Flippin' Through Franchises: Scream 4

With this we bring a close to the Scream saga! The fourth movie came out in 2011, 11 years after the third movie. I believe it was originally meant to be the first part of a new trilogy but after underperforming in theatres I’m guessing this is indeed the end of the franchise. Even I’m guilty of not going to see it, though in retrospect I have no idea what was stopping me. We watched it on DVD, enjoyed it and again, this is the first time I’ve gone back to it since.

It’s once again no match for the original but it’s certainly the closest a sequel has come yet and it is definitely better than the second and third parts.

Scream 4 once again stars Neve Campbell, Courtenay Cox and David Arquette and they aren’t simply relegated to extended cameos, they are still very much the stars. Hell Campbell is in this one far more than she was the third movie. Dewey and Gail have since gotten married. Dewey is the Woodsboro sheriff and Gail I guess quit reporting (I don’t believe they explain why) and is struggling to write another book. Sidney wrote a hugely successful book about getting past her experiences from the first three movies. She has come back to Woodsboro as part of a book tour and within like an hour of her getting there, shit starts to get raw and people start to get murdered by Ghostface again.

One thing I will always give this movie credit for is the fact that it’s a sequel and not a remake. After a decade you would think the go to move would be to reboot Scream and start over but fuck that, they just kept the story right going. The characters do talk a lot about this being a remake and how the killer is remaking the events that took place in Scream. That all felt a bit forced as it really doesn’t feel like that outside of a few moments at the end, and that’s only because the killers are flat out telling us it’s totally a remake. I still don’t think I fully believe them. So while some of the characters seem convinced this is a remake, it really feels like another sequel, but at the very least a pretty good one.

As is the tradition, Scream 4 gets even more meta than the previous movie which considering how up its own ass that one was, is pretty surprising. Here they manage to pull it off without coming off as obnoxious about it. Well aside from the opening. The first opening of the movie is actually the opening of Stab 6 which it turns out is actually the opening of Stab 7 which then leads to our real opener where two characters are watching Stab 7. I will admit it certainly tricked me the first time I watched it but it feels a bit like the screenwriter patting himself on the back for being so clever. That’s definitely the most indulgent the movie gets but you do still have plenty of scenes where characters dissect horror movies and talk about how the rules and clichés and who will die next, etc.

Scream 4 does get its jabs in at modern horror trends since a lot has happened since Scream 3. The opening scene has the characters attacking the Saw series as nothing more than a bunch of gore with no actual suspense (I kinda like the Saw movies but I can’t deny that sums them up pretty well). Found footage is surprisingly spared but remakes definitely get called out. Probably my favourite shot at remakes is a scene when a character is being quizzed by the killer about a certain remake and she proceeds to list every horror remake from the last few years and the list just goes on and on and on. Even I didn’t realize how many there had been, it’s pretty astounding.

Once again the three leads are the highlight but they do a much better job with the supporting cast than the last two movies. In the last two every supporting character was seemingly there to up the number of suspects and victims where at least here you do give a shit about at least a few of them, or at the very least they feel more like actual characters. Kirby played by Hayden Panettiere is probably the best character introduced here. She’s a girl who is way into horror movies but at the same is not portrayed as socially awkward or strange. She is just a regular teenager who happens to dig scary movies. She also is the first character to ace the stupid trivia quiz the killer gives her but these are still pretty easy questions. The two new nerd/Randy replacement characters (one of them played by a Culkin) are kind of irritating and speak almost exclusively in web speak and movie references. There’s also a deputy character played by Marley Shelton who has very little to do and occasionally acts creepy for seemingly no other reason than the movie wants us to think maybe she is the killer. When we find out she’s not, there is no explanation given as to why she was acting so damn bizarre earlier.

Emma Roberts is the new young lead here as Sidney’s cousin and she is…ok. She definitely gets to shine in the latter half of the movie but for the majority of the film she’s a bit bland. The one thing I’m surprised with in regards to all of the main characters is how well they deal with all of the shit going on around them. Despite close friends being killed they still refuse to not hold a giant Stab party and right after that gets broken up because of murder, they go straight to someone else’s house and watch a bunch of horror movies with the front door to the house unlocked. Yes in the first Scream they had a huge party where they watched scary movies but at that point only fellow students had been killed, nobody from their inner circle. In this movie, one of their best friends was brutally butchered in front of them like the night before so I don’t know if I buy that a day later they would be watching the Stab movies, even if they do claim it’s in honour of their dead friend.

Scream 4 finally makes good on Scream 2’s promise that things were going to get way gorier as this is easily the most violent entry in the franchise. Characters are stabbed repeatedly and one of the first murders comes complete with intestines strewn about a bedroom. The kills themselves still aren’t very creative as again the killer sticks exclusively with stabbing, and sure none of the deaths are at all surprising, but they do a better job with the chase scenes and get some genuine suspense going, with the last 10 minutes or so being the highlight. Characters still talk primarily in references and quips but the movie as a whole feels closer in tone to the first movie and thankfully ditches the lame humour that permeated the third one.

So that is the Scream franchise and it is not nearly as strong as perhaps I thought it was before going into this. The first is still great, the second has its moments but is generally unimpressive, the third is just a bad movie and the fourth comes the closest to reaching the level of quality the first achieved. I’s hard to say what happens with Scream going forward. Like I said a Scream 5 is likely out of the question and a remake seems odd as this movie already covered remakes so a remake couldn’t really talk about it being a remake as it’s already been done. Alas this may be the end of Scream as a franchise but at least with this movie they can end things on a much stronger note than had the third movie really been the conclusion.