SCRE4M:out now on DVD and Blu-Ray
DIRECTED BY: Wes Craven
WRITTEN BY: Kevin Williamson
STARRING: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Emma Roberts
RUNNING TIME: 106 mins
DISTRIBUTED BY:Dimension Films
REVIEWED BY:Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Ten years since the events known as ‘The Woodsboro Massacre’, Jenny and Marnie are stabbed to death in their house”. The following day Sidney Prescott returns to her hometown as one of the stops on her book-signing tour, but Dewey Riley, who has been promoted from Deputy to Sherriff, interrupts the signing, claiming that the murders of Jenny and Marnie are linked to a cell phone somewhere in the bookstore’s vicinity. Then the phone is found in the trunk of Sidney’s rental car, along with bloody handprints. Gale Weathers, who is now Dewey’s wife, gets her old spark and starts to investigate what happened. Then another girl is murdered……….
I am going to begin this review by saying something which I wasn’t convinced of the first time I saw this belated fourth instalment of the Scream franchise, but which upon viewing the movie again, I am now totally convinced of. Scre4m is the best of the four movies. I say it again. Scre4m is the best of the four movies. I don’t think I have heard or read anyone else say this, so I am probably on my own, but then this critics almost prides himself on being a little different. Now as you may have read before, I have always had mixed feelings about Scream. Yes, it revived the horror genre commercially, certainly had a reasonable plot and contained some great set pieces, but I’ve never really liked the post-modernist stuff where the characters talk about horror movies, being in one and what to do etc; rather than just being clever, it just takes me out of the film and diminishes the tension considerably. Neither did I think much of the wave of tame, politically correct slashers that followed in its wake. Still, Scream 2 soon followed and I actually consider it a rather better movie than its predecessor, though Scream 3 was just a mess. Understandably, I was not too excited when a fourth film was announced, but I was wrong; this fourth film is tremendous fun, a fast paced, exciting slasher movie that to my eyes delivers almost all that you could want from one. The film’s rather cold reception has really surprised me.’
The opening scene may not quite have the effect of the famous sequence in the first movie, but its sheer balls is admirable. As well as fooling us twice in terms of the reality of what we are seeing, in the first ten minutes there are five killings; some may not count them all because they are not all ‘real’, but director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson are immediately telling you that this is going to be a far more brutal, merciless movie than the other Screams. The plot begins to get underway soon after, and even in the first half rarely pauses for breath as it races through the movie at top speed, delivering kill after kill and not really bothering to give you much character development. This movie lost quite a few scenes to the cutting room floor and their restoration, for example an interrogation scene in the police station, may have helped in some respects [I also think the original opening, which from what I have read was even better and certainly bloodier than the one we have, would have been great, but never mind!] but I rather like the way Scre4m just rushes forward and leaves certain gaps in the story; an intelligent viewer would be able to fill in the missing pieces anyway. The climax in a house delivers all the thrills and spills you could want and ends perfectly, with one dead girl and another dying girl holding hands; it’s rather touching, and would have ended the movie perfectly. But no, they add a further climax in a hospital, which wasn’t part of the original cut, and doesn’t really work.
Scream had to be cut in the US to get an ‘R’ rating, and though most of the cuts were restored it’s still missing a few seconds towards the end. The first two sequels were far tamer but still, like the first movie, merited an ‘18’ certificate in the UK. I say all this because Scre4m may be a ‘15’, but it’s by far the bloodiest and most vicious of the films. These stabbings are extremely brutal, with horrid ‘stabbing’ sound effects and tons of the red stuff, and there’s much more of an element on pain, with some victims suffering considerably before they actually die. The whole movie has this aspect, climaxing in a rather astonishing scene where someone, for reasons I am not going to go into, deliberately injures themselves, including bashing into a mirror and falling onto a glass table. I’m surprised this really quite sadistic scene hasn’t been more mentioned. Scre4m doesn’t have much of a chase, but the build ups to most of the deaths are superbly managed, with at least two classic ‘”he’s behind you” moments and even some interesting lighting at times, such as the underground car park bathed in yellow. I still would have liked Ghostface to use something other than a knife sometimes though!
Scre4m has a much more ‘old school’ slasher movie feel than the others, with its increased deaths and violence. Maybe this is what people didn’t like, but for this critic, who, as an example, would much rather sit through The Burning then Urban Legend, it was great! Of course you do still get the film referencing nonsense, beginning with a criticism of the Saw films and finishing with one of the most cringe worthy lines, and, sadly, moments, of the year, as someone dispatches someone with the cry “you know the first rule of remakes…..don’t f*** with the original”. Still, the film does have some humour which works well, especially a brilliant, blackly comic bit with two policemen. The script is a mixed bag; some of it is very smart, but some of it is stupid, especially Sidney Prescott’s almost complete lack of surprise when the killings start occurring again. Kevin Williamson’s original script was ‘amended’ by Ehren Kruger, and though I’m no Scream buff and couldn’t tell you which parts were the work of which writer, the screenplay is very uneven. Some aspects, such as some comments on the current craze for filming everything and putting it online, are not developed enough. I personally couldn’t guess who the killer was though, and at least the direction by Craven [who can probably direct his sort of thing in his sleep] is really assured.
Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette return; the latter two are fine, with Cox especially enjoying her return to what is probably her only decent film role, but Campbell is awful. I don’t know if she was supposed to be slightly comatose, but she hardly seems to react to anything. The new young cast members are okay but generally nothing special. Marco Beltrami’s score does ramp up the excitement though he just seems to rehash music he had previously written and I missed the haunting ‘Trouble In Woodsboro’ theme you hear in the first three films. Overall though, Scre4m is great fun for slasher fans and, though no classic, is much underrated overall. A word of warning though. Don’t buy the UK R2 DVD, because even though it is a ‘Pay Per View’ cut with a bit of extra dialogue, it is totally bare bones; wait for the R1 version, which by all accounts is loaded with good stuff!
read Ross Hughes’ review here;