Saturday, April 16, 2011

Do you Scream What I Scream?: Theatrcial Review of Scream 4

After great anticipation and much fanfare Scream 4 hit the theatre yesterday like a demon in a pillow fight. Screaming and yowling with ferocity and fervor only to be armed with all the wrong weapons… or maybe it just came to the wrong fight. Now I have been hoping and wishing and praying for this film to be the great Messiah for horror. I don’t mean because I think it ever had the promise to be especially good; I wanted this film to make all the money in the world so that studios would start green lighting the good stuff which might be described as the not so high budget fare. When this economy tanked the studios did two things very well.

The first thing mama and papa studio did was go into a “must please the masses” mode (the masses is not necessarily indicative of the horror loving world) and would produce more PG-13 rated material. More asses in the seats would lead to more profits and you can do that by casting a larger net. Horror movies themselves are a very small net to cast when taken against the action/adventure or comedy genres. R Rated horror flicks that are sequels of successful movies cast an even smaller net (especially when the last iteration of said film was ten years ago). So cast a wide net, you’ll catch much fish. Hopefully no tears in the net. Hopefully there are fish in the water. Theatres jacked up prices and gave us 3-D for real in the last couple of years not tried since the 80’s… tickets sales are still down something like twenty percent. Gotta figure out the formula (the very simple formula!)

The second thing the studios did when the economy hit the proverbial wall was to shelve all the borderline titles. These would be titles that could not necessarily prove themselves against, say a movie like Avatar. If the movie you want to release can’t battle with the big boys at the box office you’re on the shelf for now. You’ll have company like Friday the 13th pt 2, the 3D Halloween… these are proven franchise successes but maybe not quite the bang for the buck studios need to get the investors to back da shit up. It’s a money game after all. Mama studio needs to feed all the children and papa studio has to go out and buy that rather expensive new set of golf clubs. So that movie you’ve been waiting for oh so patiently that you’ve been following on Bloody-Disgusting for like a year now and they’ve even started casting… not gonna happen… yet.

So this whole thing leads to this: If you can get a genre favorite franchise and get it to bank some serious coin, you stand the chance of actually giving the go ahead to some of the “less popular” flicks we’ve all been waiting for. In that regard Scream 4 could be considered the promised one, the Messiah. Scream 4 is supposed to be a box office smash and Wes Craven (the godfather of slasher films) wants to give you a new generation of genre classics. It is supposed to be the movie that makes the big studios money, transcends the genre line and gets people watching horror again (in the theatre at least). That’s what the original Scream did after all. Sequels plus an overabundance of slasher flicks and other genre goodies came out just after the original Scream made its mark.

Here’s the great big rub you’ve been waiting for. Is Scream 4 the new Messiah? Can it set forth and bear fruit or some such nonsense to continue with the semi-biblical references in this review? I’m afraid we have a Puxatawney Phil situation here folks. It’s more like, will the audiences come out of their hole to see Scream 4? If they see they’re shadow it’s six more months of winter (or years of poor genre funding?). If they fail to see their own shadow and stay outside of their hole… horror renaissance. And the verdict is…

Six more weeks of winter (years of winter?). At least in this humble writer’s opinion. Let me state for the record that I’ve been talking about this movie nonstop. People are asking me to stop talking about this movie. I refrained from doing expository blogs and the ilk because I saw it was well in hand. Horror Hound did an amazing retrospective not to be outdone by this would be blogger. It gave me a freakin’ Scream 4 fever and the only cure was more cowbell (voice encoders?). The reason we will be having six more weeks of winter is due to some atrocious writing. Some bad dialogue that wasn’t funny bad but boring bad. That’s what I believe it comes down to after a night of sleep and some “what’s your favorite scary movie?” dreams.

I don’t do the spoiler reviews as you know, so we’ll give the briefest of plot synopsis and get going on the actual critique. I’ve seen way too many spoiler warnings out there and that’s probably half of why this movie might put the audiences back into their hole.

Scream 4 starts years after Scream 3 left the movie world in a shamble. Sidney Prescott has returned to Woodsboro on a book tour, celebrating her new found independently found freedom from her past. The town of Woodsboro is celebrating the legend of ghost face with childlike fervor and urban legend pomp. The unsuspecting town can only guess that murder awaits it ala its legendary champion de morte, ghost face. Did I leave out all the good parts? You bet I did.

What did I like about this entry into the Scream franchise? I like an increase in gore and blood. It wasn’t overkill (hardy har har) and it had a very matter of fact, “you’re staring at movie blood” feel to it which I actually like. The kills themselves were a travesty. No suspense. Don’t look for suspense in this picture. You’ll get your jump scares, but you know where the killer is because you’ve seen enough slasher flicks by now to know when you’re being lead on and that misdirection is multiple murderer’s best friend. Don’t go to see this movie if you’re looking for Saw deaths. No one let the artists run loose with the latex bag.

This picture tries to get back in touch with the roots of Scream. Why Scream was famous. What it was criticizing socially and in the horror genre and in the audience that it loved to educate. On this level, the socially critical, inward look at the genre, it is a success. This is where I think things went awry. Kevin Williamson, veteran Scream writer, pulls out all the punches to get you to a point where you understand how horror has evolved since the first trilogy. Rules are different (the rules in these flicks are always different but the simple fact that they say the rules are different is a cliché that needs to be pointed out). The kills should be more violent, and they were but they needed to go farther. Where’s the Pablo Picasso of puke? Making the next fucking Saw flick that’s where. Sidney can die in this one (according to the new rules which really are the same as the old rules). You’ve heard the expression the more things change, the more they stay the same, right? Well that’s what Williamson’s rules convey perfectly. So you feel like you’re watching the original Scream with out the superb acting, humor or originality. You get your high school, “what I learned about horror films in ten years “essay followed by a poor student presentation using Power Point.

Unfortunately, Williamson and Craven spent so much time elaborating on all the new rules that they forgot about other plot devices and character development. They forgot about dialogue. Scream 4 will test your patience. It’s like reading the Cliff’s Notes to a movie you’ve seen and you find yourself hanging on the characters’ every word… because you want them to spit it the fuck out already. Keep the story moving. Keep the jokes coming. That’s why the original franchise worked. Funny plus blood equals successful picture. Half the jokes fall flat. The audience in my theatre barely offered a chuckle and I almost conked out three or four times because the pace was so god damn slow.

You’ve probably heard the opening sequence was good. A.P. you’re my hero… so are you K.B. (We are using initials to protect the virgin Scream 4’ers).The opening sequences are always excellent in this series. That’s where they spent all their time creating. It’s a brilliant beginning, but I’m afraid it won’t prop up the rest of the movie. If you can sneak into the theatre for the first ten to fifteen minutes you’ll be a happy moviegoer. The only other redeeming piece of narrative in this picture is the emergence of new film geeks. These are the guys that genre buffs usually identify with (and I found myself identifying with them quite well… dork… dork… dork). They throw a little “Stab-a-thon”, a movie marathon of the Stab movie series based on the real events that happened to Sidney years before. The party looked like fun and the drinking game they came up with is very Star Wars drinking game esque. So shine a spotlight on those sequences and move forward.

Scream 4 is not the Messiah. It’s like the death rattle of a dying franchise. Scream 3 blew massive chunks. Great idea, let’s put Jay and Silent Bob in a fucking horror picture. Who the fuck cares? While the box office receipts are clearly not in yet, my theatre was empty. I went to a late showing, but there was barely a whisper in the theatre. Somebody gave a mock golf clap at the end. The box office will tell us if it was a hit, and I will be happy if the non genre-ites come out and see this one in droves if only to put a hefty cash infusion into our dearly hurting genre. As for whether there will be more Scream films, I wouldn’t say “no”. I would say… NO!!! Or maybe I’d ask and say pretty please with sugar on top, no?

-Dr. Terror hath spoken (now forget what I said and go donate your money to your favorite genre at the theatre, fuckers!)

Note: It’s always good to see a movie reference so many other classics. In this regard, I hope everyone goes out and rents some of the classics mentioned in this picture. It will be educational. Also, great to see Marley Shelton in a picture. She was great as Dr. Dakota Block in Planet Terror. She’s clearly the actress who studied the script enough to make it funny (at least in her scenes). Rose McGowan was in the first Scream, so maybe this how Hollywood comes full circle. Oh and Emma Roberts, way to transition from children’s programming into horror. My daughter is going to want to see Scream 4 because she loved Hotel for Dogs. Making new genre fans every day. Let’s higher Drake and Josh next.

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