Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Scream 4 review

    "They just don't know when to stop. They keep recycling the same ****. There's no element of surprise. You can see everything coming."
    -Rachel (Anna Paquin).

    The opening of Scream 4 has a movie within a movie within a movie. Really, towards the end of the opening scene I was of the mind that we were going to find it a movie within a movie within a movie within a...you know, screw it. You know what I meant. Scream 4's opening threatened to collapse on itself into a mass singularity of meta-textual self-awareness. It only barely avoided it by segueing into a slightly-less-self-aware-but-still-paint-by-the-numbers slasher film.

    Which is what I'm going to have to say about this. For a movie series which was based on avoiding formula, it has become its own formula. What's worse, is it actually references this in the movie. The attempts to lampshade the lampshade hanging occupy a fairly large portion of the narrative and I'm sure what to make of it.

    For those of you who don't know what the Scream formula is, it's fairly simple:

    You have Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courtney Cox), and Dewey (David Arquette) get involved with the latest attempt to imitate the original Woodsboro murders. Maybe the killer is a fan of the in-universe movies, maybe it's someone with a personal motivation.

    It doesn't matter. Everyone in the world will display an alarming lack of compassion towards the murders, treating them like a horror movie. A lot of new characters will be introduced, usually humanized in some manner. Most of these characters will end up dead. At some point, a character will explain some largely bull**** laws about horror movies fans will take as sacrosanct. There will be a climatic battle and our heroine(s) will triumph (or not since the movies' advertising goes to great lengths to imply no one is safe this time around).

I love Neve Campbell. I'd say I don't know why but I'd be lying.
    I'm not sure how you can do a series like this as strictly formula but they succeeded. The gimmick of Scream 4 is this is the reboot of the franchise. You could very easily call this Scream 4: The New Generation. I heard rumors about an MTV weekly series about the Scream franchise and you could very easily imagine this as one of the pilot scripts. You have a large cast of new teenage characters, one loosely related to Sidney, and you get to watch them react to the same events of the original taking place.

    This could have worked.

    Unfortunately, we once more run into the problem of the unnecessary Sidney Prescott. Except, this time it's the unnecessary Dewey and Gale Weathers too. Neve has much more to do this time around and I really enjoy her every time she's on screen but the new characters become stock archetypes the way the franchise used to be (semi-)good at avoiding. The only one who distinguishes herself is Hayden Panettiere's Kirby who isn't interesting but is sorta-interesting. That's how much of an impression they all made.

    It's not bad, though.

    That may surprise you. In fact, I may go so far to say that I enjoyed it more than Scream 3 despite the narrative starting to tick me off with how clever it thinks it's being. Scream 4 is strictly by formula but it's not a bad formula. Neve Campbell is the girl next door if the girl next door was really hot. Courtney Cox is effective as Lois Lane's best portrayal by anyone other than Margot Kidder. Hell, I even love Dewey despite David Arquette almost single-handedly destroying the WCW.

Our franchise's new heroines/possible victims. Some actual surprises here.
    Part of this is the movie piggy-backing on the original franchise's success and going in a direction I'm satisfied with. Rocky Balboa wasn't a good movie but it left you feeling okay about where the characters were at the end, even if it didn't do anything interesting with them. If you gave a **** about Rocky the character, it was a nice apology for Rocky V.

    This is relevant because the Scream characters start the movie in a place I appreciate. Sidney is now a self-help author, Gale and Dewey are married, and the Stab movies are finally dying down. Wes Craven made me care about the original heroes as much as I can for fictional people so I'm happy for them. That goodwill goes a long way.

    I'm just not sure it belongs in a slasher film.

     The movie doesn't have any of the laugh out-loud moments of Scream 3 but that's probably for the best. Even if the series has fallen into the same old trend of creating cardboard cut-outs for the Slasher to kill the humor detracts from the seriousness of the situation. Overall, I liked the film but I would be entirely okay if this were the ending of the franchise. I don't really see much room left for the (surviving) characters to develop.


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