Scream 4 (2011)
Rated R for more Scream specific violence. It's gonna be a lot of gore and a lot of stabbing. There's some fun use of vulgar language. There's going to be talk about sex, but no actual sex on screen and no nudity. If you've seen one Scream movie, the level of offensive content is exactly the same. R.
DIRECTOR: Wes Craven
Can I do it? I'm writing the last entry in my Scream collection at a remarkably distractible time. People tend to walk in and chat with me around this time of day. And I enjoy chatting. I enjoy chatting so much that I run out of time to write and then I start resenting people. But I'll take human contact any day. (That being said, I hope I have time to write this blog.)
Scream 4 is the only entry outside of the newest entry that I've only seen once. The newest entry, confusingly named Scream, I've only seen once because I tend to not rewatch movies that often because I'm constantly playing catch-up when it comes to media. But Scream 4 was a specific choice not to rewatch until now. Honestly, if I didn't have a Collections page that needed occasional updates, I probably wouldn't have rewatched Scream 4 this time. Scream 4 was always a bad movie to me. It was a vulnerable experience for me. Sometimes, you have to sell your spouse on date night movies. If you've been reading my other blogs involving Scream, you can guess that I overall like the franchise a lot. Considering that I only enjoy horror, but don't get obsessed with it, that's kind of saying something. But Scream 4 was the movie I convinced my wife to see in the theaters and, boy, did it stink. Now, I know that a lot of people actually like this movie a lot. Maybe I made that up, but I think I read something about a cult following around this entry in the franchise. Maybe it was just people's obsession with Kirby, which I don't get.
Okay, I kind of get Kirby. Listen, I'm going to probably tear Scream 4 a new one. But I have to get Kirby out of the way. Kirby is one character out of three that is representative of the immature male fantasy about women. It's going to get dicey, so please forgive me as I tip-toe across this minefield. I'm not saying that girls like Kirby don't exist. But I'm going to say that there's almost something pornographic about the way that Kirby and her friends act that doesn't really reflect reality at all. To a certain extent, the male version of this is pretty rare too, but there's always this suspension of disbelief when it comes to characters like Randy. What do I mean by "characters like Randy?" I'm talking about the otaku who somehow is part of the social elite. It's really weird that Randy would hang out with Sidney, Billy, and Tatum. Craven and Williamson spent a little time establishing that Sidney wasn't BWoC or anything like that. But she seemed fairly popular at school. (If you are going to cite the girls gossiping about her in the bathroom in the first movie, that's what I'm referring to as well.) But Kirby seems to be a hodgepodge of too many archetypes.
There's a scene where Marnie, Kirby, and Jill were all going to watch a whole bunch of horror movies that they'd seen too many times. These are girls who have perfect hair and perfect skin. There's nothing ironic about their clothes. If anything, their entire set and costuming reflected more of the CW than deep-dive nerd culture. I guess that's where I'm kind of going with this. With obsession, there's fallout. The notion of being the nerd and being proud of it is the idea that it explodes out in all directions. You just don't own the DVDs of movies that you talk about all the time. You have memorabilia. You have tee-shirts. You pride yourself on being counter-culture. Again, I'm painting with an inappropriately large brush here, but it's what I genuinely see in people who like something a lot. Sure, Jill has movie posters in her room, but they are more about the color coordination than they are the content. There's something very sanitary about these girls. So when people are clamoring for Kirby as the nerd obsession, I kind of don't believe it. I do want girl nerds, screaming loud and proud. But let them be a little bit of social outcasts. Don't just give them every personality trait in one. I feel gross writing this, so I'm going to move on. I feel like someone I don't like might have written something else, so please excuse me.
The biggest problem I have with Scream 4 is that it forgets what Scream is all about, despite the return of Kevin Williamson as writer. I has absolutely nothing to say, outside of a thinly veiled notion of "reboot." When I wrote about Scream, I talked about how the first movie used the allegory of the horror movie to tell a deep story between a mother who left a wake of destruction behind her. It was about the rise of the incel and how fandom ultimately became toxic. I am aghast that I placed it in my "perfect" movie category because I hate adding things to that pile. But as I've slowly binged (oxymoron, I know) these movies over the past month, the deep storytelling continued to disappear in place of only talking about the metatextual rules of a horror movie. But Scream 4 didn't even have much to say about the metatextual elements of the first films to hold the attention of the movie. I honestly think that Williamson had two ideas and that's it: 1) There are a lot of reboots nowadays and 2) kids are more rude than they used to be.
In terms of talking about reboots, the movie keeps saying "reboot" while basically making another Scream movie. Aesthetically, there's nothing different about these movies outside of the date. It looks like a Scream movie, which doesn't really make it a reboot. (Reboots often take advantage of the progression of technology to make things overly clean and cinematic. None of that happening.) There's a little talk about filming murders and putting them on the Internet, but is that really a trend that needs to be discussed because it is so prevalent? To a certain extent, I do like the notion that Jill is the killer. But it's not perfect. Do you know why Jill is the killer? It's the same reason that procedural cop dramas are so predictable. In the previous movies, we spend so much time with the protagonist that it makes it very difficult for that person to be the killer. When Sidney was the protagonist, the more time we spent with her, the more impossible it was that she had any involvement with the killer. After all, she was often alone and the killer was still going after her. Sure, you could pull a High Tension and make all of those moments hallucinations. But Scream 4 posits that Jill is the new protagonist. One of the few things that Williamson nails with the reboot commentary is that these films tend to set up for a new generation to take over the franchise. But we don't even know who Jill is for most of the movie. Jill is a blank slate. It's actually really annoying when we spend time with Jill.
And that's where the movie really falls apart. Golly, there's no great moment of "her?" when the killer is revealed. We have the two killers formula again: Jill the Alpha and Charlie as Stu. Charlie as Stu is even more weak tea, to quote Firefly. Charlie is barely a character at all in the story and his hatred of Kirby when she does give him attention is absurd. But Williamson is so obsessed with getting a killer who tied to Sidney that Jill is never allowed to become a character in herself. On top of that, it isn't even personal when Jill goes after Sidney. (Part of me really hoped that I forgot who the killers were because I wanted Jill's mom / Sidney's aunt to be the killer.) Jill should have a deep story about how Sidney constantly brought attention to her and Woodsboro. It would have built on the Maureen Prescott legacy of unintended consequences. But no. Jill just wants to be as famous as Sidney, which is...stupid? It's really stupid. It has nothing to do with anything. Okay, I'm starting to vent. Let me say it smarter.
With many of the secondary killers in the Scream movies, the alpha has a direct connection to the plot and is doing this out of frustration. Billy Loomis lost his father. Mrs. Loomis lost her husband. Roman lost his mother. (I already forget who the killer was in the fifth Scream. Guess I gotta watch it again.) The secondary killer, if there is one, is there for the thrill of it all. They want fame and/or infamy. Stu was obsessed with movies. Tommy (?) was already a serial killer online. Roman didn't have a second. And again, I don't remember Scream 5. But this movie had Charlie, who also wanted fame and was obsessed with movies. What's the message of that? And here's where the movie becomes Boomer candy. If there is a takeaway from this movie, it's this:
This generation is more immature than the previous generation. That's crap, by the way. It's not like the kids in the previous Scream movies were role-models of behavior or empathy. But every single teenage character in this one was self-involved and incapable of basic human emotion. With the other Scream movies, there were characters who behaved inappropriately in the face of death. Stu threw a party because the principal died. Sidney's boyfriend's fraternity kidnapped him, despite his girlfriend being in peril. The cast of Stab 3 had a wrap party for a movie that wasn't going to finish. But they were exceptions to the true heroes of the story. Say what you will about Gale Weather's doppleganger, she was really concerned about people dying. Sidney's roommate stayed with her at all times, making sure she was okay. Tatum let Sidney sleepover. They were doing the good thing in the face of tragedy. But in Scream 4? Only the OG characters showed anything resembling something human. Every single teenager was so self-obsessed that they even had to continue their Stab marathon, despite the fact that people they knew died at the first part of the Stab marathon. That's gross. When the killer reflects those motivations, it feels like Williamson is just taking his frustration out on early Zoomers.
I want to love the intro to this movie. If writing these things so close together has made me realize anything, it's that I like a little bit of a wink to the camera without depending on that wink to be there. The beginning of Scream 4 comments about how meta the Stab movies are, like how meta the Scream movies are. But I'm going as far as to say, it doesn't make sense. I don't want to trash this section too much for personal reasons, but I need to stop having the movie tell me how meta it is. Let me reach that conclusion organically.
Scream 4 is just rough. I don't care about it. It offers nothing new and seems to be whining about itself more than it celebrates itself. It's a bummer because Wes Craven wouldn't direct another Scream movie after that. I don't know what hand he had in the TV show, but this is the end of an amazing legacy he left behind. Part 4s are tough. If anything, this movie shows that maybe it should have quite while they were ahead. I enjoyed the next one, but there's something now woefully imperfect about the franchise.
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Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.