Scream 4 Me

I always had a thing for ya, Sid!

WARNING: Original trilogy spoilers ahead. No Scream 4 spoilers though.

Do you know the last time I went to the theater to see a movie, denizens? No? Let me give you a hint.

Yep. Haven’t been to see a movie since that stupid blue alien movie. I get the sneaking suspicion, at least based on the movies that I have rented from Netflix in between then and now, that I really haven’t missed anything. I’ve pretty much given up on renting movies, actually. Right now? I’m learning what I missed at Cook County Hospital and those wacky doctors in the ER. By the time I’m finished, I think I just might be able to fake my way as a doctor.

(Yeah, and a few more episodes of EastEnders and someone might actually mistake me for a Brit…pbbt.)

So what could possibly have lured me back to the theater? Only the opportunity to recapture an essence of my adolescence that I hold so very dear. See, if memory serves me correctly, there’s only one movie that I have seen more than twice in a theater. And, again by my admittedly wonky memory count, I do believe that I may have actually seen this four times in the theater (although I think it might have only been three…I’ll have to ask Captain Morgan the next time we get together, since he seems to hold most of my brain cells at this point in the game). It’s the horror movie that I have seen more than almost any other. In fact, I believe The Silence of the Lambs is the only movie that I have seen more…although A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween are pretty far up there, too (original versions only, of course).

The movie in question would be Scream. I love this movie so very much. I still think it’s one of the most innovative takes on the horror genre to come out of Hollywood. I love the fact that it was written by someone who obviously possessed a serious passion for horror. Kevin Williamson did something brilliant with that original screenplay…something that the horror movie industry desperately needed. He brought fresh meat to the horror altar and, in doing so, altered the genre in both wonderful and terrible ways. The slew of copycat flicks that followed (some even flowing from Williamson’s own fingers) was intriguing at first but inevitably frustrating when I realized that we were in for the long haul with Scream knockoffs. Then came the torture porn era and all bets were off as far as I was concerned. Blood and guts don’t bother me, but I cannot abide watching someone be tortured. I know. Weird, right?

I also love the characters, especially Sidney Prescott. I once wrote in a book review that very rarely did I wish a book character was real. Same bodes true for movie characters. However, I wish that Sidney was real. Minus being a lightning rod for psychos and the messy truth that if Sidney considers you a friend, you’re more than likely not going to make it to the end credits, I think she would be quite the awesome person to know. Plus, what can I say? I have a soft spot for the broken ones.

As for the original two sequels? I remember actually finding the opening of Scream 2 repulsive. What seemed so innovative and provocative an opening in the original movie (seriously, was anyone not set off-kilter by Drew freakin’ Barrymore dying before the title card?) was uncomfortable and even mildly offensive in the second. First, it had already been done (to extraordinary effect), so doing it again felt cheap; and second, placing it in such a public place felt so exploitative and…vulgar. Again, this is another of my strange proclivities. Scream 3 felt weightier and more promising to me than 2…but the ending was so anti-climactic and disappointing. I think it was because I was expecting it to go a completely different way…those damned red herring doppelgangers! However, the presence of Parker Posey was definitely a bonus, and there were a couple of genuinely chilling moments that made it worth the effort.

Of course, I own the special trilogy box set on DVD. I even owned three different copies of the original movie on VHS, including a weird double set that contained both the movie and a second copy with a director/writer commentary. I think it was some kind of failed attempt to make VHS competitive with DVDs. It was clunky and a bit redundant but it was also my first experience with a commentary track and I admittedly was hooked in by the newness of the idea.

So was it any wonder that I would make my way back to the theater to see the return of this franchise that so overwhelmingly won my heart so many years ago? True, I was irritated beyond belief when I first heard about the fourth movie. It was supposed to be a trilogy, dammit! Plus, I was incredibly surprised when I heard that Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette all signed on for the fourth movie. Hadn’t Sidney, Gale, and Dewey been through enough?

When Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson were also confirmed, I admit that hope sparked within me. It had been more than a decade since we’d paid a trip to that world. Perhaps in that time, they’d found new inspiration? A way to breathe freshness into a franchise that, the last time we saw it, limped over the finish line, beaten, bludgeoned, bloodied, but still standing?

Um. Yeah.

As a self-referential parody of the original franchise, Scream 4 is brilliant. In fact, I found myself laughing out loud several times. Honest, hearty, uncontrollable laughing. Probably not what Craven and Co. were going for though, you know, considering the fact that this was not marketed as a parody at all. And that’s a shame. Because as a straight-forward horror movie, it definitely did not cross the finish line this time. There’s no way it could, really, when it was dragged down every step by the inexorable weight of the original franchise resting completely on its shoulders.

What started out as a franchise designed to be reverent of the horror genre as a whole has now apparently been rebooted to pay obeisance mostly to its predecessors. Whether it was scenes played out in ways almost identical to those earlier movies or characters designed to fit the mold of the “Randy” or the “Tatum” or even the “Sidney” from that original film, Scream 4 spent more time evoking memories of the trilogy than it did in actually telling a new story. Sadly, however, there wasn’t really much of a “new” story to tell. And what story there was was wholly ridiculous and made me keep asking the same question: Why the fuck would any of the original characters ever go back to Woodsboro?! Go ahead, watch Scream 4 and see if you’re not asking this over and over as you watch it…I dare you. I double dog dare you!

Also by evoking memories of the original, and undeniably superior, films, all Scream 4 made me feel was a burning desire to re-watch the originals rather than continue watching this new offering. Add to this the heavily predictable nature of the story (there is no new thing under the sun or the Ghost Face mask) and…well. It was just disappointing. I will say this: There was a twist at the end that I didn’t anticipate completely and that I think had the potential to make this an amazing reintroduction to this franchise. To pull this off, however, something would have had to have happened that I honestly anticipated happening…but that didn’t.

Okay, I lied. I said I wasn’t going to include spoilers for the new Scream movie. I am. Right now. So cover your eyes for a few minutes. Or I’ll just mark the text in white so you can’t see it unless you highlight it.

So Emma Roberts, who plays Sidney’s cousin Jill , is the killer. Right here was the twist that I wasn’t completely anticipating…and I’m admittedly irritated by this. I let myself be lulled into complacency by the fact that this was Nancy Drew…and Julia Roberts’ niece. And Julia Roberts is always the good guy, right? [Insert character description here] with the heart of gold, right? So wouldn’t her goody-two-shoes, Nancy Drew niece be the same? Good job on deceptive casting here, that’s all I’m saying.

But why is Jill the killer? Because she spent her childhood listening to nonstop talk about her unlucky but also famous cousin and now she wants her 15 minutes of fame…and she’s willing to kill to get it. Willing to kill her mother (played by Laura Roslin Mary McDonnell, still suffering from a horrendously noticeable mouth droop since her BSG-era face lift). Even willing to kill her cousin. Yeah, she stabs Sidney. In places that regular people wouldn’t have survived. I have to admit, when she stabbed Sidney, I had a horrible “Oh god no” moment…same moment I felt when Sidney’s brother shot her point-blank at the end of Scream 3. Yet again I thought, “Wow, they’re really going to kill Sidney.”

Sidney Prescott, however, is a fucking cat. And she’s now down 4 of her 9 lives. Not to mention that now she’s had to kill her boyfriend, her boyfriend’s best friend, her boyfriend’s mother, her brother, and her cousin. That’s enough negative karma to haunt her through her next 30 reincarnations. Also, apparently it’s a very bad thing to have any kind of relationship with this woman. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

I never thought I would say this, but I think letting Sidney live was a mistake. She should have died in this movie. Even better? Her cousin should have gotten away with her plan. See, Jill had her two best friends killed, possibly stabbed her mom (I’d have to see the movie again to be certain on this part), stabbed her accomplice, shot her boyfriend, stabbed her cousin, then convincingly set the scene so that it looked like she’d been attacked, stabbed, and nearly slaughtered as well by the “real” killers. There’s even a wonderful Heathers-like moment involving a glass table. It was great. And ended with Jill purposely mirroring in a very unsettling and morbid way how Sidney had fallen after she was stabbed. Dewey and his deputies arrive, clear the scene, find the bodies, and then we see Jill being wheeled out on a gurney while a gaggle of reporters chase after her, asking her questions about what it feels like to be a hero, blah blah blah.

That is where the movie should have ended…with Sidney dead at the hands of a villain who is being heralded as a hero. Think about where that could have taken the franchise! Our beloved Sidney gone? And her killer now the “star” of the Woodsboro drama? Sick, twisted, and totally unexpected…everything the original movie was, only better. Just like one of the characters states at one point: The whole point of a reboot is to be better than the original.

In the end, though, Williamson wimped out. Not only did Sidney survive, all three of the original players made it through…even though Gale did get a nasty shoulder stab and Dewey was nearly bludgeoned to death by a teen wielding a bedpan. Yeah, oh that I was making that one up.

Okay, spoilers over. Disappointment, however, remains.

Truth be told, though, I’m glad I went to see this one. I have missed Sidney Prescott very much. I’m just sorry we only get together under these horrible circumstances. Seriously, how much trauma can one person go through in one lifetime? Plus, any chance to see Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox together again? Bonus times bonus to infinity. Although, Courteney Cox doesn’t look at all like herself anymore. Too much tweakage has occurred in the 11 years since the last movie and she’s now starting to look like a caricature of herself…and this absolutely breaks my heart. But it is what it is and soon every woman in Hollywood will look just like Madame.

I can’t wait. o_O

Do I think this movie should have been made? No. Do I think it’s gotten the franchise off to a promising reboot? No. Do I think they should do two more? Please, no. Had things turned out differently with Scream 4, I’d probably feel differently. As things stand, however, I don’t really see much point in continuing. This wasn’t a reinventing or reinvigorating of the franchise. It was instead an exercise in reminding its audience of how amazing the original movie was…and how each subsequent iteration fails that much more to even come close to that original greatness. I think perhaps the best bit of advice might have also been one of the better lines from what was, in the end, a rather disappointing script. It came from Sidney herself (but do forgive me, I must paraphrase): “One thing to remember when doing a reboot: Don’t fuck with the original.”

Even better? Don’t constantly bring up the original. You’re just going to remind people how unlike the original your latest sequel really is.

I will say this, however: I did enjoy the poster art. Clever, concise, and simple…even if I do find the use of the “4” as the “A” to be a little too cutesy and l33t for its own good.