Anchor Bay Entertainment/Dimension Films
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
The arrival of Scre4m (or Scream 4, if you prefer) last year was met with mixed reviews and fewer box office returns than Dimension Films and The Weinstein Company had hoped for. After all, Rob Zombie's Halloween cookouts brought them enough duckets to count on a Scream revival. We are living in harsh times where the economy dictates film attendance, yet the critical element to a movie prospering or floundering is what it has to offer jaded, video-addicted audiences stubborn to part with ten bucks a pop.
The thing with Wes Craven's decision to once again helm the horror franchise he began in 1996 is Scre4m knows precisely where we're at as a society. The key is matching up its trademark villain to a world more technologically advanced and more desensitized than when Scream first haunted theaters. By now there's very little jolt and juice behind Ghostface. He/she shows up so frequently in a Scream film the audience is even more benumbed to the Edvard Munch-inspired death persona than a Jason Voorhees romp.
You'd think everything Ghostface has to offer us has been exercised to full elasticity through the first three Scream films. Really, there's very little dynamic to Ghostface. Some young neurotic soul dons the shroud and the ghoul mask, calls all of the victims ahead of time and badgers the piss out them via a voice scrambler. The running gag since Drew Barrymore immortalized frame one of the original Scream has been to query victims about their favorite horror flicks before carving them up.
Suffice it to say, this is exactly what you're going to get in Scre4m, yet the banner phrase "New Decade, New Rules" applies not only the techno dweeb overhauling to bring the series into modern times. It specifically applies to the running farce throughout the Scream series. In the spirit of Scream 2 and large chunks of the original film, Scre4m roasts today's horror realm which is dictated by remakes, reboots and recycling. Indeed, Scre4m deliberately recycles itself in the interest of satirizing itself.
While Scre4m doesn't wholly deliver the impact of its predecessors, you do have to give it props for a blaster cast of refugees from the first three films, i.e. Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, mingled with current generation teen sex symbol Emma Roberts and a game gaggle of newer names: Hayden Panettier, Rory Culkin and Adam Brody. Moreover, you have to give Scre4m further props for having the moxy to declare itself a reboot within a reboot. In other words, Ghostface is going old school by recreating the events of the first Scream, only this time, ol' pale puss gets to do it through the world of 4G smart phones, webcams and the internet. Remember, the worldwide web was still relegated to mostly dial-up when the first Scream hit theaters and this film was in danger of similar antiquity by association. At least Generation Tech was around to upgrade it. Otherwise, why bother?
In Scre4m, Neve Campbell's enduring lead Sidney Prescott has done well for herself in the world as author to a non-fiction recount of the traumas she's faced at the multiple hands comprising Ghostface. Why in the world she'd ever want to return to Woodsboro where the previous carnage has ensued is left to the realm of suspension of disbelief, but Sidney's homecoming for a book signing kicks Ghostie back into action. As mentioned, Ghostface's rampaging is designed to mimic the original slayings as a twisted tribute and revamp.
Scre4m begins with a nutty sequence of fakeout intros as part of the ongoing Stab film series which inflates Ghostface's gory macro world. As you'll remember, the spoofy Stab movies within the Scream series were created out of Sidney's bloody encounters with Ghostface. As of Scre4m, we've now come up to Stab 7 (a blatant nyuk nyuk, of course) and a group of horror film geeks at Woodsboro High throw a Stab franchise party which does and doesn't become a focal point for Ghostface's hack 'em manuevers.
Instead of going for the obvious slice up at the party, however, Ghostie shows up in other spots designed to mirror scenes specific to the original film. Always keep in mind with this film that it is intentionally spoofing the whole enterprise even down to the more minute details.
Emma Roberts plays Jill, Sidney's distant cousin who has never met her until Sidney's arrival in Woodsboro. David Arquette's bumbling cop hero Dewey is now the town sheriff, while the sizzling Courtney Cox reprises her reporter with a 'tude lead, Gale. Whatever reported personal problems Arquette and Cox may have had in the time between Scream 3 and Scre4m are professionally put to the back burner. They're nearly as chemically sharp as the previous films, though Dewey takes everything serious to the point of critical mass while Gale just wants him to respect her investigative prowess. After all, she too has written books about the Woodsboro murders and both are put into action in apposite directions while Ghostie does what he does.
While Scre4m tries to fake you out with Jill's hyper-obsessive ex-boyfriend, Trevor (Nico Tortorella), you can pretty much figure out who Ghostface is and who the partner in crime is, since once again, this film is a pointed provocation of the original film. There isn't much amplitude to Scre4m's finale, though you do find yourself shaking your head at how long it takes to wrap up business.
Scre4m is more or less a popcorn horror film in which its characters laugh all the way through Shaun of the Dead and of course, the snarky Stab series. A hilarious jibe from the script comes when the kids at the Stab party are reciting every line in unison. Scre4m wants to be from-the-hip clever like Scream 2 and its genre in-jokes are admirable but not overly riotous. Sometimes Ghostface lingers too long in the midst of a killing, in full pause as if waiting for Craven to yell cut. Somehow, you don't imagine that was part of the intended humor. Still, Scre4m has fun with itself and if you're old school, you have to laugh at the film's torching of contemporary horror "rules," one of which includes using CGI-aided gutting sequences.
Hopefully there's no Stab 8 lingering about...
Tuesday, October 04, 2011