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Scream 4 (2011)

What do you do when your satiric self-aware take on pop culture becomes the MO for a generation? Back in 1996, Scream was a breath of fresh air by sending up dusty horror staples and having highly literate characters, with exceptional vocabularies, deconstruct genre elements while ironically falling victim to them as well. In 2011, Scream 4, an obvious paycheck grab, is showing its age. After a rather nifty series of opening fake-outs, which gave me hope that returning writer Kevin Williamson was going to finely skewer the conventions of horror since Scream last went dormant in 2000, but sadly this is not the case. “New decade, new rules,” one character says, but it’s all so much of the same. People run, they get stabbed, only the locations are truly different. There are a few witty jabs about the obsession with reboots and remakes, and Williamson does secretly work a crafty symmetry to the first film as far as characters go. The body count is much higher but the scare quotient is low. And then brining back the original cast (Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox) seems like a waste if they cede almost all screen time to a bunch of fresh-faced high school kids who were learning to walk when Campbell was learning to run for her life. The satirical elements feel so lazy; if you’re going to introduce technology-obsessed characters and the narcissism of social media, then do something with it. Don’t introduce an element like a webcam and then barely use it. The scares are about as flimsy as the commentary. The reveal of the killer(s) is stupid enough, as is the cracked motivation, but the ending just piles one absurdity onto another. It doesn’t know when to stop, and Scream 4 flirts with some daring possibilities to wrap up its bloodshed. Scream 4 is a drifting vehicle, wasting potential at every opportunity. The weight of all those red herrings, genre riffs, ironic twists, and self-aware characters has gotten to be too much. The Scream franchise has morphed into what it once parodied.

Nate’s Grade: C

Scream 3 (2000)

Master of the macabre Wes Craven returns to the most anticipated and secretive horror series in recent memory. The Scream saga opened the doors for the teen proliferation of all that is commercial, and now the same people come back to close the book on what they started. At least that’s what the idea was.

Craven proves his directing credentials even more so with this vapidly dull sequel to the sequel about horror sequels. Even when the story is dragging, and it will, he wrings some amount of tension and excitement that I’m sure would likely be absent from any other director’s hands.

The void of teen powerhouse scribe Kevin Williamson is distinguishing, but newbie Miramax goldenboy Ehren Kruger walks the walk effectively. What is sadly absent are the touches of irony and intrigue that Williamson dabbled through like a French chef. Ghostface loses the edge it had in the earlier flicks where the deaths would all be unusually related to the topic at hand in some clever way. But in Scream 3 the irony is left behind at the Williamson offices and killer-man-guy just hacks people away. No interesting approaches or set-ups, just unrelenting running and slashing.

Scream 3‘s biggest drawback may be the lack of the central mystery the first two exhibited so well. ‘Scream 3’ introduces about 15 different characters, but then quickly enough kills off about 14 of them. Face it kids, if Scream 3 is your first Scream flick you ain’t making it to the end credits. Kruger lays no clues or red herrings for the audience to gape and trip over in wondering who is behind the killer’s mask. More time is spent needlessly killing needless characters than creatively playing the audience along an intricate guessing game that would have made the movie more enjoyable.

It may sound like I’m coming down hard on Scream 3 but, on the contrary, I had a huge amount of fun with it. Parker Posey is wonderful. I was laughing often and was usually entertained even though I could sense the franchise losing its steam. Besides a lame ending (two in a row), Scream 3 is good popcorn fun but nothing more promising than that.

Ladies and gentlemen the Scream horror series has finally degenerated into the very thing it’s making fun of. Except with this installment it seems not to know that the joke is on them.

Nate’s Grade: C+

 

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