In 2014, I came across an opportunity to write for an arts & entertainment website. To apply, all I had to do was write a film review. I had never written a film review. After a flurry of research on “How to Write a Film Review,” next was deciding the film. I did not have to think long. I would review Scream 4. I had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Scream series and had lost count of how many times I had watched and rewatched. I considered Wes Craven one of my heroes.
The topper? Scream 4 had filmed in my town and many a late night was spent sitting on a sidewalk across the street watching them film. Yes, I would review Scream 4. Below is my review as sent to the editor in 2014. Spoiler alert – I got the gig and for three years was a blogger for The Script Lab. Happy reading!
Dimension Films – 2011
Director: Wes Craven
Screenplay: Kevin Williamson, Ehren Kruger (not credited)
Scream 4: Calling Kevin Williamson, Calling Kevin Williamson
With fevered anticipation I arrive at the movie theater on opening night to see Scream 4, the latest installment of the Scream series. An hour and fifty-one minutes later, I walk out wondering what I have done to drive screenwriter Kevin Williamson away and am confused as to why he wants to destroy the relationship we once had. The movie starts well enough, with the blood and gore Scream audiences expect and the intelligent humor we love, but quickly dissolves into a stilted image of its former self.
Legendary director Wes Craven reunites with Scream veterans Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, who are back for this 2011 film that, by all accounts, would have been the basis for Scream 3 had Williamson written it. The concept for Scream 4 and screenplay are all Kevin Williamson, but much maligned Scream 3 screenwriter Ehren Kruger, was brought in for rewrites as Williamson, who is contractually obligated to The Vampire Diaries, had to step away from the project.
While countless friends and foes have preceded her in death, survivor Sidney Prescott returns to Woodsboro on the tenth anniversary of the original massacre. Much to the chagrin of Gale Weathers, Sidney has become a New York Times best selling author after her self-help book “Out of Darkness” became a hit with readers. Gale and Dewey, now married, have settled into small town life and Deputy Dewey has been promoted to Sheriff. Like Sidney, Gale is trying to reinvent herself, but suffering from writer’s block she spends her days as a frustrated housewife instead of penning her next novel. Meanwhile, Ghostface is back with a vengeance, promising more blood and a higher body count.
From the outset, Scream continues its pattern of poking fun at its genre and demystifying horror’s not so secret formula by uncovering the rules to successfully survive a horror movie. The new generation of Woodsboro natives, played by Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Marielle Jaffe, Erik Knudsen and Nico Tortorella are irreverent and savvy, but they still ask, “Who’s there?” and open doors when they shouldn’t. Neve Campbell, once again, fulfills her job as the hero. She portrays Sidney as smart and sophisticated and we happily still root for her. David Arquette, on the other hand, previously a hit as the affable, bumbling Deputy Dewey Riley, stumbles to reinvent a character the audience can identify with. Miraculously free of the pesky limp that plagued him in Scream 2 and 3, he gives us little reason to love him as Sheriff Riley.
One of the original Scream movie’s achievements was its social commentary. When Billy Loomis noted that life was one great big movie, it was statement about cinema’s effect on a progressively violent society. Scream 4 returns where the first Scream left off delivering a scathing, yet entirely deserved, attack on today’s society and the desire to live increasingly public personas, at any cost. The current prevalence of cutthroat reality entertainment makes the old school pine for the original Real World casts, who appear like socially conscious saints when compared to this generation’s fame seekers. That this is made a central theme is one of the movie’s shining moments.
Scream 4 offers enough quirky one-liners to keep us satisfied, all expertly delivered by an experienced cast, but the film suffers from a multitude of missteps. For one, it contains fewer characters that we care about. If we never come to love or connect to any of them, then why do we care if they die? And while the focus on social commentary gives it an element of depth, the plot seems to have been sacrificed. The introduction of Sidney’s never before known family members? Trite and reminiscent of Scream 3. Lastly, the element of surprise, those unexpected turning points that are supposed to wow the audience (and what made the original Scream stand out), seem manufactured; done only because it is the formula that one must follow when writing a horror movie.
Wes Craven is a master of fear, and a big reason much of the avid fan base continues its devotion to the series. He knows what keeps people awake at night and taunts the audience accordingly. Kevin Williamson, though, has become that bad boyfriend who keeps breaking up with us and yet we keep coming back for more. Disillusioned, we continually hope it will work out, but he just disappoints us again. Can’t we just get along? Come on Kevin, please don’t make me break up with you for good.
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