Tuesday, May 3, 2011

SCREAM 4 (2011)

Like it or not the original SCREAM set the gold standard for self-referential horror-comedy.  The underappreciated SCREAM 2 kept the franchise moving at a brisk clip by taking itself less seriously.  On the other hand, the justly maligned SCREAM 3 felt tired and lumbered to its foregone conclusion.  Like horror franchises of the past, this one appeared dead and buried.  But true to genre conventions, appearances often are not what they seem.  In this series reboot Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to Woodsboro (on the anniversary of the horrific Ghostface killings – naturally!) along with her publicist (a callously funny Alison Brie) to promote her new book.  Meanwhile former journalist Gale Weathers-Riley (Courtney Cox) fights writer’s block and struggles in her marriage with now police chief Dewey (David Arquette).  Soon Ghostface is terrorizing a new generation of fresh-faced teens and clueless adults who happen to get in the way.  Among the cast of potential victims and/or suspects are Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), spunky best friend Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), creepy ex-boyfriend Trevor (Nico Tortorella), geeky horror aficionados Erik (Robbie Mercer) and Charlie (Rory Culkin), and overenthusiastic deputy Judy (Marley Shelton).  The body count increases as the suspect list dwindles until the bloody d√©nouement, in which motives are revealed and loose ends torturously wrapped up.  Despite the efforts of director Wes Craven and original screenwriter Kevin Williamson, the end results are a mixed bag.  On the plus side, returning (read: surviving) cast members Campbell, Cox and Arquette feel like old friends you’re happy to see, and you genuinely fear for their characters’ safety.  In general the same cannot be said for the new blood.  Except for Panettiere and Culkin the pretty teens in harm’s way barely register enough to raise blood pressure beyond the visual machinations of Craven and plot devices of Williamson.  More to the point, this precociously clever series has swallowed its own tail.  And though fans of the genre (and I’m one) could easily spend their money on worse fare, I sincerely hope that this time the franchise is really and truly dead.

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