An old, somewhat revised, Scream 4 review of mine just snazzily posted by the fine folks of the Pelikula film blog, which I don’t contribute to nearly enough! Follow the blog & read away if you haven’t already!
Meta This Meta That
by Ariel Esteban Cayer
Scream 4 (2011)
D: Wes Craven
S: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panetierre, Rory Culkin
Reuniting the original cast and supposedly building upon a whole decade of real-life technological advances and new conventions in the arguably declining horror genre, Scream 4 has the potential to be a clean slate for the tired franchise, one that would provide the same meta humor and wink at the genre Scream did so well back in 1996. Supported by the return of screenwriter Kevin Williamson (painfully missing from Scream 3), I had every reason to be excited for this new sequel. Sadly, Scream 4 falls extremely short and, while being somewhat enjoyable, is nothing more than a very useless film, one that tries hard to go back to basics and be smart and edgy, but is ultimately tailor-made for tweens that think they are horror fans because they have seen the Saw films and My Soul to Take.
In fact, being transposed in the Scream universe is one of the main reasons Scream 4 fails: Scream has always been about the Campbell-Arquette-Cox trio and despite their return and appearances, which are peripheral at best, the film is very much about the new teens, led by an incredibly miscast Emma Roberts. I can see how this is attractive to the early-teenage horror fan/trash (a quick search for “Scream 4” in the Tumblr-sphere is evidence enough) but for someone looking for a throwback to the old characters and tropes, this is a major disappointment amd even a bigger problem when came time for the killer-revealing 20-minute expositional speech that is now a staple of the franchise, for better or worse.
Certainly, Sidney has her interesting bookend moments and some of the new characters prove of interest. Hayden Panettiere’s hard-ass horror-buff bimbo (as if!), surprisingly, comes to mind, but in the end the film is nothing more than a very boring teen slasher, one that has been done better countless times.
The second and arguably biggest problem with Scream 4 lies in its metatextuality. Instead of poking fun at the new batch of films the aughts have to offer, Williamson turns the humor inwards, which quickly becomes extremely tiring. As soon as the opening, which I think is the strongest sequence of the film, washes off and the narrative becomes increasingly centered around Sidney’s cousin (What the fuck, you say?) and her annoying group of friends, missed opportunities accumulate and the essence is lost.
I also have to admit how much I wanted to punch the cinematographer in the face: the whole film is drenched in an over-abundance of soft focus. Everything is white-washed and everyone has a glow around them. Although this is ultimately just a nitpick, it is one of the ugliest aesthetics I have ever seen on screen and proves truly detrimental to my appreciation of the film, especially when compared to the original trilogy, which is definitely standard, very effective, and occasionally beautiful in its photography.
This might sound harsh, and I would be lying if I said there is no fun to be had with this, but what I feared the most is indeed true: Scream 4 is wildly unnecessary and only worth your time if, like me, you are a fan of the series and interested in picking it apart. Or if you’re 14 and think Emma Roberts is hot shit. Go figure.