Darke Reviews – Scream 4 (2011)


The final (for now) installment of the Scream franchise. After 11 years of rotting, the producers, director, and studio thought it was time to resurrect Scream. Perhaps they thought they had something new to say? Perhaps they thought they had something new to satire? Perhaps it was about the money. If it was the last, then they failed miserably. With a production budget of $40 million (same as Scream 3) they made a whopping $38 million (domestic). It looked decent out of the gate with a solid $18 million opening weekend, then dropped 62% in the second weekend. Of course, it was against Fast Five that weekend, which pulled in an amazingly stunning $86 million. So perhaps it was the other two?

Well, actually it was. According to an interview Craven actually thought he had a new story to tell. The landscape of horror has changed dramatically over the decade, actually, that is an understatement, the entire landscape of the world has changed since the last Scream film. Not even getting into the geopolitical landscape, lets look at technology:

Remember these cellphones?

Remember these cellphones?

 

Facebook, Twitter, the deceasing size of camera’s, the increasing size and power of phones. Hell, my first two computers were less powerful than my last two cellphones. Horror has changed so much as well. We had the rise and fall of Torture Porn. For those not familiar with the genre, think Saw, Hostel, etc. These are the films that have an overwhelming focus of the gory deaths, pain, and screams for the sake of the gore, death, and screams but not story. The middle part of the decade was littered with these films and we (wisely) got tired of them quick enough, even if we did get SAW 9000. We also had the re-introduction of the low budget horror with films like Paranormal Activity where “everything” is recorded. Young teens absolutely litter the landscape, and morgues,  of nearly every horror movie coming out during this time; so much so that we’ve grown tired of it. It might be part of the reason for the lack of success as well. There is a lot we are tired of in modern movies, horror is no exception. So what do you do if you are a horror film maker since the beginning of modern horror and want to engage modern audiences.

Well, respect them.

You’ve got Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson returning to work together as director and writer. These two need to work more together on other franchises. Please. They actually do as promised and deliver, again, an intelligent thriller where there are stakes, there are risks, and you do worry someone may die. They don’t insult the intelligence of the returning characters. They successfully mock modern media again, modern movies, while making self referential remarks about how self referential movie characters can be within the movies. It’s a weird inception thing, but I approve of the continued awareness of the characters. We are also in the age of the reboot and reimagining, which is also referenced equally. We returned again to the deaths that have a level of simplicity to them.

A knife. A body. It’s not that hard.

They stick to that which becomes another reason the film works. They also went back to the roots by returning to Woodsboro and the highschoolers. They don’t weaken anyone in the film and the kills are not nearly as comical as they were in the last two. There is a driven intensity to the film. Even the lighting and score queues seem to know it with additional near natural looking lighting and shadows for many of the sequences; to the point where I didn’t feel as if I was on a set but instead my own home. This brought the feeling of the modern home invasion horror to play, while still playing with the stereotypical slasher vibe. Media outreach and inherent millennial connectivity were relevant plot points to the film as well as what it takes for 15 minutes of fame and how modern media responds to it. As much as the media was mocked, deservedly so, the millennial generation was not. Ok, there was some just due to the nature of stereotypes that come to play in a movie, but otherwise they were all (mostly) actually pretty interesting characters in their own right.

Good scripting, helps, but of course good acting. Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courtney Cox can probably play their roles in their sleep. Sidney is no longer a victim or on the verge of fraying, but has tried to reemerge through a book of her own. She is still as strong, still a survivor, and still a fighter. I am not disappointed in her. Cox, sadly has the weakest role and I am not sure why. Where Arquette who had been the comical role takes on the more serious part and Cox gets the comedy. We have our usual introductions of potential up and comers, such as Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars), Alison Brie (Community), Emma Roberts (American Horror Story), and Eric Knudsen (Scott Pilgrim, Continuum). It also features a host of names we do know (or at least I know). Anna Paquin (True Blood), Marley Shelton (Grindhouse), Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars, Frozen), Hayden Panettiere (Nashville, Heroes), and Anthony Anderson (The Departed, Law & Order). Sadly no horror movie great cameo’s as we’ve had in previous films.

The technicals work out in this one fairly well as I spoke before. They wisely didn’t go with shaky cam as many movies these day do and kept with steady cam. The deaths work. So no real technical flaws here and yes when people are severely injured – they go to the hospital!!

TL;DR

As it was a financial wreck, I don’t imagine we will get another. I hope that we don’t unless there is a new story to tell and the landscape changes enough for them to have something truly to satire within the confines of a serious slasher film.

It isn’t a great, but it was a really good send off. I do recommend it, not just as part of a marathon of Scream films, but as a standalone film. It doesn’t treat the audience as an idiot. Its simplistic and complex and it works. I have to say I actually like Scream 4 – I think you might too.

If you don’t, let me know why? I always welcome other opinions on films.

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