Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin, Alison Brie, Marley Shelton, Anna Paquin
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Kevin Williamson, Ehren Krueger
Cinematography: Peter Deming
Original Score: Marco Beltrami
Running Time: 103 Mins.
11 years ago Wes Craven seemingly nailed the coffin in his second franchise, Scream, replacing original writer Kevin Williamson and his slick knowing but at times very tense script that was the epitome of post-modernity with Ehren Krueger who it seemed knew only how to tamely ape his forebear taking the ironic nods down substantially so we simply had a run-of-the-mill slasher the franchise had until that point poked fun at. Scream 3 was in fact quite enjoyable and a damn site better than a lot of the competition (I Know What You Did Last Summer anyone?) alas it was ultimately the trilogy closer as Craven showed little yearning to return.
Jump forward to a time when the Master of Horror is in need of a hit (his last film My Soul to Take bombed badly) as well as the the wave of a new brand of horror films to parody and poke fun at what better and more opportune time to return to Woodsboro along with the original cast, all of whom have never really found fame beyond the franchise (bar Cox), and the return of Williamson to turn his ironic hand to tear into torture-porn, social networking and found-footage films amongst anything else that is ripe for a ripping (or slashing!).
The problem is those films made money for a reason, be it the right or wrong one this is seemingly what an audience wants and the current trend is back towards the straight out horror films of the 80’s, a decade that is seeing a resurgence across the board in Hollywood alas to compete Scream 4, or Scre4m as it is being marketed, walks a fine line between the ironic post-modernity the franchise prides itself on (at its best) and actually becoming one of the films it is commenting on. Thankfully it nearly always stays on the right side, finding the elements that made the first two films mosre than just great horror films but great films, films that have somethign to say AND entertain both being funny and scary in equal measure, something that was the mark of the frachise at one time.
If nothing else Scream, as a franchise, has always delivered in the opening throes, Scre4m does not deliver on this front and (bravely?) Craven, Williamson et al have managed to parody not only their own films but prove that they are as capable as commenting on us (the audience) as they ever were, some may find this constant winking to the audience approach a little tedious if they are simply seeking lazy scares but personally I like a little intelligence with my blood and guts. In the first 10 minutes alone we have obvious and literal references (Saw 4 and its abundence of gore in place of scares) and less literal but just as obvious (the film within a film within a film), it provides a bevvy of cameos and some inventive kills.
Some may baulk thinking the film often slumps to lows it seeks to parody, but a cleverer person (read: geek) will recognise that however 90’s post-modernity may be, it sure is favourble in the face of another Saw, Hostel or Paranormal Activity which are now neither big nor clever. Where the film doe falter slightly is in the slightly over-stuffed cast, an inevitable flaw in the face of wanting to up your body count and if nothing else actors such as Paquin, Bell, Brody and Anderson provide some enjoyable, gruesome and often funny death scenes between them…though there are a great many more as the franchise increases in numbers so too do the victims (Scream was never shy in sticking to these rules to match the competition).
Nostaligia and brains beside there is much here for modern audiences and I praise Craven for avoiding a straight remake, Cox, Campbell and Arquette are a joy to watch in their (now) iconic roles as is ghost-face, proving just as fallible as ever falling up/down stairs, tripping over cupboards and generally being the most human movie monster around. Scre4m is unlikely to win over newbies as it really doesn’t pander to todays teens, something which I suspect has hindered its success in the US box office and simply goes to show that 15 years ago the fmovie-geek reigned supreme!
Scre4m isn’t perfect, shockingly after all that praise, but it is refreshing to see something with a bit of brain behind the faceless victims and toned down (compared to Saw) but more disturbing death scenes, if post-modernity is so 90’s, well call me old fashioned because it is still a film geeks dream come true.