31 Days of Dreadtober(2017): Revisiting the Scream Franchise (Part 4)
In 2008, it was announced by the Weinstein Company that there would be a new Scream movie, the fourth in the franchise, and Wes Craven said he would direct it with the proviso that Kevin Williamson write the script. Clearly, he was not thrilled with the Scream 3 script by Ehren Kruger. Kevin Williamson not only wrote the script to Scream 4, but like he did with the previous trilogy, he also did treatments for Scream 5 and Scream 6. The Weinsteins reportedly loved the new trilogy, but began to change so many aspects of the script to Scream 4 that Williamson who was committed to so many different projects could not write in the changes so Ehren Krueger again stepped in to do the rewrites along with Paul Harris Boardman. Is it any wonder that this film looks like a buffet with too many chefs?
Once again, you have a movie taking advantage of the postmodern zeitgeist. It intentionally follows the same predictable meta, self-aware patterns that the first three movies so capably did, and aspires to be more, but in my humble opinion, it fails horribly. It gives us a new Sydney (Emma Roberts), and a new Gale (Erik Knudsen), and even a new Randy (Hayden Panettiere), yet they all fall short of the original. (Although, I must admit, Hayden Panettiere is a really good actress and she is the lone standout of the movie.)
The Scream TV show does it better, and any adult can feel justified in watching an admittedly teen drama-heavy, pretty-people cast, with some really bad acting by some of the kids. However, it has some really good scares and an amazing amount of gore for TV. Watch that instead. Scream 4 is the weakest installment to the best horror franchise. If you haven’t watched the movie, fair-warning SPOILER ALERT: THE FOLLOWING PROBABLY CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!
Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin, Alison Brie, Nico Tortorella, Marielle Jaffe, Marley Shelton, Erik KnudsenErik Knudsen, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody
New decade. New rules.
Ten years have passed since the mantle of the Ghostface killer has been taken up, but when Sidney Prescott returns to Woodsboro on a book tour, new murders occur, and this time, Sidney herself is a suspect.
Scream 4 begins with the usual, big, opening sequence. Two young women about to watch a movie, when they get a phone call from Ghostface, but it’s not real. It’s really the opening to Stab 6. Then we see two other young women, Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell, watching Stab 6 commenting about the death of horror and how sequels dilute a franchise. Paquin, in particular, goes into a diatribe about “articulate teens discussing the postmodern, meta, self-aware” mystique about horror movies ,when she gets stabbed by Kristen Bell who continues to watch the movie while her friend bleeds to death beside her. However, this is another false beginning. It’s the beginning to Stab 7. There are another two girls who have been watching the beginning of the movie and they get killed by Ghostface in the usual way: a big-breasted blond running UP the stairs instead of out the front door.
The very next day, Sidney Prescott returns to Woodsboro on a book tour. The time at the bookstore is cut short when Dewey (who is now the Sheriff) has received a tip that Ghostface has returned. A phone and a bloody knife are found in the trunk of Sidney’s rental car. She is forced to stay in Woodsboro, because she is now a suspect in the killing of the two high school girls. Gale who is Dewey’s wife has been struggling with writer’s block and so she decides to investigate the murders. She had come to the bookstore to see Sidney and has her investigative reporter instincts piqued by the events.
While in Woodsboro, Sidney stays in the home of her cousin Jill who has been dumped by her boyfriend Trevor. Jill, along with her friend and next door neighbor Olivia, have received threatening phone calls. That same night, Olivia is killed while Jill and her best friend Kirby watch. When Sidney hears the girls screaming, she runs outside to tell their protective detail, but when she doesn’t find the police, she runs into the house to try to help Olivia, but she is too late.
Throughout the movie the audience is treated to numerous red herrings, as is typical of the franchise. Two of the possible baddies are the film club students, Charlie Walker and Robbie Mercer, who Gale enlists to help her in the investigation. They tell her that the murderer is likely someone attempting to do a remake and that the old rules don’t apply. Except that the only way to be completely safe in a horror movie, is to be gay. Also, they are hosting a party where the Stab movies are played back to back and this is probably a place where the killer will show. (I don’t know how the timeline works on this because there are seven movies and they can’t possibly ALL be shown.) Well, nevertheless, the killer DOES show and stabs Gale in the process.
At the house, Sidney finds that her guard detail have been killed. She also finds that her cousin is not in the house and that she has gone to Kirby’s house. The sequence at Kirby’s house is really the best part of this movie. There’s suspense as people disappear long enough for us to say, “He did it.” “She did it.” “He did it.” We get a very similar part where the killer has a victim tied to a chair in front of an in-ground pool, and the person inside has to answer movie trivia. Robbie Mercer yells, “There are rules! I’m gay!” as he lies dying. There’s very real pursuit, visceral fighting, and killer reveals. Also, there’s the insipid excuse that Jill gives for masterminding the killings. She wants fame for fame’s sake. Ugh! Really?!?
Again, let me reiterate that this movie despite its flaws is still an okay movie. It was Wes Craven’s last feature, so that alone gives it some reason to be watched. There are moments of real scares, but those are few and far between. There are more moments of parody than one would prefer. I think the franchise would have benefited from staying a trilogy and then continuing as a TV show. Who would have thought that a slasher movie could work well as a TV show? Trust me. Check it out on Netflix if you have it. The first episode grabs you and the first season closes on an up note. I’m told that the second season is even better.