10.05.2011

Horrorthon '11: Scream 4 (Wes Craven, 2011)

Some movies are so bad they make me want to vent about their awfulness for days, weeks, months on end. The "Scream" franchise, which carves its reputation solely on the names of past horror icons those involved claim to adore and honor but can't help picking apart, is the kind of bad so exhaustingly stupid I hardly want to continue thinking about it at all. The infamous "rules" (practically non-existant ones that have been toyed with as far back as "Friday the 13th" and assuredly further) that may have single-handedly defined what was to come in the sequels irk me so - it obviously implies the characters, many of them faux-cinephiles, realize they're being watched in their own horror movie but with the contradictory sense that we are supposed to buy their experiences as "real", all the while insulting true genre masters by placing them in a tight nutshell. Each "Scream" movie is only one hypocritical step away from being parody without wanting to confess as much, "Scream 4" being the worst culprit.

It's all concept over execution, yet again. Not only are forebears from the '60s, '70s and '80s boiled down to plot points as opposed to what really makes them legendary, the film - as is series standard - gets its "meta" points across through blatantly overwrought heaves of dialogue. That sort of thing is fine if it's a Kevin Smith comedy and all there is to do is talk, but "Scream 4", like the others before it, is trying to be a slasher proper in its own right. The characters may as well be talking right in to camera, dramatically winking to ensure the audience is catching on to its hazy, would-be cleverness. No subtlety would be lost.

Appeal-wise, this unwelcome return to Woodsboro - filmed with a bland, true-to-the-'90s absence of visual style to its credit or detriment, depending on your outlook - puts itself in its pre-established fans' corner, even opening with brash attacks on haters such as myself. Yet, with its clear attempt (not that it was trying to be vague) to spark a new trilogy, it fails to give even those fans what they want. As a verbose depiction of the contemporary Hollywood horror climate, we're loaded down with "remake" characters intended to represent what the original "Scream" might play like in a new millennium rendition. Returning cast members go through the anticipated motions, not quite overshadowed but certainly sifting through a questionable mess that's difficult to care about in any form. Though it may have been panned as generic, for my money this flick would be better off providing pure, innocent fanservice with recognizable faces and zany twists. Anything in the realm of "trying" is just embarrassing, in this case.

Worst of all, in all its tiresome exposition of exposition, "Scream 4" is saying nothing we couldn't learn by simply looking down a list of mainstream 21st Century horror. Are we meant to point and smile and declare, "Yes, this movie must read the same blogs I do!" upon bitterly uninspired narration on the condition of contemporary scare cinema amidst further blurring of the on-screen world's maddeningly fake "reality"? If something spells out for you why it is so lame, does it really stop being lame just because you're nodding in agreement?

It may not be saying much to call "Insidious" one of the better horrors of recent years, but I can at least thank its wide release date for quashing the potential "Scream" seemed to have for another two self-righteous installments much the way the same director's "Paranormal Activity" quashed "Saw 8" (and even then, "Saw 7" apparently had the sense to recognize its death knell and go shamelessly all-out in the fanservice department).

There. I'm done with "Scream" - watching it, talking about it, writing about it - hopefully for good.

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