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Scream 4

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Scott Roberts
Scream 4
on Apr 18, 2011 at 3:30:55 pm

Sucker Punch recently proved that casting an army of hot chicks can’t save a terrible movie. Did Scream 4′'s sultry casting call fare any better?

Yeah, I guess so.

But it was probably more successful than Sucker Punch because it at least had a slightly witty script that resembled a time when movies didn’t just have to be an insane medley of crazy crap happening on every inch of the screen at all times. Now, did I think that Scream 4 had a good script? No, definitely not. If I may paraphrase R.P. McMurphy, “But it tried, didn’t it? God damn it, at least it did that…”

I remember a distant, glorious time known as 1997, when Scream 2 was just coming out, and people actually got excited for it. This was probably because the first Scream was a huge hit, and basically revamped and re-energized the entire horror genre; spawning the modern, slightly smarter slasher film. Why wasn’t there as much buzz for Scream 4 then? Oh yeah, probably because Scream 3 happened. Then several years of people not really asking for another Scream movie happened. Let me just say that Scream 4 is a vast improvement over Scream 3, maybe even better than Scream 2. But now that there are three sequels, and they all just basically seem essentially like unnecessary clones of the first one with updated dialogue, hopefully this franchise is finally dead.

I think the poor box office performance indicates that the current generation of youth, the ideal target demographic for this, doesn't really care about the Scream franchise. The last sequel came out 11 years ago, and the original one 15 years ago. They probably don't even know what Scream is, or why there's a 4th one... I think the only people that saw it this weekend were the now mid-20s folk who were teenagers when the first one came out, looking for some random nostalgia.

I didn’t hate this latest edition, though. But it did just kind of seem redundant in the scheme of things. A bunch of movie obsessed teenagers (who by the way, are considered the popular kids [why wasn't it that way when I was in high school...]), go into meta conversations about the rules and elements to making a successful horror remake, while at the same time obviously living out the “remake” in their reality. The fake reality of the Scream universe becomes influenced by the fake reality of the "Stab" movie franchise, which is based on the legacy of the characters in the Scream movies that you’re watching... So it’s all fake stuff layered into other fake stuff. And in that respect, I actually find the Scream movies to be interesting. Deep down, they are kind of nerdy horror movies for movie nerds. Which is why I like (at least the first) Scream movies more than most, if not all, modern slasher films. But I would probably rather opt for a 1980s Friday the 13th sequel any day of the week (Jason Takes Manhattan is a personal favorite of mine).

All in all Scream 4 seems like less like a fluid continuation of the series, than it does a fleeting grasp to stay alive a little longer. Some old characters return, but they are more or less just attacked by randomly new characters. It’s the best pure slasher film I’ve seen in several years I think, but that’s not saying much, really.

Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox, however… …still lookin’ good…! As are the countless other beautiful young Hollywood actresses who, I shouldn’t need to say "spoiler alert", basically all die at some point during the film.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Scream 4
on Apr 18, 2011 at 8:47:40 pm

I can't scare up ay interest for these kinds of films, particularly for this one.

They trivialize death, and our reactions to it. In real life, just one murder could rip an entire town apart, certainly friends and families. For years. These movies just toss off those reactions and consequences like the bodies of dead NPC's in video games, that just cleanly fade away and vanish from conciousness. People die and the living just spend a fwe seconsd mourning, if that, then on to the next thing. Real life is nothing like that. These people would all be in therapy for years.

Hitch knew about horror. HE could show you just how hard it can be to murder someone in cold blood. These movies however turn it into flashlight tag. I can't get intellectually or emotionally invested in something as shallow as that.


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Scott Roberts
Re: Scream 4
on Apr 18, 2011 at 9:23:25 pm

I 100% agree with you that these movies trivialize death and are basically outside the realm of decent reality. In Scream 4, a girl literally watches one of her best friends get stabbed to death, and 20 minutes of screen time later, shes smiling and hitting on a guy.

Compare her reaction to death to, say, Sean Penn's reaction to death in Mystic River, and it is definitely laughable. But that's the difference between devoting an entire movie to the emotional toll death has on a character as opposed to intentionally racking up the body count as high as you can.

I don't think Scream is trying to be a Hitchcock movie, it's more in the area of a 1980s summer camp slasher b-movie. It's just different genres. Body count horror films are different than suspense films. Rarely do they meet halfway, at least on a respectable level. They serve a purpose, and that's mainly to be fun. To get your date to hold your arm tighter. To laugh at a rediculously staged death scene. To see attractive actresses who aren't good enough to get roles in credible films.

To those who can distance themselves from the violence of the movie, and not relate it to real life, they become fun rides for the most part. It's also why people like watching characters shoot zombies, melt vampires, blow up Nazis, and watch things like John McClain and Rambo breaking people's necks. None of it is close to real.

Someone can watch people getting murdered in Scream left and right, then go home and torch a cop car in Grand Theft Auto, and I'm cool if they are gleefully laughing their brains out the whole time. It's only when they are watching like an actual war documentary with guys getting blown up for real, and they are still laughing, that there starts to become a problem. And I think it's more so the case that that guy has a problem, than society as a whole. Or something like that...


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Tim Wilson
Re: Scream 4
on Apr 18, 2011 at 9:58:49 pm

[Scott Roberts] "fun rides for the most part. It's also why people like watching characters shoot zombies, melt vampires, blow up Nazis, and watch things like John McClain and Rambo breaking people's necks. None of it is close to real.
"


There's also a very basic behavioral component that goes back to kids playing with dinosaurs -- conquering monsters gives growing psyches a feeling of safety, competence, and what has become one of the filthiest, vilest concepts in American history, self esteem. It carries right through to soap operas - whew! That ain't me. And what a hoot!

There's also the component of sheer adrenaline. It's fun to be scared.

Not to disagree with the basic idea of desensitization - the Scream movies are the teensiest bit past my comfort zone, which makes them work even when I have to cover my eyes. Things like Saw and ramped-up remakes of The Hills Have Eyes - the COMMERCIALS are too scary for me.

At the same time, you can't win an argument that this has had any kind of deleterious effect on American society. Murder rates here peaked in 1991, and have been dropping steadily, to rates similar to those in the mid-60s...when the rates were still rising. The same is true for every other major category of crime. I would never say that movies like this are in any responsible for crime going down, but you certainly can't argue that they've made any kind of violence go up.

I haven't enjoyed the Scream sequels as much, but the first one was almost shockingly original -- the characters were film nerds and fans of horror movies who were as exasperated by the way the movie was unfolding in keeping with the cliches that the characters were mocking at the same time. An intentionally witty comment on how you can use cliches to tell original stories - genius.

I'm a big fan of the writer of the original and this one, Kevin Williamson. He did a couple of other "meta" horror movies, "I Know What You Did Last Summer," and "The Faculty," which had a slick, and again, intentionally witty, sci-fi component (teachers, including Jon Stewart, are being taken over by aliens), directed with characteristic verve by Robert Rodriguez.

Williamson also created Dawson's Creek, which became something of a cliche for its overwhelming sincerity, winning lots of appropriately sincere awards along the way. (And launching the careers of folks I like including Michelle Williams, and Joshua Jackson, one of TV's MVPs on Fringe.)

More recently, he created Vampire Diaries, one of the smallest handfuls of my favorite shows on TV. Since we're awfully close to the finale of Season 2, better to Netflix Season 1 - a very canny combination of cliches about vampires, werewolves, the dark secrets of small towns, and moony high-schoolers in lovvvvvvvve, played with skill and wit. Love it love it love it. I both DVR it AND watch it live. I've seen every episode at least twice, often just days apart.

So while I wasn't planning on seeing it, I'm sorry Scr4am is falling flat. I'm going to cheer for everything Kevin Williamson does to succeed.


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