The F*ckin Black Sheep: Scream 4 (2011)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Scream 4 (2011)
Directed by Wes Craven

"I’m glad Wes Craven’s final film ended up SCREAM 4."

This week marked the passing of a true film legend, a director with a 40 + year career where he rarely ended up on the sidelines. Wes Craven didn’t always make classics (a few forgettable films in the catalog), but when the man hit…holy shit, the man hit. Few people can boast that they slapped pop culture not only once, but at least two times with icons (Freddy and Ghostface). That’s f*cking impressive.

However, unlike his NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise (in which he only directed two parts), he and writer Kevin Williamson never let the SCREAM franchise go (minus SCREAM 3 which Ehren Kruger scripted). Hell, not only that but the same core cast carried on. Again, impressive…just like how a franchise could keep the same core actors for 15 years and keep the audience interested.

I remember when SCREAM 4 was announced a full decade after Part 3, and I was mildly excited at best. After all, beyond Courtney Cox, the careers of the main actors…dried up. They all continued to work, but not at the same level. With SCREAM 4, or any sequel really, it seemed like part money grab, part desperation. After all, ten years is a long time to wait for not just a sequel, but a horror sequel…especially since the audience also got a decade older and moved on (judging from the box office, they did). We’ve seen Sidney, Gale, and Special Officer Doofy (I know, Dewey…SCARY MOVIE forever ruined that character) go through so much of the same shit that things do end up getting a little ridiculous.  

Anyway, revisiting SCREAM 4 with the knowledge that it stands as the last work by Mr. Craven, it somehow all seems right. Cox, David Arquette, and Neve Campbell all belong together. They could sleep through the roles, and the chemistry still sparks save for Campbell. I’m not knocking Campbell as an actress; she’s good at what she does, but instead poor Sidney doesn’t have anywhere to go. She’s a dull character. I’m sure it’s the same reason Jamie Lee Curtis didn’t keep coming back for more Laurie Strode (originally at least). How many times can a person be completely terrified and destroyed before they end up nuts and taking a 50 foot dive off a bridge? Or at least suffer a stroke or maintain a mild crack addiction.

Even if the horror self-parody does get a little old, Craven still makes SCREAM 4 work. Sure, I doubt that many killers lurk out there obsessed with random horror movie trivia…in the same town no less, but who cares. And even if the surprise is gone – we know the killer will end up as a “friend” and there’s a pair of them – it’s still worth another 90 or so minutes to figure out who the killer is. The “surprise” isn’t gone. There’s a reason formulas exist, because when shit works…it works. People still watch the CSI franchise after 783 episodes and counting (seriously, I did the math). Like I said, if it works, it works.

The younger cast of potential victims or killers -- including Emma Roberts (Julia Roberts' niece and Eric Roberts' kid), Rory Culkin (Macaulay’s little brother), and Hayden Panettiere (who is just hot), all do dandy jobs as the next generation. Writer Williamson even injects a little social commentary about the needs and ideals of the Youtube generation as teens live broadcast everything (making Gail seem old) and they hope to get famous for doing nothing. Hey, at least the movie has something to say. But people, myself included, don’t watch SCREAM for social commentary.

Something SCREAM always managed to impress came from the surprising amount of blood and gore. For whatever reason, I tend to think PG-13 when I think of the franchise. No idea why. But Craven never shies away from a good old fashioned stabbing, spilling the guts of a victim, or painting a room in blood. Some scenes play routinely brutal, but the most painful comes when one of the killers (no spoiler) decides to stage a crime scene and use a victim’s dead hand to gouge their own face and rip a serious chunk of hair out. It doesn’t sound too bad typed out, but on screen, ouch, man, ouch.  

In many ways, I’m glad Wes Craven’s final film ended up SCREAM 4. It’s not his best work. It’s not the best SCREAM. But it completed a chapter, and he went out with some quality scares, a lot of blood, hot victims, and a pop culture killer with a giant knife. Not a bad final act.





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