Nothing to Scream About: A Review of Scream 4

Nostalgia is a funny thing.  It makes me buy DVDs of cartoons I watched growing up, or eat at places I hung out when I was younger.  Occasionally, it’ll even cause me to pop in an old cassette tape and jam along with some 20 year old rock tunes.  But this past weekend nostalgia sent me to the theater to watch Scream 4.

If you’re about my age, you remember when the first Scream movie came out.  It was all the rage.  A scary movie for those of us who had kinda gotten bored with scary movies.  Scream pointed out all the cliches and redundancies we had all noticed and articulated them in a way that made us feel like we were in on something.  A kind of clique of worn out moviegoers.

Of course, there were sequels.  And, of course, they couldn’t live up to the original.  Scream 2 was okay, but it lacked the magic of the original.  Hey, it happens.  But maybe they’ll leave it alone now, right?  Wrong.  There had to be a Scream 3.  And even though you watched it, you kinda felt let down.  Like maybe the filmmakers had been reaching too far to make a good plot.  Whatever happened, it didn’t work out.  But, you lived with it because, dammit, at least it was Scream!

Then over 10 years went by and, suddenly, Scream 4 was playing at the local multiplex.  Probably like you, I was thinking there was no possible way it could be as good as any of the first three.  Sequels just don’t tend to get better.  And seeing the same characters in their 40s, recycling the same plot line wasn’t going to be very entertaining, was it?  Aw hell, I might as well check it out.  And so I did.  Like I said…nostalgia!

Sadly, it fails from the get-go.  The plot is basically this:  Sidney Prescott, heroine of the Scream franchise, has written a book about her experiences in Woodsboro.  As part of her book tour, she returns to her hometown.  Her old pal Dewey, once a lowly Deputy, is now the town’s sheriff.  And his wife, Gale Weathers, is out of the news business and has basically been living off her big moment of glory, writing book after book about the Woodsboro killings that have inspired a franchise of movies called Stab.  The problem is that, with Sidney out of the picture for the past several years, she has nothing to write about.  But, as luck would have it, Miss Prescott has returned home and, oh would you look at that, people start dropping dead right on cue.

Sadly, the movie never gets any better than the contrived plot would suggest.  The dialogue, too, is terribly corny.  And not even in a good cheesy horror movie sort of way.  It fails because it is clearly trying so desperately to not be corny.  Lines that are meant to be chilling just made me laugh, and scenes meant to be dramatic I yawned through.

Characters aren’t developed very well, either.  After the movie was over, it was difficult to remember anyone’s names save for the mainstays from the previous three films.  Kirby, played by Hayden Panattiere, was the one that sprung to mind immediately.  But that was likely due to the fact that Kirby was such an odd name that I was almost forced to remember it.  I was supposed to care that any of these people might be massacred by a costumed killer?  Why?  I couldn’t even remember their names!

If there is one good thing about the movie, it is that the killer’s identity in the later scenes is a surprise.  I’ll admit that they fooled me.  But what kept it from being truly entertaining was that I was never hooked into the movie.  For a twist to truly work, the viewer has to be involved all along the way.  I wasn’t.  Therefore the big reveal, while a surprise, wasn’t something I could truly care about.

And that is basically the entire problem with Scream 4 in a nutshell.  A series that was based off the idea that horror movies were full of banality and dopiness has become just that:  A played out and recycled premise, chock full of cliche and lacking much in the way of originality.  Truly, with this latest offering Scream has become a parody of itself.  A sad ending to what was once a promising series.  Unless there is a Scream 5.  And if that’s the case, roll the credits, because I’m done.

Yes, friends, I am all for nostalgia.  But they should’ve left the Scream franchise in the 90s from whence it came.  And I probably should’ve stayed home.

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