Scream 4: Was this Horror Film Intended as a Comedy??

Wes Craven’s latest film, Scream 4, leaves audiences confounded by a simple genre question: did he make Scream 4 into a comedy or a horror film? If this film was intended to jump genres as a comedy sequel to spoof Scary Movie 2 rather than (intended) horror flick Scream 3, then perhaps he has made a better film than initial reactions would suggest.  But if this movie was intended as a horror film, then it, when coupled with his last disastrous horror dud My Soul to Take (see full review), would better suggest Craven may have jumped the shark.

Premise: Sidney Prescott is back to Woodsboro after ten years to promote her self-help book but is again visited by the Ghostface Killer. Result: A confusing mess of a film with a few laughs but no screams, other than those from the audience after realizing they paid money for it.

Scream 4 was clearly marketed as a horror film; but the unfortunate problem is that this movie is not scary.  At all!  However, it does illicit laughter from the audience both due to cringe-inducing one-liners as well as actually funny (and possibly intentional) spoof.  This movie is really just a thin patchwork quilt of tired and soiled horror clichés that produce “Are You kidding?” instead of terror.

The premise showed some promise.  After an amusing, and relatively clever opening sequence, we are brought to present day with Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returning to Woodsboro to promote her self-help book, Out of Darkness. And, of course, teen girls with Cougar-like minds and Baby Gap clothing are starting to die in gory manners.  However, a weak script and desperately uneven acting, plunge this film back into the darkness where we hope it will stay.

Sadly, we have seen it all before. Writer Kevin Williamson fails completely to make this storyline relevant or interesting to the audience delivering a plot that seems to be nothing more than a vehicle to discuss horror camp and pseudo-intellectual takes on film “self-awareness.” Like a bored, disengaged and possibly drunk professor teaching an entry-level course at a forgotten community college, this storyline is poorly paced with scenes frantically hurling information at the audience without any interest in comprehension.

At one point in this film, an officer is stabbed in the head (through the head!), but proceeds to have a minute-long death scene out of a third-rate production of Shakespeare and then scream out a catch phrase as his dying breath.  Worse still, the ending of the film (almost interesting) was squandered by complete absurdity and convenient outcomes that wreak of amateur hour.

The film’s obsession with the term “meta” was so pronounced and the word so often muttered, that it not only became a joke among the actual characters, but begged for muppet-like creatures to pop onto the screen and walk the audience through the terms’ definition…as well as the number 11 (for good measure).  So intense was this self-awareness that I half expected the characters to barge through the fourth wall and start heckling the audience (it would certainly have certainly been interesting to have rotten tomatoes actually thrown at the audience!)  

The acting, unfortunately, only contributed to this B-movie, horror camp debacle.  While Campbell and Courtney Cox (reprising her role as Gale Weathers-Riley) were as good as the mangled carcass of a script would allow them (there were some good moments where we almost cared about the film because of these two – almost) the rest of the cast was spotty at best.  Hayden Panettiere as Kirby Reed was surprisingly engaging but sadly her hair proved too distracting to take her seriously (she looked ridiculous as Brigitte Nielsen in Red Sonja, although thankfully, not the Brigitte Nielsen that sucked face with Flava Flav on reality television. Collective shudder.)

Rory Culkin as Charlie is passable, but the rest of the cast seems to be trying too hard.  The fantastic Mary McDonnell is barely in this movie and when she is, we wonder if this is really pod-person Mary McDonnell because the real one knows how to act. Emma Roberts, for her part as Jill, completely over-acts this role making audiences wonder how much of the scenery she was going to chew.  But no performance was worse (and more surprisingly so) than David Arquette, reprising his role as Dewey.  Every line is mumbled or mis-delivered to such a degree as to leave audiences begging for him to return to his glory days in Eight Legged Freaks.

There are, as mentioned before, certain uses for this film.  As horror camp, I can certainly see this film sky-rocketing to cult status where dozens of inebriated partygoers gather to gaze at the sheer stupidity of this film through bleary eyes.  Additionally, this film would make a great drinking game.  It might go something like this:

Every time the word “meta” is used: Drink!
Every time David Arquette mishandles his lines: Drink!
Every time Ghostface calls: Drink!
Every time Ghostface calls and no one cares anymore: Drink!
Every time you subconsciously roll your eyes: Drink!

And so on….

Overall, this film is nowhere near the reboot it was hyped to be.  While perhaps humorous as a campy horror spoof, Scream 4, as a horror film, is absolutely unacceptable.  Worse still, after Scream 4…I longed for Scream 3.  Collective shudder.

Rating:  3 – Mad Dog 20/20, Government Cheese, and a waste basket for afterwards

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