Jason and Freddy and now Ghostface were pretty much a dead breed. They had been replaced by sopping wet girls crawling out of TV sets and meowing like cats or other such bullshit. Then the Saw franchise came along and gave us an all new kind of horror movie. Torture porn became the new standard with films like Hostel trying to raise the bar of gore tolerance while never being what you could call scary.
Wes Craven decided to go back to the well and prove that the slasher genre was still viable. And while the movie is clever and entertaining as all hell, it can’t be called scary even in the slightest. I don’t think he really wanted it to be scary per-se. There is a fair amount of tension, and Craven and writer Williamson never forget that everyone has to be expendable, thus creating a real sense of danger around every character. But for the man who was once called “the master of fear” this isn’t a return to that form. This is an excercise in showing that the horror film doesn’t have to be a dour energy-sucking marathon like the Saw franchise or any of its imitators. It borders on the edge of satire but doesn’t quite make it because it falls under its own gun at times.
But the good outweighs the bad by a rather large margin. Everyone here is on target. I was surprised at how Emma Roberts handled herself and for the first time since the first season of Heroes I found myself not entirely hating Hayden Panettiere (who really should have considered a stage name that I didn’t have to google for correct spelling. Maybe that’s why I hated her for so long…). For the longest time there was something severely offputting about her and I could never figure out what it was, but here she made herself seem like a girl you could envision yourself actually crushing on. The returning cast didn’t seem to miss a beat at all and Alison Brie drops an f-bomb, which gave me an awkward boner.
Seriously, If you liked any of the previous three you need to see this one, though. It redeems the series in a way that is more than admirable. You almost forget how bad that last installment was. Almost.