*** (out of 5)
April 15, 2011
Neve Campbell as SIDNEY PRESCOTT
David Arquette as DEWEY RILEY
Courtney Cox as GALE WEATHERS RILEY
Emma Roberts as JILL ROBERTS
Hayden Panettiere as KIRBY REED
Marley Shelton as DEPUTY JUDY HICKS
Directed by: Wes Craven
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
My level of interest in “SCRE4M” was all over the map this past year. Originally, I really didn’t care about it at all. While I’m a huge horror fan, I haven’t been wild about the “Scream” series. Sure, I enjoyed the first one, and the second one was… well, it was the second one. I’m not even going to get started on the third installment, just that it was a weak afterbirth to an otherwise clever series.
I’m a child of the 80s, though. I grew up in the heyday of slasher films. I was too young to see the original “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th” in the theaters, but I enjoyed many of the sequels in the cineplex and on VHS during my formative years. So when the original “Scream” came out in the mid-1990s, I enjoyed it but wasn’t blown away. It was for a generation just slightly younger than me, along with the “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Urban Legends” franchises.
Still, I will always give respect to a film that, with each subsequent installment, gets people asking each other what their favorite scary movies are.
My disinterest turned to cynicism when casting news and production rumors started. I couldn’t care less that David Arquette and Courtney Cox would be playing a couple on-screen while their real-life marriage was on the rocks. I wasn’t wild about the return of Neve Campbell, who is tongue-in-cheekly described as “victim royalty” in the film itself. I just wanted a decent horror movie, and none of the original news pointed to that.
For the most part, “SCRE4M” was off my radar until just a few weeks ago when I started seeing the trailers in the theaters. Then the early screenings started, and it was getting some interesting buzz. Universal love would have been suspicious, and I’m glad it didn’t have that. I welcomed the split opinions of critics and fans. This usually results in me finding something at least interesting in the picture.
So, I ended up going into “SCRE4M” with an open mind and no expectations whatsoever. By the time the movie had rolled through to the credits, I found that I had a hell of a good time watching it. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a fourth film, after all. Honestly, can anyone name a fourth film in a franchise that didn’t have any warts on it?
But the movie set itself up well. The story follows Sidney Prescott returning to her home town of Woodsboro fifteen years after the brutal series of murders changed her life. Unfortunately (or fortunately for “Scream” fans), her arrival is marked by a new series of murders, from a new ghostface killer who is adapting the deaths to fit into a new decade of horror movie rules.
In an attempt to remain spoiler-free, let’s just say that I wasn’t disappointed with the final product. Sure, some things were utterly unbelievable, but it’s a horror movie, after all. In the context of a modern slasher, things made sense and had some nice twists.
Just as the original “Scream” passed the slasher torch from the 80s to a new generation of stars, this film attempts the same, giving Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere a stab at being a scream queen.
The highlights of the movie were the internal meta references not just to the “Scream” series, but to horror movies in general and even the real-life drama of the stars. Craven managed to stay true to his original vision of “Scream” and make “SCRE4M” a love letter to slasher fans. It works as well as a comedy as it does a thriller. Again, not perfect for either genre, but thoroughly enjoyable.
“SCRE4M” showed that Wes Craven still has the chops to direct horror flicks. He’s done a decent job over the last decade reviving his own franchises as producer (with “The Hills Have Eyes,” “The Last House on the Left” and even the lackluster “A Nightmare on Elm Street”). Half a decade ago, Craven moved from making movies about violin music back to thrillers with the fun “Cursed” and the very well-constructed “Red Eye.” Forget his notoriously shitty “My Soul to Take” from last year, and he’s still got quite a genre-based track record.
Now, all this praise aside, “SCRE4M” is far from perfect. It has some clunky acting and some really awkward sequences of dialogue that grind the film to a halt. But bookended by a self-referential and clever opening to a hilarious Cartman moment and a pretty solid ending, this film managed to become one of the better films in the series.