Directed By: Wes Craven (Hello again Wes!)
“Fuck Bruce Willis.”
“Almost there” is a pretty frustrating place to be in movie terms. An idea that’s not fully realised can sometimes be as bad as not having one at all. Such is the case with Scream 4. A movie that, despite its faults, is still better than Scream 3.
There are great ideas in Scream 4, but not all of them made the finished movie. It seems unfair to judge something on what it could have been, but there are elements there that would’ve made it as fresh as the original Scream was all those years ago. So lets start with the positives: This is the first one that Kevin WIlliamson worked on since Scream 2 – he had no interest in returning for the third installment, and early scripts for the second movie have all the cast being killed – and he the subject this time is remakes. It stands to reason that would be the focus. Much is made of the lack of originality in Hollywood and in scary movies in general. The scene where a potential victim answers a question by running through a list of remakes is great because it goes into the realm of the absurd, with the character rattling off more remakes than I even thought was possible.
There’s even something welcoming about seeing those characters again. Personally I can take or leave Sydney who, despite being the focus of all the movies, has never been that interesting. But Dewey and Gale Weathers still make for a likeable set of characters, and despite their real life divorce Cox and Arquette work well together. It even puts a nice spin on their relationship, with Dewey being the man in charge while Weathers tries and fails to be a successful author. Even Sydney gets in on the book game, a development I found a little more believable than her job as a Samaritan in Scream 3.
Even Wes Craven is on board and interested this time, and despite the numerous faults in his filmography he still knows how to stage a scene. Just by use of repetition, slasher movies shouldn’t work, yet there’s something a lot more real about the killer(s) in the Scream series that makes them more believable. One of the best things about the first movie is how Ghostface gets hurt, or stumbles, or is visibly out of breath. It’s the small touches that you appreciate the most after all these years.
After a so-so opening that goes on far too long and isn’t as clever as it thinks it is, the movie actually settles into a nice groove. It’s enjoyable, occasionally tense and even fun, but it’s the end that has the major issues. I think my main issue with the eventual killer is that the actor playing it is both not very good and saddled with some terrible lines. It’s the dropping of the proverbial ball that really lets things down. I’m not sure when Kevin Williamson was booted and the writer of Scream 3 was brought on board, but there’s some scenes that just feel like they were written by someone else. They don’t pop or fizzle the same way the rest of the film occasionally does. It’s easy to see why Williamson and Craven were both dismissive of the movie prior to release when these ideas get gutted in favour of something less interesting.
Also butchered in the process was the idea that the killings are, you guessed it, remakes of the killings from the original movie. Again this is all very much the point and if some of these scenes had been left in the finished movie instead of being banished to the deleted scenes section then it might’ve cleared a few things up (There’s a moment where Dewey appears as if by magic, but the original cut shows that he knows to get there because he’s following the pattern of the original killings). It’s actually worth noting that I watched this movie twice: Once on disc and the other was a cut on Youtube that incorporated the deleted scenes back into the movie. It’s no surprise that the Youtube version is by far the better movie. It’s more interesting for one thing and I could take a bit of interesting right about now.
I really wanted the film to succeed. I’m a fan of Kevin Williamson (Despite The Following – which is an atrocious show) and the idea of him returning back to the movie that made him was a curious one. It’s just a shame that some behind the scenes butchery meant we’ll never get to see it.