Scream 4 (2011) + A Touch on the TV Series – They Couldn’t Leave It Alone

OK, so I didn’t make it to Halloween. What do you want from me? I have a regular job. It has also come to my attention through the medium of observation that I’ve been spelling Sidney’s name wrong. I’ve been spelling it with a ‘y’ which is how I thought it was spelled but that’s just one way of spelling it and I really can’t be arsed going through the other reviews and changing so I’ll spell it right in this review and that will be the end of it, OK?

I’m going to be honest and say that ‘Scream 4’ was my least favourite of all of them for two reasons. First, there didn’t really need to be a fourth ‘Scream’ film. You could make the argument that if the first film was a parody of horror films, the second was a parody of horror sequels and the third was a parody of horror trilogies then since the late 2000’s was immersed in ‘remake-mania’, then making the fourth a parody of horror remakes would feel like a natural trajectory. You could make that argument. However, the ending to ‘Scream 3’ tied up all the loose ends and gave Sidney such a happy ending that having the horror return to her neck of the woods felt like that was all fucked up now and she’ll never get away from it.

The second reason is this. Even though the original surviving cast and indeed most of the original crew came back for number 4 (and this is the main reason why I don’t like remakes), they brought in another cast. ‘The remake cast’. A cast of young up-and-coming actors and actresses who are making a name for themselves in the major motion pictures just like the original cast were all those years ago. I suppose that’s fair enough but the thing is… I don’t like this new cast and it’s not what the ‘Scream’ audience wants to see when they go and see a ‘Scream’ film. Granted, a vast majority of the new cast all get killed off towards the end but one thing I don’t think the writers took into consideration was the fact that times have changed.

Teenagers these days aren’t as immersed in horror movie culture as maybe teenagers were in the mid-nineties when they were coming off the back of some decent slasher movie franchises that may or may not have died a death. These days, if it’s not ‘found footage’, ‘ghostly boo scares’ or anything produced by ‘Blumhouse’ then people don’t want to know, least of all teenagers. There’s a sequence towards the end that re-enacts the ‘Casey/Steve’ murders from the first film where Rory Culkin’s character is tied to a chair and Hayden Panettiere’s character has to answer horror movie trivia questions asked by the killer. She lists all the top horror movies that have been remade from the last 30 years and I just found that really unbelievable. I knew all of these titles but a sad, lonely shut-in who has no friends and so has nothing better to do than watch scary movies and post my thoughts online to an audience who I’m fairly certain don’t give a shit. Some of the new cast are of course this new brand of gorgeous people who already have perfect hair and make-up when they wake up in the morning whereas the old cast looked like normal teenagers. They wore T-shirts and jeans and were maybe a little eccentric but that just stopped them from being boring. This new cast is boring and I’m going to stop harping on about this now and talk about some plot.

Sidney (Neve Campbell) has done her best to move on with her life in the subsequent 10 years since the events of ‘Scream 3’ and has become a successful author. Gale (Courtney Cox) and Dewey (David Arquette) are married and living in Woodsboro where Dewey is now the Sheriff. Sidney returns to her home town just in time for a new batch of murders to start happening and a new group of film conscious teenagers are caught in the middle.

One aspect that doesn’t work in this film is the implementation of these new characters. Say for example, Sidney’s cousin, Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts) is having romance troubles as her boyfriend, Trevor (Nico Tortorella) has cheated on her and she’s all bummed out that and I don’t know why anyone should care because the original cast are involved and their actions trumps anything that they do. See what I mean? Everything the original cast did was interesting because they were the main cast. This new cast is just a secondary cast to the main cast. See what I mean?

Another thing I don’t like about this film is how ‘Ghost Face’ has become a pop-culture reference. Now people actually call the killer ‘Ghost Face’. They didn’t in the other movies. He/She was simply referred to as ‘the killer’ which is much scarier. ‘Ghost Face’ isn’t a scary killer to be feared any more. Ghost Face is a character who is separate from the real killer inside the costume.

I’m already bored just talking about this movie and I’m trying to find things that I like about it. It didn’t feel ‘unique’ any more and just like another slasher movie which is I suppose what happens when you’re on the fourth instalment and some of the dreaded ‘genre traits’ start making unwelcome appearances. Such traits include the ‘comic relief’ character which in this case is played by comedy actor, Anthony Anderson. Even his death scene comes off as unnecessarily comic which in a horror movie is not really what I’m after.

There is one little reveal shot which I feel is worth mentioning and that’s the death of Robbie Mercer (Erik Knudsen). Robbie is a member of the film club who also has his own podcast called ‘Hall Pass’ in which he documents his school life using a small camera that’s mounted onto a headset. At the ‘third act party/bloodbath’, he’s really drunk and doesn’t realise that his camera has turned around 180 degrees. He looks at his ‘live stream’ on his phone (which now shooting what’s behind him) and turns him camera around… then he sees Ghost Face. Needless to say, he doesn’t last much longer. For me, it would have been cooler if the camera had been kept turned around. Instead, it’s made to seem that way but then it’s something different.

I suppose now, we should talk about the ending which I have mixed feelings about. On the bad side is the predictability of who the killers are. Again, casting was the big giveaway and audiences could see that there was something about Charlie Walker that wasn’t quite right. So Charlie’s one of the killers but who is the other? Since this is a reboot, then the revelation should mirror the original. That’s what I was thinking but there’s kind of a twist when Sidney knows who the killer is, runs away and is then stabbed in the stomach by a second Ghost Face who is then revealed to be her cousin, Jill. That’s the somewhat clever part.

Jill and Charlie plan on framing the murders on her ex-boyfriend Trevor but then she double-crosses Charlie to make it look like Trevor and Charlie were in it together and she is the sole survivor.

Now comes the problem. Her motive. Billy and Stu had a strong motive in the first film but Jill’s is flimsier than a house of cards in a hurricane. Jill committed all of these murders because she was jealous of all the attention Sidney has received over the years because of her traumatic experiences in the first three films.

What I will say is that there is a spark of what ‘Scream’ used to be coming out in the reveal scenes. Whilst the idea of lying about being involved in a horrific event just to become famous for surviving is fucking stupid and totally crazy, there have been instances of that happening through history. A similar road was taken for Mickey (Timothy Olyphant) in ‘Scream 2’ who you’ll remember committed all those murders just so he would be caught and become famous. One thing I do agree with Jill on is that you don’t have to achieve anything to become famous. I could name about 10 people off the top of my head who are famous for no reason and haven’t achieved anything through any sort of talent and anything that they have achieved is because they are famous for no reason. Let’s just call it anyone who lists their profession as a ‘socialite’ and have done with it.

The final sequence in the house before the police arrive is probably the best in the whole movie for the reason that it shows the depths of insanity that Jill has truly sunk. She’s stabbed Sidney and she thinks that she’s dead. Her two main suspects, Trevor and Charlie are also dead. All she needs to do now is make it look like there’s been a scuffle. She uses Trevor’s dead hand to rip a chunk of her hair out; she stabs herself in the shoulder and places the knife in Trevor’s hand, she takes a run into a glass picture frame, drops herself through a glass coffee table and falls next to Sidney, mimicking her unconscious pose.

The very last scene at the hospital was kind of predictable as you’d never expect the audience to believe that Jill would get away with it and she slips up in the way that most of them do, she reveals something that no one other than the killer would know. Since Gale was attacked earlier and stabbed in the shoulder, Jill makes a quip about them both having ‘matching wounds’. Of course Gale pieces it all together before Dewey does and he gets taken down pretty easily.

Sidney’s alive and the two have a fight and Gale and Deputy Hicks (Marley Shelton) come to help. One thing that is sort of appreciated and also a little bit cringy that is also a staple in these movies is the one-liners. Whilst they’re nowhere near ‘Bruce Campbell’ levels of perfection or delivery, they’re still pretty good… or a bit cringy… depending on your outlook.

In ‘Scream 4’ for example, there’s a moment where Jill is pointing a gun at Gale and she’s taken her eyes off Sidney who charges a defibrillator in the background. Gale asks to have one final word and of course it’s ‘Clear’ which is kind-off bad ass even it smacks the ‘realism’ aspect across the head. Sidney then makes a smart-arse remark that I couldn’t agree with more. “You forgot the first rule of remakes, Jill. Don’t fuck with the original”. Well put.

Aside from one more attempt by Jill to kill Sidney where she is shot in the chest by the latter, that’s pretty much it.

With a budget of $40 Million dollars, ‘Scream 4’ doubled it’s money and then some, bringing home $97.1 Million which isn’t bad but still makes it the lowest grossing film of the four. Despite the numbers, critics praised the film for at least being better than ‘Scream 3’ and trying to be scary rather than funny.

It was hinted by Jill that maybe this film would spawn a new franchise, and whilst there were plans for a fifth and sixth instalment, years passed and nothing came of it.

Instead what we as fans got was a TV series of the same name that premiered in 2015. As more and more was revealed about the series in the early days, I got more and more aggrieved. Whilst, the series would be called ‘Scream’ and would be based off of Kevin Williamson’s work and have Wes Craven as an Executive Producer, the series would not star any of the original cast, have a whole new story and setting and would centre around a new bunch of teenage gob-shites. The only connection to the infinitely better film series would be the pop-culture references and the killer in a costume that calls people. A whole new costume by the way… or a whole new mask, anyway although it is my understanding that in the new season (which will follow a whole new cast) will have the Ghost Face mask and the almighty Roger Jackson re-appearing as the voice of the killer.

I’m not going to do a whole separate review on the TV series, as much fun as it would be to verbally eviscerate it, I neither have the time nor the energy. What I will say is that I watched the first season and I was bitterly disappointed. Well I won’t mince words, I thought it was fucking shit. The acting was awful, the writing was dreadful and whilst some of the kills were particularly well crafted and surprising, once I heard the phrase ‘#Mindblown’ that’s when I thought a more appropriate future for the franchise should be a huge monument with some kind of dedication to what was a great series that was killed with embarrassing rhetoric.

My final thought on ‘Scream 4’ is this. I can see why the film was made and the intention was to have a whole new set of films for a new generation starting with the reboot. However, it’s my opinion that if there was even the slightest element of doubt that there wouldn’t be a future then it should never have been done. To me, ‘Scream 3’ gave the series and it’s characters an appropriate send off and was a brilliant trilogy. The events and specifically the ending to ‘Scream 4’ just didn’t give these well liked and popular characters what they deserved and since we won’t get to see them again, it just leaves me bitter. The decision to do ‘Scream 4’ just leaves me with the confirmation of one aspect of the film industry… They don’t know when to leave something alone.

Have you read my new book, yet? It’s really good and it’s written by me. I’m going to keep mentioning it until more people buy it.

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