“You forgot the #1 rule about reboots; don’t F**k with the original”
After an 11 year hiatus the Scream franchise returns to give us yet another parody of the horror genre. After the trilogy wrapped up in 2000 many of the fans believed that director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson had mocked the horror genre well enough with all of the meta humor that things may have been getting stale. The trilogy went out on a soft note; not necessarily leaving fans with a bad taste in their mouth, but also not delivering the strongest ending to the tale. Luckily the horror genre has changed and progressed into something completely different in the last 11 years which allows Craven and Williamson to breath new life into the Scream franchise as they take another stab (no pun intended) at making a great horror-comedy film. The big question on viewers mind is can Scream 4 pull off another great parody or has the Scream series become as arbitrary and pointless as the many series it has parodied.
If the original Scream parodies horror movies, the second Scream parodies sequels, and the third Scream parodies trilogies; what else is there left to parody? Luckily the horror genre has evolved since Scream 3 which gives Scream 4 a whole host of new material to draw from. Scream 4 parodies remakes and reboots of horror movies; a trend that has been very popular in the last decade. There are loads of jokes referencing all of the film series that have been rebooted as well as film series (*Saw* cough, cough) that have made a ridiculous amount of sequels in recent years. This actually gives the film a whole new direction as the idea of “reboot” or “reinvention” is a huge theme in the film that plays directly into the plot and the rules that guide the characters in the movie. As with all the Scream movies the characters come to realize that they are dealing with a killer who plays by the rules of horror movies. With this film they use the rules of modern horror movies which means they pretty much throw out most of the old rules and do whatever is unexpected (it is actually stated in the movie that the unexpected is the new cliche). Along with the rules this means that this film follows a plot structure that is similar to but not exactly like the original. This means that this film has plenty of nods to the original but still manages to become its own animal.
The story again follows Sidney Prescott(Neve Campbell) who is wrapping up a book tour for her new book in Woodsboro on the fifteenth anniversary of the original Woodsboro murders. The night she arrives two teenagers are killed by the ghostface killer. I should note that the intro to this movie with the opening murders is extremely clever and funny. I do not want to spoil it to for anybody, but I must say that they certainly mix up the intro with a little bit more meta-humor than normal. After these two murders the whole town is put on lockdown(again) and Sydney is forced to stay in town for the investigation. As the film continues we are quickly reunited with Dewey(David Arquette), who is now the sheriff of Woodsboro, and Gail(Courteney Cox) who is now a writer who is married to Dewey. Aside from the characters we have already seen in the other films we meet a whole new group of teenagers that are all friends with Sydney’s cousin Jill(Emma Roberts). Jill’s friends include two best friends(Hayden Panettiere and Marielle Jaffe), a suspicious ex-boyfriend(Nico Tortorella), and two movie nerds (Erik Knudsen and Rory Culkin). The younger cast is supposed to more or less represent the rebooted story while the older cast represent the survivors of the older horror movies. The two groups’ stories intertwine for most of the movie until they eventually all come together to tie everything everything up. There are many other characters introduced throughout the movie and just like the prior Scream films, everyone’s a suspect. This film actually makes it very difficult to make concrete guesses on who the killer is because of the way it sets up the possibility for so many of the characters. I have to applaud the writing because even though I know the usual tricks of the Scream films, I still didn’t fully suspect the person(or people) who ended up being the killer(s).
The film has plenty of twists and turns and like the previous installments you can still take the film seriously enough. The movie still has some pretty creative kills and a high body count. So to call this film a comedy would not be completely accurate as its not all laughs. In the end there is some legitimate growth for the characters and there is an interesting motive behind all of the things that are happening. That being said this film never takes itself too seriously. There are still quite a few references to both classic and modern horror movies as well as their “rules”. Every time the film begins to get a little too serious there are some great jokes an meta-humor that remind you that you aren’t watching just any slasher flick; you’re watching a great horror-comedy directed by Wes Craven. This is great because like the original you can watch the movie as a legit horror movie, but also as a parody that never lets itself get too carried away with its drama. The writing is smart, clever, and creative as it creates moments of laughter but also intensity. I have to applaud writer Kevin Williamson for continuing to find the right balance of humor and horror.
Overall I have to say that I was certainly impressed in how Scream 4 was able to manage being a sequel, a reboot, and a parody of reboots. The movie continues to push the series forward as it offers up what could be either the opening to a new trilogy or a really solid ending to the series. The old characters are still likeable and quirky while the new characters are equally quirky, but also intriguing. They represent what has changed in horror movies since the last installment. Since the year 2000 there have been many advancements in technology such as the rise of iphones, facebook, and web blogging. In the film these advancements don’t become gimmicks, but the film also does not pretend like they don’t exist either. This film is a must see for anyone who claims to be a fan of the horror genre because of its genre referencing meta-humor. As long as there is a horror genre there will be parodies and nobody has yet to parody the genre better than the Scream series, and I’m glad to say that Scream 4 continues to be the best parody of horror movies even in this new generation of the genre.
The film manages to tell a story very similar to the original in structure. The movie is able to stay highly suspenseful for most of the movie as the killings get more and more intense and the identity of the killer gets more and more mysterious with each new character introduced. The film does eventually pay off at the end of the film when the identity of the killer is revealed and the motive behind all is explained. All of this is well done and makes for an interesting conclusion. The film continues to draw laughter with all of its references to other horror movies and their so called rules. The movie is somewhat serious, but never takes itself too seriously. There’s a healthy balance of humor and drama.
The Scream movies would be nothing without the direction of Wes Craven and the writing of Kevin Williamson and Scream 4 is no different. Their ability to make the film serious and humorous at the same time is absolutely key to the film. They really capitalize on all of the trends in modern horror and the film thrives because of it.
Despite the fact that these films do have likable and interesting characters; these aren’t particularly character driven films. That being said this category really does not have a huge impact on my overall score because I’m not really watching this movie for character growth or development(although there definitely is some). The film contains a few familiar faces and several new ones. The film does a great job at introducing all of the new characters and making them intriguing in the least. In the end all of the character motivations make sense and the resolve we get for the survivors is nice.
Overall Effectiveness of the Film: 8.5
The movie succeeds in its strengths and flat out ignores most of its weaknesses. This movie’s biggest weakness is that audiences already come into the movie knowing there is going to be a huge plot twist in the end which leads the audience to try to figure the film out before it even has time to make it past the first hour. Even though I don’t believe many people will be able to figure some of this stuff out; I wouldn’t be surprised if some people walk away disappointed because their mind wasn’t blown. I think that is a testament to how well the series is as a whole. The film’s greatest strength is that it is very clever and intelligent in its writing. Horror fans will find plenty to laugh about and get freaked out about, and in the end I think that is why most people are watching these movies; to laugh at the ridiculousness of the meta-humor, but also to watch something that resembles a scary movie.
Overall Score 8.5