I watched Scream 4 solely because I am a completist. Nature abhors a vacuum, although there was really no big hole to be filled from the lackluster Scream 3. my big issue coming into the film is how its motif would fit in with today’s horror. The Scream series is as much a satire on horror as it is horror itself. The genre has changed a lot in the last decade with torture porn, found footage, zombie flicks, and ghosts of creepy kids replacing the hack and slash films of which the series used to poke fun.
I am not especially hip to today’s popular horror themes, so I was not even certain how much a satire would resonate. Turns out, I need not worry. There was very little updated beyond some jokes about the abundance of remakes that have come down the line in recent years. Ghostface is his usual self stabbing a bunch of pretty people. While I need not to have worried whether I could get into the satire of today’s horror, I found myself bored by the same old, same old. There was nothing new.
The bad thing is Scream 4’s weakness is the strength of the other installments--the returning cast. Sidney, Dewey, and Gail are back for a fourth go around with a brand new Ghostface who needs yet another reason to murder his victims. Seriously, what do these guys and girls have to have done in life to get three different people willing to don a costume in order to murder them? Someone else thinks Sidney has ruined his life enough to merit murdering her? Geez, hon. Maybe its you who are the problem. Not that I could blame sweet Neve Campbell for anything. I still have a thing for her lingering from the ‘90’s.
When I said there was nothing new, I think that was meant to be part of the idea behind the film. The current ghost face is rebooting the original film with a bunh of new kids who mirror the original cast. It was possible to have fun with the idea, but its falls flat in execution. I chalk it up to dividing screen time between the new kids and the old guard. There was not enough crossover between their respective plights to merit such a thing. It is another reason the old guard should not have appeared. The spotlight would have been exclusively on the new kids. The audience was bound to be full of dedicated fans. They would have gotten the homage to the original film without the old cast there. Probably would have been more amusing, to boot.
So the homage often fails. The films drags quite a bit in places which evaporate the tension. It does not help either that Scream 4 has more jokes than the others. They tend to be about the remakes and reboots that have filled the horror genre as of late. I said above I am not that big on today’s horror, so I did not laugh as often as I did in the previous films when the trappings of slasher flicks and pop culture in general were being skewered. Maybe I am just getting old, huh/ I would have preferred less humor and more tension. Some creative kills, too. There is a serious been there, done that vibe to them. It is Ghostface and a knife. The killer’s true identity is ridiculous and his motives even worse, so the entertainment value of the kills is more important. So much for that, then.
Scream 4 barely recupped its budget at the box office, so I assume I am not alone in being under whelmed by it. Nostalgia just does not carry the film as much as was obviously intended. Much of that can be blamed on the script. It was heavily rewritten from an original draft by Kevin Williamson. Hans Zimmer is gone as well. The music helps tighten the screws in these films. The absence of the master is keenly felt. But hey, Alison Brie and Hayden Panettiere are pretty to look at, so there’s that.
Bottom line is Scream fans ought to watch, but lower their expectations. This will most certainly be the last one unless Wes Craven can pump one out on half the budget. Frankly, it is struggling with the resources already at hand. Worth watching, but could have been better.
Rating: *** (out of 5)