The blueprint – Scream 4 review

Scream 4 – Starring Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox. Directed by Wes Craven. Rated MA. By Simon Miraudo.

Why do we have Scream 4? Surely that’s a reasonable question. It’s been eleven years since the original trilogy wrapped up, and in that time we’ve seen an influx of new horror franchises (Saw, Paranormal Activity, The Ring) to simultaneously terrify and delight teenage cinemagoers. So, why Scream 4? And why now? To answer those questions, we need to consider Jay-Z’s seminal album The Blueprint (bear with me). In 2001, Jigga dropped The Blueprint, a massive critical and commercial success that is considered today a hip-hop landmark and one of the best albums of the decade. A young producer by the name of Kanye West provided Jay-Z with some sped-up soul samples and peculiar backing tracks, which were subsequently reinterpreted and fused into aural gold. It redefined the sound of the genre. A couple years later, he released The Blueprint 2. Still a massive money-spinner, it wasn’t quite as acclaimed as its predecessor, but in the end it hardly tarnished his rep. In 2009, having cut short his retirement and self-imposed exile several years earlier, Jay-Z released The Blueprint 3. Although it was a hit, critics and die-hard fans were mostly disappointed. They wondered, ‘Why does Jay-Z release these sequels to The Blueprint, when all it does is stain the status of the original?’ Well, he does it for a reason. Every few years, he looks at the state of hip-hop music, and if he feels that something important is not being said, or if the genre is moving in a particularly lame direction, he returns to lay out ‘the blueprint’ for everyone; to remind them how it should be done. Is he always successful? No. Does he sometimes indulge in the very things he criticises? Often. But are the albums entertaining? Always.

The Scream saga is Wes Craven’s ‘The Blueprint’. Like Jay-Z, Craven is a legend in his field that has produced brilliant cuts and cringe-worthy embarrassments. His first Scream was a nifty commentary on the state of horror cinema. Although it’s easy to think of Scream 4 as a cash-in on the Scream brand name, there does feel like an organic reason for its existence. Instead of teens discussing the tropes of slasher films from the 70s and 80s, here the desensitised kids complain about gore-heavy torture porn and lament the flood of reboots, remakes, sequels, prequels, threequels and 3-D reimaginings that arrive in cinemas on a weekly basis. Craven, and screenwriters Kevin Williamson and Ehren Kruger, have returned with their signature series to lay down the law. The movie is at its best when it’s mocking – rather hilariously – the shameful condition of cinematic slashers. But it comes at a price. All that comedy and meta self-awareness totally deflates any tension, and the whole thing becomes more reminiscent of the Wayans brothers’ spoof Scary Movie, instead of evoking the intelligent first Scream flick.

Anyway, the plot. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the survivor of the first three Screams, unwisely returns to the town of Woodsboro to promote her new biography Out of Darkness. Tired of seeing her story adapted into countless ‘Stab’ movies, she decides she will no longer be “a victim”. Unfortunately, that’s not really up to her. Almost immediately upon her return, the town is struck by a series of murders, perpetrated by the unmistakable Ghostface killer (no, not that one). Someone wants to torture Sidney, but who? Could it be her over-the-hill adversary Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox)? Gale’s husband and small-town sheriff Dewey (David Arquette)? Or maybe the killer is hidden amongst the new generation of knife-fodder, including Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), sexy horror geek Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and joint-presidents of the movie club/colour commentators Charlie (Rory Culkin) and camera-wielding Robbie (Erik Knudsen)? The kids continually remind us that we’re dealing with a 21st century killer who is attempting to “remake” the events of the original Stab movie, and is probably recording the murders themselves. Not to implicate themselves, of course.

I kind of feel bad for the original Scream stars. Sidney Prescott is such a non-entity here; completely character-less and detached from any of the horror that is occurring all around her. Dewey spends the entire movie driving to wrong locations, and Gail is similarly inactive. It’s a little rich that the film would actually go out of its way to criticise horror flicks in which we don’t care about the characters, and then go on to betray its heroes so wholeheartedly. I much preferred spending time with the appealing young cast, and now hoped they’d attempted a fresh reboot without any of the “oldies”. Scream 4 comes alive when the focus shifts primarily to the kids in the final third. The ending offers a genuinely nice twist on the saga so far, actually satirising the world we live in, rather than making toothless jokes about the horror we devour. It’s the film’s saving grace. Overall, like The Blueprint 3 (tying it all up, see?), Scream 4 is a fun and consistently entertaining ride that offers a few amusing digs at its contemporaries. But by continually pointing out the failings of the genre and begging the audience to unexpect the expected (or something), it backs itself into a corner and becomes a maddening, unfrightening, ourobourous of a flick. The antidote to bad horror films is not extra self-awareness; it’s scary horror films. And this ain’t one. Does the film deserve to exist? Yes. Does Craven deliver on his promise to lay out ‘the blueprint’ for the horror genre’? Not quite. But, just like Jay-Z, this guy will keep working until he dies (and even after that), so expect a few more schoolings in the years to come.


Check out Simon’s reviews here.

Scream 4 is now showing across Australia.

2 Responses to “The blueprint – Scream 4 review”

  1. Sounds like it could be worth a watch, just to see what they haven’t managed to pull off! Might be a laugh at a different kind of ineptitude.

  2. A perfectly acceptable Friday night, Scream 4 delivers plenty of scares without consequences, murder without depth, and a flood of legacy laughs.

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