I enter this review on a largely mixed mindset, not in terms of the film, because I know exactly what I feel about it. I find it occasionally difficult to judge a film based on its own technical merit as opposed to how much I enjoyed it. It really shouldn't be too hard to get to the bottom of this film, because it's altogether rather simple and straight-forward. I've taken the time to see the first three films in the Scream franchise this week, and my opinions variably match those of others. The first film is brilliance, the second film only slightly suffering from sequelitis, and the third one was just really bad. One could have fears of going worst with this next installment.
Thank the great fortunes that this film turned out to be just the right guilty pleasure to goad me into ignorant bliss. Any other film this year, I'd be able to pick to death for the many shortcomings in terms of narrative and execution. Somehow I just fell back on those standards this time at the theater. Scre4m, or Scream 4 to satisfy people of such a single mind, follows Sidney Prescott as she returns to Woodsboro on the anniversary of the famed killings. Suddenly, the murders start happening again, and it's all about who to trust, who not to trust, and what the new rules are for horror films. As put by Charlie and Robbie, the only real way for you not to be killed is if you're gay.
Even though I never really expected who would end up finally being the killer, that wasn't what made this one so interesting. I was just a sucker for how hilarious this installment of the series was. I feel like the earlier films didn't know how to balance the comedy and thriller elements, with the first one being the main exception. This one found a happy medium between the two. Another improvement that comes with the years is that the kills are much more gruesome, and we actually see the violence. Somebody is actually stabbed in the brain, and it takes him a whole minute to die. It's one of the most hilarious parts of the film.
It's not free of problems, because it is essentially the same sort of formula as the first film. There are different characters and situations, and a larger scale pervades the entire ordeal. I will say that it deviates from the formula more than any of the previous films. At some point, the whole whodunit case is going to grow boring, and about five minutes before the killer was revealed, I knew who it was. The film is too long for its own good, not in terms that it just goes on past the suitable end, but the middle part drags too much. Not all the zingers land as hilarious as they should, but the charisma of the actors wins us over. Ultimately, in pretty much all of these quibbles, it can be easily justified.
It isn't necessarily a smart movie, and it can be kind of stupid at times. The difference is that this film doesn't try to pretend that it's something that it's not. It's a comedy, not a horror film. We're not meant to be frightened, but if we're time and again worried about the lives of our heroes, it's all good. Courtney Cox continues to be my favorite factor in just about everything, playing the sarcastic and snarky bitch with a decade of new experience. All three of the actors from the original have improved on their work in the time between Scream 3 and Scre4m. And what of the new actors? Their mostly not that great, with Emma Roberts being just a pretty face to me. I will say that Hayden Panettiere didn't annoy me as much as I thought she would. I like that Alison Brie somehow sneaked her way into this piece, because she's such an adorable bitch.
I feel like if there is a sequel, which there probably will be and I'd like to see them stylize it as 5cream, they'll mess with the formula even more. I'd like to see director Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson shine a light on their own work, and find the problems they can make fun of. Or else, I'd like them to turn to the only truly horrifying films of our modern culture, the works of David Lynch or Lars Von Trier. However, it's always important that they don't forget the self-aware comedic brand that makes this film so endearing and so damn enjoyable. It might fall under the category of guilty pleasure for me, but most of the pitfalls go to serve the film in some way. That's something you can really admire in Scre4m.