Scream 4 is… not as bad as Scream 3
It is for sure unexpected, I just don’t know yet if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
This will be just an impression of a guy who started watching Scream with 10, was not allowed to go into the theater to see Scream 3 because he was only 11, waited for the VHS release of Scream 3 and watched it over and over again.
This article will be spoiler FREE, there won’t be any plot revelations or anything. The only thing that I might say is how I felt about stuff like the killer, the motif, the opening, but there won’t be a revelation of what it really is.
For an overview of the previous Scream movies click here.
The story continues!
10 years after the infamous Woodsboro murders sidney Prescott the survivor of the original Scream trilogy returns to her hometown, where Dewey Riley and Gale (Weathers) Riley spent the last ten years. However the happy reunion is not to last long since apparently another killer is running around – will he be making a new version of Stab (the fictional movies about the Woodsboro murders)? You bet he will!
This Scream film is a continuation of the Scream series, picking up ideas from the first three movies. Even if the third one was not very well received I liked how they continued the character arc of sidney and like the third, this movie does a pretty good job of extending her role naturally. The difference is now that sidney is intended more as a bystander to this new generation who have grown up with the stories of the Woodsboro murders and how they were “immortalized on film” to quote Scream 2.
The timegap between the sequels allows for a lot of current trends to be utilized, or example the Stabathon, an all-nighter of all the Stab movies, very similar to what cinemas do with franchise movies like X-Men or Saw and what they will definitely do with Scream as well.
There are a lot of those things which horrorfans will smirk at, like drinking games when it comes to certain clichés, but I’ll leave the rest of those eastereggs for you to discover.
The fact that people see the tragic events of the past as an annual “event” or celebration is very reminiscent of the fate of a lot of horror movies – scary for one generation, a joke to the next, so symbolism like this feels all very natural and goes with the overall Scream theme.
This is a horror movie not a comedy!
Scream 4 is full of tongue in check humor, rivaling Scream 2, but going sometimes a little too self aware, especially regarding the murder scenes, when there is one or two times “oh insert snarky movie reference hiere – dies” too much.
But especially in the opening it works like hell. When it comes to suspense nothing beats the original Scream, but when it comes to wit and being different this opening is close on Scream 2’s heels and (that goes without saying) blows the lackluster Scream 3 out of the water.
This of course makes this movie less like the original and from time to time it crosses the fine line between witty and wannabe-witty a lot of times, but I have to admit that there are a lot of jokes in this movie, that will make especially horror geeks laugh, not sure what the reaction of the other movie goers can be because it seemed like I picked the Scream-fans screening with people masked as Ghostface-killers.
The kills are way more extreme!
The trailers don’t lie about that. They are comparable to Scream 2, which will satisfy a lot of the bloodlust and I’d say it sometimes goes beyond Scream 2. I don’t remember the body count but I’m pretty sure it is a big number. The entire movie’s pacing is fast as hell, locations change, characters come and go. It felt like the Scream movie with the most stuff going on and the quickest location changes, since we never really rest long enough in one spot.
They try to make the victims realistic and worldwise (remember this is a movie where people who have seen all the movies get thrown into thee movies), but there was one scene that was just really stupid. You know when you will see it, but the way it is orchestrated, the character that gets hunted down and basically everything about this scene is so generic and illogical it took me out of the movie for a while.
Return to Woodsboro
In a lot of way this movie really does feel like a new version. The camera shots are more playful, the picture is crisp, the locations shine – everything has this artificial clean look to it, that just reminds me of current horror movies. If this was an intentional reflection on the modern day look of horror movies or just a choice made to sell tickets is left to the viewer.
That said because of this clean and crisp look the movie never has the rawness and grittiness of Billy ripping apart a couch with his bloodstained shirt or Randy’s blood getting smeared all over the white phone while his sweater is soaked in blood – it all just looks too professional, which again can be intentional, but I’m not really convinced that is the fact.
It was a good move to return to Woodsboro, both for nostalgia reasons and to lend the movie a little more realism. Like they discuss the reason Scream is interesting is because the killer is real, he is no Jason, no Freddy, no Chucky, he could be your creepy crazy neighbor.
Especially Scream 3 took the franchise into unrealistic territory when it came to setting and characters. Putting the crimes back into the household makes them more relatable than a big studio and the fake action from Scream 3 has been replaced by punches that hurt when you look at them (still not even remotely as hurtful as Stu and Billy).
In a fantastic throwaway line the victims disregard the Saw movies as trash where people get torn apart and it is just porn because you don’t care about the characters. A movie that confident and selfaware better have some good protagonists!
Well, let’s say it’s a good thing they brought back the original three survivors, their Mr. Spock-like presence elevates the movie and gives it more gravitas. Without them this movie would not be able to be taken seriously. The new cast ranges from ok over generic to very very generic.
When they introduce the personal conflict of the new protagonist Jill (played by Julia Roberts’s niece) I just had to laugh since the acting and character set up reminded me too much of Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. There are some instances of characters trying to act as if they had more going on. There is also the forced acknowledging that we never saw that sidney had a cousin in any way shape or form, with whom we are now supposed to sympathise.
So a lot of the characters just fall flat and let’s be honest: nothing can replace Randy, but hey they had to try.
The new Ghostface
Ghostface himself has a very cruel streak to him and more than once he is genuinely scary/psychotic. The way he attacks is a lot quicker than in the original Screams, probably going with the current horror trends. There are a few phonecalls where he can be really threatening, especially in his conversations with Sidney. He is a guy with an aim and you can feel this from the start. But ghostface is only as good as his motif…
No motif makes it scarier!
So how does it hold up?
Without spoiling anything I’m a bit on the fence and I still have yet to decide. Especially since the screenplay hits us over the head offering us the interpretation very detailed in case we missed it which was a little bit insulting. It sure is a little over the top (thanks probably to the acting), it kinda makes sense…
But seeing as I originally hated the motif of Scream 2 and now I think it is brilliant this might change faster than the plot of Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991).
Right now I’d rank the motifs from most relatable to least:
Although Scream 3 has the more “poetic” factor.
Where does this movie stand when it comes to remakes?
Here is where we can all stop holding our breaths – it is not A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th. If you have seen those movies (or other remakes) you might remember this feeling of fatigue, of just going through the scenes because the movie had to? Because it had been done like that in the original and now you were just waiting for Nancy’s friends to die like in the original?
Scream 4 is not like this.
It is well aware that it cannot be a remake of the original, so aware that sometimes it is forced to being different, deliberately avoiding the conventions, but this is the point where Scream is at its best: because we never know if the cliché will now happen or if there will be a twist. There are a lot of “I called it!” moments but at the same time I doubt anyone will predict everything correctly.
The movie manages to not feel stale, be an exciting ride with some jump scares from time to time and it does not in any way or form make us feel ashamed of dragging other people in this movie. Scream 4 won’t be a case of
“Have you seen Nightmare on Elm Street”
“Yes it sucked”
“No the original”
And I say let’s be happy that new people get in touch with Scream!
While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel it is a nice 1h50 with characters we like (and some we don’t), it is a logical continuation of the original story, but I guess the ending might throw a few people off.
Personally I would have been more content had it ended 5 minutes earlier but I’m pretty sure 80% of all Scream fans would have hated this outcome.
But let’s say this: it is neither totally Scream, nor totally Scream 2 – it didn’t commit the same mistake as Scream 3, by just being a cheapened down copy of the originals.
I guess 10 years of remakes have helped to provide some decent jokes more than the three years between 2 and 3.
All in all Scream 4 definitely warrants a visit to the theater, especially if you’re a horror fan.