Scream 4 (2011) … The Franchise That Wouldn’t Die!!

[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS NO SPOILERS!!]  Welcome back to the town of Woodsboro where people are very self-referential, very good looking and skinny, and very prone to getting stabbed and gutted.  It’s been over a decade since SCREAM 3 (2000) and the killer GhostFace stalked the theaters but director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson thought it was time to reunite to give us the “SCREAM” treatment on remakes.  SCREAM 4 brings back some familiar faces from the franchise as well as giving us some new faces (the “newest” face belonging to Mary McDonnell.  Seriously; she looks like Joan Rivers).  I’ll tell you right now that this review will not be a comparison to the original trilogy but will be a review of SCREAM 4 as a standalone film.  If you’re like me you really don’t care if SCREAM 4 is better than the previous SCREAMs … you only care if it’s a good, scary movie in itself.  Well is it?

The basic plot here is that Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell in her recurring role) has returned home to Woodsboro on a promotional tour for her self-help/tell-all book “Out of Darkness.”  In her book Sidney describes her journey from being a victim to regaining control of her life and coming “out of the darkness.”  Her publicist Rebecca (Alison Brie) thought it’d be a great publicity stunt for her to return to the place where it all started.  But as soon as Sidney gets into town the ever threatening GhostFace appears and starts slaughtering teens.  Let me just get this small criticism out of the way (and note that this is one of my pet peeves about films).  All the “teens” here are once again played by twenty-something’s.  Why do all these films insist on being set in high school?  The actors are obviously in their twenties; why not just write the plot to take place on a college campus instead of high school?  Oh well.

Let the red herrings commence!!

The inept Deputy Dewey (David Arquette) from the original trilogy is now the inept sheriff, tasked with tracking down the killer.  Dewey is married to ex-reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), now Gale Weathers-Riley, who has abandoned the news van and microphone for the life of a writer, but willingly jumps back into her “investigative journalist” role as soon as the murders start.  After a really fun opening that both spoofs the opening from the original SCREAM while at the same time going beyond it, we meet the main “teens”.  There’s Jill (Emma Roberts), Sidney Prescott’s cousin; her two pals Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and Olivia (Marielle Jaffe); Trevor (Nico Tortorella), Jill’s ex-boyfriend; Film Geek (Justin Brandt), who films everything and uploads it live to his constantly streaming webcam show; and Charlie (Rory Culkin), another film geek.  As we’re introduced to the main cast we’re also thrown a lot of red herrings (A LOT of red herrings) where writer Williamson makes everyone seem like a suspect as the newly reincarnated GhostFace.

Neve Campbell reprises her role as Sidney Prescott.

I really enjoyed the first half of SCREAM 4; I enjoyed it a lot.  The dialogue was crisp and clever, the acting was solid, and Craven crafted some really suspenseful and gory scenes … definitely Craven’s best directing in a really long time (but I still won’t forgive him for giving us the absolutely craptastic MY SOUL TO TAKE).  This GhostFace is more vicious, violent, and sadistic than previous incarnations.  The brutality of GhostFace’s kills will make you flinch and you’ll be amazed at GhostFace’s strength and agility.  I was really pleasantly surprised with the first half and enjoyed the hell out of it!!

GhostFace is back & more vicious than ever!!

And then we get to the second half of the film.  Simply put the second half of SCREAM 4 completely falls apart.  Completely.  It feels as though the first half of the film was classic SCREAM, written by Kevin Williamson, while the second half of the film feels as though they brought in a different writer.  The clever dialogue and suspenseful, well-crafted scenes were gone.  The second half of SCREAM 4 becomes filled with characters spouting off terrible one-liners (mostly while getting butchered) and ends with a terrible “big reveal” that is pretty damn insulting and lame.  The turning point in this film was the big “underground” party where the two film geeks are screening all seven “Stab” films (the films that were inspired by Gale’s books).  Just a side note:  This is supposed to be an underground party that only a few select people know about, but when we get to the party it’s in a huge barn with music playing loud enough to wake the dead and the words “underground party” spray painted on the front of the barn in large enough letters to be seen from space!!  But I digress … after this big party scene, which was pretty suspenseful and intense, the film turns a corner and utterly crashes in on itself.

Gale Weathers-Riley (Courteney Cox) is about to have a bad day!!

By this point in the film there’s already been a ton of brutal and violent murders yet no one seems to be all that disturbed by them.  Everyone just goes about their business as if everything is normal and there’s not a brutal killer on the loose.  The film makes an interesting point when referring to the murders in the first SCREAM about how “one generation’s tragedy is the next one’s joke.”  Tragedies, over the years, do indeed become less horrifying as time passes.  But the vicious murders are happening right now!!  Why does no one seem to be concerned about that?  And then the writer (I certainly hope it wasn’t Kevin Williamson) starts having the characters spouting off the dumbest one-liners; lines so utterly stupid that Freddy Krueger himself would wince.  The scene with the two cops in the patrol car (you know the one; they’re showing it in the trailer) was so goddamn stupid I actually moaned out loud, eliciting some laughs from the moviegoers around me.  The two cops are talking about how it sucks to be a cop in movies “unless you’re Bruce Willis,” when GhostFace attacks them.  After being horribly stabbed (I mean HORRIBLY stabbed) the cop’s final words before dying are, “F**k Bruce Willis.”  Seriously?!??  Unfortunately this was just the beginning of some really stupid lines like this.

Iiiiiim Baaaaaaack!!

So what happens in the second half that goes so wrong?  Mainly the humor.  The humor in the first half was both well written and well placed so that it never interfered with the horror elements.  But in the second half the humor, the bad humor, is so poorly placed and heaped into every scene that all the suspense and tension built up in the first half is completely erased.  In doing a little research on SCREAM 4 I discovered that my suspicions were indeed correct:  The making of the film wasn’t a very enjoyable experience by either the cast or crew and Williamson wasn’t really happy with the final product.  It seems that the good old Weinstein brothers brought in another writer, Ehren Krueger (writer of SCREAM 3), to do some rewrites on the script.  Which parts were re-written, I’m not sure but I’d have to guess the second half/ending of the film was fucked around with.

You know if youre watching a SCREAM flick theres gonna be 1 or 2 horror movie geeks!!

The second half just gets lazy and it feels that whoever wrote it uses the gimmick of the characters knowing they’re in a horror movie as an excuse to not give us anything new and simply give us the same old horror trappings found in hundreds of horror flicks before this one.  I won’t go any deeper into the ending because I don’t wanna give away who GhostFace is, but I was pretty unsatisfied with the “big reveal.”  If you’re paying attention you’ll figure out the ending about half way through, and I won’t mention how Craven and Williamson try to throw us off track by making the figure of GhostFace about six foot-two, but when the killer is revealed they really stand about five foot-five.  Oops; looks like I did mention that.

There’s also an ending after the ending in the hospital that gets really friggin’ ridiculous.  All I’ll say is that one of the characters is horribly stabbed and in the ICU (although they aren’t hooked up to any monitors or wires).  But they’re able to get up and fight even though they take a lot of kicks and punches to the wound.  The killer also has the other cast members trapped at gun point and all everyone does is make witty, sarcastic little comments.  I just don’t understand this decision; those “humorous” comments completely killed what could have been a really intense ending.

GhostFace pops up in the damnedest places!!

SCREAM 4 is a mixed bag.  It starts off running out of the gates and is hugely entertaining.  But at the half-way mark everything just falls apart.  The dialogue, action, and overall writing plummet to the depths of “ridiculousness.”  If you’re a fan of the SCREAM franchise then you’ll enjoy SCREAM 4, but there’s gonna be that rational part of your brain wincing at the second half, wondering how a movie that starts off so damn good can end so goddamn bad.  Overall I enjoyed SCREAM 4 and recommend it … just watch out for the second half.

My Summary:

Director:  Wes Craven

Plot:  3.5 out of 5 (for 1st half); 1 out of 5 (for 2nd half)

Gore:  4.5 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem:  0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

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9 Responses to Scream 4 (2011) … The Franchise That Wouldn’t Die!!

  1. Pingback:The Summer of 2011: What the Hell Happened?? « AnythingHorror Central

  2. Great review as always. You were right, you surprised me with this review. After My Soul to Take, I was sure you would be itching to rip this movie. I completely agree with you on several points. Ghostface was definitely fierce in this movie. The humor started off all right, but I got tired of it the further the movie went along. The scene you mention with the cops is bad, not only because of the humor you mentioned, but the way the cop in the car is killed. That is just not happening unless your name is Jason. I can’t say I exactly guessed the killer, but I narrowed it down enough that I was disappointed with the killer as well. You are so right, it is ridiculous the size difference between the killer and Ghostface. And the ending was way over done. They missed an opportunity to end it with an opening for part 5 if they want to do another sequel. I can’t believe it, but you might have liked the movie more than me lol!

    • Trust me Horrosreviews, no one is more surprised than I was. I couldn’t believe I found myself enjoying SCREAM 4 as much as I was (in the 1st half) and then suddenly we get to the scene with the cops and BAM … SCREAM 4 became exactly what I thought it was gonna be LOL

      The movie’s not a runaway hit but I think it’s making enough that they’ll consider a 5th one. I must admit that when the group of teens were in the barn to watch the STAB marathon and “A Robert Rodriquez Film” appeared on the screen, I laughed out loud. That was pretty damn funny!!

      • BlondeZombie says:

        Actually, Robert Rodriguez really did direct the “Stab” scenes for Scream 2!! Crazy, huh??

        I just saw Scream 4 today, and I loved it. I was expecting those cringe-worthy one liners, and as a huge fan of terrible horror movies, I’ve come to appreciate them, so that didn’t bring me down. The height difference between GhostFace and the actual killer was so ridiculous, but my biggest beef was the soundtrack! The Scream movies have always had amazing soundtracks, and this one was lacking. I’ve just always liked that the Scream movies know exactly what they are – they don’t mind laughing at themselves because the movies are pretty much just comedies with some slasher-movie footage throughout.

        All-in-all, I can’t wait for Scream 19, so I can take my kids!

      • SCREAM 19 …. you ARE a fan!!! LOL I thought the humor in the 1st 2 SCREAMS was really well done and never took away from the horror of the film, but in part 4 they really screwed it up. Its not that there WAS humor in the film (all SCREAM films have humor), it’s where they placed it. The humor just ruined the horror. But I agree with ya BlondeZombie; the soundtrack really did suck!!

      • BlondeZombie says:

        And I forgot to say that I LOVED the new-and-improved vicious GhostFace, but I was kind of disappointed that one particularly gross-looking scene from the previews didn’t make it into the movie itself. It would have been a nice throwback to Drew Barrymore’s Casey Becker.

      • Which scene from the previews, BlondeZombie, didn’t make the final cut on SCREAM 4?

  3. Buzz says:

    I was never a big fan of the Scream series. The first one was ok-ish I suppose but the other two were complete garbage. Just because a story has a unique premise dosn’t automatically means it’s going to be good. The premise was beginning to grate on my nerves by the end of the first movie and was defiantly nowhere near unique or original after that. I’ll probably watch this film at some point but based on your review of it I’m certainly not in any rush.

    I do have a good story about Scream though, which despite myself makes me remember it with a certain fondness. I was speaking to my friend about the film and she was telling me how much it has scared her. So because I like a bit of a practical joke I rang her up very late at night and started asking her if she liked Scary Movies, which properly freaked her out for ages. Anyway several years pass and I had pretty much forgotten all about that joke. I was chatting to the same friend one evening and I happened to mention in passing that I was going to see The Ring in a couple of days. She asked me what time I was going to see it, which I remember think was a little odd but whatever. So I see The Ring and just as I’m walking out of the cinema I get a call from a withheld number and a deathly voice on the other end whispers to me “7 days.” I had no idea who this was at the time and was massively freaked out, which I think anyone would be if something like that happened. I told what had happened to me at the cinema to my friend and how freaked out it had made me and then she leaned over and whispered in my ear, in the same deathly voice “payback.” Freakin’ awesome! =D

    • Payback sure can be a bitch Buzz!!! As you can gather I’m also not a huge fan of the SCREAM series. I enjoyed the 1st 2 (somewhat) and hated the 3rd. The 4th really had potential. It was gorier and GhostFace was pretty vicious but the filmmakers killed it with too much (bad) humour. Oh well.