Friday, April 15, 2011

"You're the Angel of Death."


Something amazing happened last night while I sat watching the midnight screening of Scream 4: I was scared. And I was surprised. A lot.

After 11 long years, Dimension has released the long-awaited, highly anticipated follow-up to the 90s/00s Scream trilogy, and they brought back everyone who made the originals such a stab-tastic success! Director Wes Craven and original writer Kevin Williamson reunited the gang to brave the blood, horror, and pop culture references just one more time.

I have to say before I get started... These movies make me very nostalgic. So going into movie #4 was bound to be a roller-coaster of emotions. So that aside, I will try to be level-headed about my analysis. Obviously, I'm going to try to avoid going into too much detail, because it really was a delight to see not knowing which direction it would take. But WARNING: some themes and plot points are discussed, so take that into account if you continue reading!

In this new film, we finally return to Woodsboro, CA - the scene of the original crimes and the sole location of the original Scream film. There we find that our beloved Deputy Dewey (David Arquette) is once again policing the sleepy town, but this time as its Sheriff. Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox-Arquette) is now Gale Weathers-Riley, lovingly married to Dewey, but resentfully living in the now uneventful Woodsboro. That is, until Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) comes back into town.

Returning for the first time since the massacre, perpetual survivor Syd has a new book to promote and a lot of wounds to heal. But as we all know, with Syd comes the inevitable reappearance of Ghostface. Oh, and the bloody and mangled bodies he leaves behind. And thankfully, Kevin Williamson has written some incredible (and some might say familiar) new characters into the mix, pulling from the long roster of young ingénues currently starring on every show on the CW and ABC Family. Front and center is Jill Roberts (played by Emma Roberts), Syd's teenage cousin in a very "Sydney Prescott in Scream"-esque role, who finds that her classmates' bodies seem to be piling up around her.

But let's not forget all the other loveable characters from the past! They can't go unrepresented either! Thankfully, we've got a Tatum (Hayden Panetierre), a Billy (Nico Tortorella), and even a couple of film-obsessed Randys (Rory Culkin and Erik Knudsen), all there to remind us that once again, the rules have changed.

While the original trilogy focused heavily on the rules and makings of a sequel and its counter-parts, this one takes it from a modern and rather prevalent perspective:

THE REMAKE. And what are the rules of a successful remake, you might ask? Well, you'll just have to watch the movie to find out.

Probably the most self-referential (or "meta", as the kids are calling it ad nauseum these days) of the series, it not only references itself on a continual stream, but is constantly citing or quoting the original trilogy and the 7 fictional Stab films that have been released over the past decade as the "film within a film." And while bringing attention to its flaws and over-used conventions could have been tedious and forced, it was shockingly refreshing, seemless, and oftentimes, hysterical.

Combining the old cast (who, btw, have never looked better) with the young was done very successfully. With so many faces and side-plots, it could easily have gone off the rails, taking too much time with people we didn't care about and forgetting about the ones we did, but it managed to stay on course, utilizing the freshness of the kids with the expertise and clear preparedness of the adults.

There were a few standouts among the masses, however. For me, at least. First and foremost, I truly believe the star of not only this movie, but the entire franchise, is Cox' Gale Weathers. Gale is a strong, sharp protagonist, and while the story may revolve around Syd, her inability to shake that "victim" stigma weakens her overall persona - no matter how many times she beats the piss out of Ghostface! It probably helps that Gale was given more dimension than the rest of the cast from the beginning and penned some of the best lines - and this time around, that hasn't changed. I didn't expect to care about the original 3 survivors as much as I found that I did - and Craven/Williamson don't let you lean back in your seat for even a moment from start to finish.

Another standout, surprisingly, was among the young cast: Hayden Panetierre. Playing the witty and clever Kirby, she delivered a stellar performance, ranging from funny to emotional in a single monologue. Very impressive (I still can't get over some of her perfect timing), and she wasn't alone. Most of the other newbies held their own, too - save Emma Roberts' momentary, but forgivable, breaks in character. It's pretty hard when you're up against veterans like Campbell and the Arquettes. Some slack must be given.

A few things didn't sit right with me, though. There's always something. While the movie did a good job about mis-directing your suspicions, it didn't spend a lot of time playing out some of what it set up. For instance, Gale's interest in getting back into reporting doesn't pay off the way that you'd expect, and while I understand certain things are cut for the sake of time and belaboring the point, it did feel a bit incomplete. A few others things are a bit too plot-sensitive to list here, but in general could have been fleshed out and handled with greater care. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, these issues seem minor in comparison.

In closing, I was remarkably pleased with this movie. I felt it not only did the characters justice, but the entire franchise. In my humble opinion, it sure as hell surpassed the 3rd, and matched the 2nd, landing in similar territory to the 1st (*gasp* blasphemy!) It mixed familiar motiffs with new and modern takes (oh, how phones and the internet have changed in 15 years!), and it managed to do what I least expected: Scare me.

Thank you, Wes and Kevin and cast. I expect movies 5 and 6 to be just as impressive. Don't let me down now that you've lifted me up.

Rating: 4/5 stars, ****

ps. The opening is hilarious. The ending is epic. That's all I can say.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely loved the movie. I, too, was surprised and scared. I also laughed. Any issues I had with the movie were very minimal, so the experience was a great ride!

    I give a lot of cred to Wes and Kevin for putting together such a fabulously updated slasher flick. Not easy to do successfully!


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