OCTOBER 4, 2011
While I knew Scream 4 wouldn’t live up to either the quality or the financial success of the first two films, I wasn’t expecting it to outright tank either, barely matching its 40 million production budget (getting trounced by Insidious in the process). Talks of a 5th film continue, but I wouldn’t hold my breath, at least not with the core team returning; a DTV “Wes Craven Presents” film with a cameo from David Arquette is probably the best Scream fans can hope for unless sales for this DVD are astronomical. Is it worth the purchase?
Well, yes and no. As I explained in my original review, the film is an improvement over 3, and it’s great to see our trio again. But a second viewing has also revealed other problems, and even though the disc comes from Anchor Bay and not Weinstein’s own label, there isn’t a lot of behind the scenes info or dirt on the production’s well publicized problems (i.e. the rewrites; Ehren Kruger, who is likely to blame for every single one of the movie’s script issues due to the fact that he is a terrible, terrible writer, isn’t mentioned once), so those looking for a candid look at the film’s shooting/editing will be disappointed.
The main problem is that the movie never successfully blends its two main storylines. The new kids (Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, etc) are actually pretty fun and likable for the most part (only weak link is the guy playing Roberts’ boyfriend), but they never get the time/chance to come into their own because the movie has to devote too much time toward bringing Sid, Dewey, and Gale back into the fold. Add in the other new characters: the pair of cops, Marley Shelton’s lovestruck deputy, Roberts’ mom (Mary McDonnell), Alison Brie’s bitchy assistant, etc – and you just have way too many characters for a film like this. As much as I hated the deaths of Randy and Cotton, it’s good that they’re no longer around or else the movie would be even MORE overstuffed. Plus, as it is a whodunit, they are forced to try to paint every character as a possible suspect until their demise, which again takes time away from really developing our real heroes. Excising 3-5 of these characters (the two cops and Olivia in particular) might have resulted in a lower body count, but a better film for sure.
The movie also suffers from the usual Dimension bullshit, such as the fact that Bob Weinstein clearly thinks we’re all idiots. A plot thread would have had the killer recreating the murders from the first film, right down to even having the 3rd victim die with a doggy door around her neck (a la Tatum), but Weinstein ordered it dropped because he didn’t think anyone would get it. Does he think that the audience for Scream 4 is going to be made up of newcomers that wouldn’t understand a fairly obvious reference to the first film? So this stuff is dropped, along with other scenes, resulting in several plot holes and a pace that never finds its groove.
Still, it’s a decent enough slasher, and again, much improved over the last entry. The humor is much more in line with what I’d expect from a Scream film, and even on a second time I found myself chuckling at some of the dialogue and references. Panetierre steals the film away from even Campbell and the others, playing a girl who looks like a typical best friend bimbo at first but is also as much of a horror nerd as Randy was, which was a nice play on expectations. The reveal of the killer is a reasonable surprise, though the logic of both their motive and their size with regards to Ghostface is best left un-thought about.
Anchor Bay has provided a standard set of bonus features, with the most interesting being the nearly half hours’ worth of deleted scenes, most of which deserved to be left in the film. Nearly all of them were apparently cut for time according to Craven (who provides optional commentary on all), except for those few aforementioned scenes that were taken out because we’re all too stupid to understand a reference to the previous film(s), according to big Bob. Another tells us that Sid’s dad has passed away, a minor question mark in the theatrical version, though it hardly seemed necessary to kill him off. We also get to see the original versions of two of the early death scenes, both of which are superior to the dragged out, less exciting theatrical versions. It’s funny that so many scenes were cut for time; had they not needlessly added 5 minutes to the runtime with these reshoots, maybe some of these other moments could have been left in. There is no extended version, unfortunately, but this being Anchor Bay I wouldn’t be surprised to see a “director’s cut” release of the movie next year.
The rest of the stuff isn’t particularly essential. The “making of” is largely generic interviews taken from the junket, the gag reel isn’t particularly funny (though it’s fun to see the actors getting scared by Ghostface popping out somewhere he isn’t supposed to be), and the video game promo (actually listed as a bonus!) is just a still image telling you how to access the game on your iPhone. That leaves the commentary, which might have been OK if Wes was alone and providing insight, but alas he is joined by Panettiere and Roberts, who mainly repeat their dialogue, giggle at the jokes, and discuss OMG, how hard it was to shoot this or that scene (oh, and everyone in the movie is “great”, in case you were wondering). Campbell also pops up for about 45 minutes’ worth of the track, phoning in from London, but she doesn’t have the movie in front of her, so Wes has to tell her what’s going on (“Neve, we’re at the scene where Marley gives David the lemon squares”) – needless to say, her brief comments are hardly necessary, and you probably wouldn’t even notice she was gone until Wes points out that she had left. Again, the rewrites, Kevin Williamson’s departure, etc are never mentioned, but apparently Matthew Lillard stopped by, which delighted one of the girls very much because she had a very big crush on him from the first Scream (I say “one of the girls” because I couldn’t tell them apart unless they were specifically discussing their own character).
Picture and audio quality are sufficient for a modern film, nothing blew me away but I didn’t have any issues either. I should note that even though the reliable Peter Deming came back to shoot the film (he shot the other films as well), this is hardly the best looking film in the series; frankly, it looks cheap. And I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but the halo-y lens flares around the numerous cop cars in the movie drove me up a wall, making every shot of them (and there are many) look like a cut-scene from a PS1 game.
Ultimately the biggest problem with the film was that it was too little, too late. After 11 years, they had plenty of material to work with both from a character standpoint (they never actually explain what Sidney has been DOING for the past decade) as well as a chance to send up the modern horror trends, but instead it just largely felt like another rushed sequel, with new technology and the current state of horror given little more than cursory references before returning to the same old shit. Hell, if you remove maybe a dozen lines of throwaway dialogue then there’s nothing about this movie that couldn’t have been done in 2002. Improving on 3 might be enough for one viewing, but they needed to do more than that to give the film the sort of longevity that the original has; now that this review is done I’ll probably never watch it again, though I’ll still pull out the first 2 from time to time. Hopefully they will let the series die, or at least drop Sidney from the proceedings for a while – there’s just no way in hell I will buy yet another killer with a voice box pulling off the murders of a dozen people just to get back at her for everything that’s gone wrong in their life. Frankly, she’s not all that interesting anymore.
What say you?