“Scream 4” (2011) Review
Welcome to my first film review, I have decided to choose a recent film from what is probably my favourite film genre; horror. “Scream” (1996) (dir. Wes Craven) was the first horror film I ever watched, I was about eleven years old and thought I was hard for sneakily watching the film behind my parents back late at night. I was expecting to be terrified but instead I discovered a film that was cleverly written, with well-developed characters (normally in generic horror films the audience doesn’t usually grow attached to them!), the film was incredibly suspenseful and kept the audience on edge till the shocking climax. “Scream” inspired my interest in knowing what came before, I then got into other franchises such as “Halloween” (1978), “Friday the 13th” (1980) and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1983), it wasn’t till watching those I truly appreciated the cleverness of “Scream”, how it challenged the genre conventions and gave them a new twist while still conforming to the traditional rules. However I am now going to focus on the latest and surprising release from the franchise which until now was a trilogy.
When I first heard about “Scream 4” (2011) being in production part of me was excited as a new film was coming out from my favourite horror franchise, however on the other hand I was sceptical because “Scream 3” (2003) had given us closure, it was considered to be the final chapter. I looked forward to the film more once I’d heard Wes Craven (considered to be the master of horror) was directing again, Kevin Williamson who’d written the first and second installments was writing the script and the three original actors were returning, Neve Campbell (Sidney), Courtney Cox (Gale) and David Arquette (Dewey). Its unusual in a horror franchise for the original surviving characters to return, the concept is usually the same but with different characters an example of this would be in the “I Know what you did last Summer” (1997, 1998, 2006) and the “Urban Legend” (1998, 2000) films and even in the older franchises e.g. “Halloween”. Just another example of how the “Scream” films stand out from the rest. Since 2000, the genre has changed, despite being flooded with countless remakes, we have also had the new sub-genre of “torture porn” e.g. “Hostel” (2005) and “Saw” (2004), two contexts that “Scream” can now fit into and re-invent itself.
Now I’m going to look at the film itself, there are going to be spoilers in this review so if you don’t want to know I suggest you read no further till you have seen it:
I was entertained by the opening sequence of the film, the typical “Scream” scenario, although this time it was a sequence of two girls alone in the house, discussing the conventions of more recent horror films, followed by a creepy phone call from “the killer”; it was very clever how it kept the audience guessing and it was also parodying itself, for a moment I thought I was watching “Scary Movie” (2000) . We then got this “movie-within-a-movie” sequence, referring to the “Stab” franchise which is a “movie-within-a-movie” in “Scream 2” (1997) and “Scream 3” (2000)…confused?! This emphasises how the film isn’t taking itself too seriously and commenting on its own conventions. We then get the “real” murder scene which is practically identical to the films the characters have been watching, a criticism I would make here is this scene could have been slow and brutal like the opening of the first one with Drew Barrymore to emphasise its a real murder, but at the same time it does put the audience in an uncomfortable position, questioning “if we are watching a horror film that has a horror film within a horror film, then are we the reality?” OK now I’m confusing myself!
The “Torture porn” sub-genre isn’t really focused on apart from the references in the dialogue to “Saw”, they are more focused on conveying the remake concept. In the past two films, we have been taken out of the films original setting which is the fictional small town of Woodsboro; in “Scream 2” we had the university setting and “Scream 3” was set in hollywood with a replicate film set of woodsboro, I recall the “Stab 3” movie was titled “Return to Woodsboro” in a way foreshadowing the events of this film. The premise is simple Sidney Presscott has moved on with her life, its been 1o years, she’s written a book about her survivial and is ready to return to the town where her nightmare first began. She reconnects with Gale and Dewey who are both living there, Dewey is now the towns sheriff. The remaining characters are all new, representing the “new generation” however still incorporated characteristics of the older characters e.g. Charlie played by Rory Culkin had similar characteristics to Randy Meeks from the original, by being a film buff as well as Jill Roberts played by Emma Roberts, she is also Sidney’s cousin and has the same “victim” status as her.
The idea for the killers were to replicate everything that had happened in the first one but at the same time challenge it, for example the first film ends in a bloodbath at a house party, the party scenario takes place half way through the film in order to place the audience into a false sense of security.
I enjoyed the homages they paid to the original, the one that sticks out mostly for me is when Charlie is tied to a chair outside the patio doors and the killer is playing a “Movie trivia” game on the phone with Kirby played by Hayden Panettiere mirroring the original’s opening sequence with Casey Becker and her boyfriend Steven Orth; however in this instance the killer is again referring to recent remakes, whereas in “Scream” he relied on asking questions about the classic horror films. This leads into a hilarious tirade in which Kirby does not let him finish his question and starts listing all the recent horror remakes, e.g.”The Amytiville Horror”,”House of Wax”,” Texas Chainsaw Massacre” etc. emphasising the ridiculous amount of remakes that have been prominent in the genre for the last decade. I also enjoyed the homage they paid to the second film in the cinema screening, showing the clips of the original “Stab” which served as the first death sequence in the second movie.
A couple of things I would have liked to have seen in the movie would be, in the moment where Sidney is empathising with her cousin Jill who has just suffered the loss of her friend Olivia she refers back to losing her own best friend Tatum, I’m surprised she isn’t actually mentioned as she was also Dewey’s younger sister. Perhaps in the killer reveal where Charlie convinces himself he’s the “Randy” of the story Sidney could have commented that he would never be him.
I was impressed and moderately surprised with the killer reveal, it was amusing how they really believed they were exactly like the original killers Billy and Stu, I thought the domestic kitchen setting was a clever touch, however the killers did come across as more funny than scary especially when they mimicked Billy stabbing Stu in order to create authenticity and frame the murder on Jill’s boyfriend; they came across as two immature, fame hungry teenagers, but in a clever twist I didn’t expect Sidney’s own cousin Jill to commit the murders in order to win the “victim” title and become Sidney. The climax did go on for a while but still kept me on edge hoping they wouldn’t kill any of the main characters off.
….and they didn’t… “Scream” has always been unexpected and the audience is aware that any character is at risk, e.g. Randy’s death in the second film and Cotton Weary’s opening sequence death in the third, however Kevin Williamson has decided to let the core three survive even though it was touch and go at moments, I suppose the fans would be gutted if any of them were killed off, I know I would be, I also noticed Dewey didn’t get stabbed and left for dead like in the previous, I’m guessing the writer decided to let him off this time!
Yes the ending was satisfying enough, Sidney’s concluding line was brilliant “You know the thing about remakes, don’t fuck with the original!” Overall I thought the films premise was a clever idea and it did its best at mocking the conventions of the horror films we are subjected to today, however its never going to meet the same level the original did, perhaps because the element of surprise to an extent has now gone, we know what we’re getting. If I had to rate “Scream 4” I would give it a 7/10 for being witty and enjoyable with clever writing.
My Top “Scream” Films in Order would be :
1. “Scream 2” (1997)
2. “Scream” (1996)
3. “Scream 4” (2011)
4. “Scream 3” (2000)
….and that is my first review…sorry its a bit too long!
Hayley Alice Roberts.