Thursday, 9 February 2012

Scream 4 (2011)

Eleven years on since the end of the original Scream trilogy, it is an obvious observation to state that the horror genre has changed significantly. Therefore, writer Kevin Williamson has been given much ammunition to collaborate again with modern horror auteur Wes Craven bringing to the screen another entry in the franchise that smartly sums up the general sad sorry state of the genre with more self-referential commentary. All this is supplemented by disturbingly reflecting on current popular culture in Western society with probably the most effective revel twist ending of the series. With the hope of opening the doors to another trilogy ‘Scream 4’ succeeds in being the cleverest most sophisticated piece of satire since the original 1996 film. However, Williamson is more concerned with bringing his sharp-eyed fanboy views to the forefront and making the actual horror play second fiddle producing a more black comedy parody on celluloid frights.

Director Craven makes the most out of it though by employing the most bloody and brutal chase and kills sequences depicted so far in the franchise. This itself is a nod to just how gruesome and mean spirited American horror has become since the new generation of "splat pack" filmmakers i.e. Eli Roth, Rob Zombie etc have injected more bloodletting into cinematic terror since the turn of the century after the watered down for the masses safe horror of the 90s. It also takes a stab (yes, the groan inducing clichéd pun is intended) at the preposterous over the top nature of the bloodthirsty violence in today’s gene output from the likes of the Saw series and other outings in the so-called sub-genre of the media labelled "torture porn". These set-pieces offer some rousing edge of your seat thrills that were severely lacking in the over in a flash ones of ‘Scream 3’ (2000). It is a much more prolonged affair here. This firmly stamps Wes Craven’s influence onto a movie that is really more of the writer’s vision. The director has always been capable of executing with such skilled craft highly memorable sequences of this nature.

Unfortunately, another flaw in Kevin Williamson’s screenplay is the misuse of humour during some of these scenes. The misplaced comedy interferes with the seriousness of the said terrifying situations. While Williamson’s script is indeed good and the best since the first film in terms of that it has a lot more to say than the last two sequels, it lacks that perfect combination of horror and comedy of the original. A fine line it walked along very carefully and never once fell off never letting the two elements corrupt each other. Although, it is a hell of a fist in the air experience for any true hardcore horror enthusiasts who are mortified by the lack of originality going  on in their beloved genre. It is very refreshing to have a third sequel in a series being more original than Hollywood studio’s shate out horror remakes and reboots. The screenwriter actually projects the fans’ impassioned collective feelings onto the screen in such a sharp and witty observational way to say fuck you to these retreads for messing with the innovation that horror filmmaking is so capable of having. ‘Scream 4’ is just as on the ball of deconstructing the genre as the first movie but whereas that was a love letter to it, here it is a far more cynical view.

The basic plot is there to serve the purposes of throwing many red herrings our way to go back to the first two films through dialogue and staged moments while taking swipes at remakes/reboots and introducing us to a new generation of characters that make up protagonists, suspects and disposable slasher fodder. Of course, it also gets us reacquainted with three much loved characters. Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to her hometown of Woodsboro where it all started to promote her self-help book ‘Out of Darkness’ and meets up again with the now sheriff of the town Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and his now wife Gale Weathers Riley (Courteney Cox). But all is not well as Ghostface returns and carves up two schoolmates of Sydney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and leaving her and her friends as potential victims while the killer reminds Sydney that everywhere she goes everybody around her always die. What does the murderer wearing the costume this time want with her?

Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s over a decade long absence from the franchise has left them with a renewed enthusiasm for the material, and while the ingredients to the formula remain largely the same this instalment is far from stale. That is something the third entry was it became like a slasher the first two movies were dissecting as a survival guide for the characters. The hook of the killer making a trilogy was not handled predominately well. This contribution to the series is a most welcome return to form. While ‘Scream 4’ is not going to be as remarkably groundbreaking for this decade it is a dam worthy follow-up to one of the best horror films of the 90s. It is on a par with ‘Scream 2’ (1997) or is possibly better as a contender for best sequel. Time will tell in weighing up the pros and cons of each movie but it for sure makes up for the lacklustre ‘Scream 3’.

All in all despite some short comings ‘Scream 4’ is a good time from start to finish and offers a lot of food for thought in its relative to the times shocking ending that will stay with you for a good while after. There is a lot more meat on the bones here than the majority of the studio Hollywood remakes and reboots that it is sticking a middle finger up to. If there is to be a further two entries to make this proposed new trilogy then this is a good way to start. Slashtastic times are here again. 

*** out of ****

Dave J. Wilson

©2012 Cinematic Shocks, Dave J. Wilson - All work is the property of the credited author and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.

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