"Well, sick is the new sane." - Jill Roberts
I originally planned a 4 in 1 SCREAM franchise post. I would have praised the brilliance of SCREAM (1996) where Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) & friends are being hunted by a masked killer as they dissect the intricacies of horror films. I would have went on to say that SCREAM 2 (1997) has some good moments, despite pacing problems and one too many familiar faces. I would then have to admit SCREAM 3 (2000) is a bit of a mess, but how I enjoy Parker Posey and a clever cameo from Carrie Fisher so much that I forgive a lot of its deficiencies. Finally, to top it all off, I would have complained about SCREAM 4. Instead, I decided to devote a whole post to this final misfire, not that it really deserves it.
I was stoked to see SCREAM 4. Everything I read sounded promising. Wes Craven was once again directing and Kevin Williamson was back as the screenplay writer. The latter was noticeably absent for the third installment. If my memory serves me well, I read that SCREAM 4 was going to kick off a new trilogy, and maybe that's why I get so irritated with it.
SCREAM 4 had so much potential to be nearly as brilliant as the first SCREAM, but there are very specific aspects that keep it from achieving all that it could have been. To keep my emotional filmic mind in order, I could go on long-winded tangents, I am going to attempt to focus on the three reasons why SCREAM 4 is so frustrating to me..
1.) The Gay Rule...
In SCREAM, a film geek named Randy gave us the rules to successfully survive a horror film. They were clever, funny and made sense when looking back at the genre, especially slasher flicks. In SCREAM 4, two film geeks (Erik Knudsen & Rory Culkin) give us a new rule for a new decade. The only way to survive a modern horror film is to be gay. Maybe this would be clever or amusing if there was more of a history of openly gay characters in horror films. Much like black characters surviving the killer, gay characters are a rare commodity in the genre. So, the rule comes off as a joke that might have been cool and edgy in the 1990's but is just backwards in the 21st Century. Even more so when one of the film geeks claims to be gay, if it helps, before being killed. That ill-timed jokey moment emphasizes my next reason for frustration...
2.) Bruce Willis...
I recall watching an interview with Wes Craven, many years before SCREAM 4, about the challenges of balancing humor and horror. He explained you have to keep the two opposing components separate or risk becoming a parody. In other words, you can make a joke before or after a killing, but never during a character's death. After two police officers discuss the only way for a cop to survive in the movies is to be Bruce Willis, both officers are killed, but it's one that annoys me. The killer has stabbed one cop (Anthony Anderson) in the head. In a disturbing scene, with a perfectly ominous music score, the killer simply watches the cop slowly die...but...the horror is ruined by a joke. Right before his last breath, the officer says, "F*** Bruce Willis." So, at this point SCREAM 4 becomes part of the SCARY MOVIE parody franchise.
3.) The Ending...
Maybe, just maybe, I could forgive those two grievances if the ending had ended differently. Don't get me wrong, I love-love-love the main killer is revealed to be Sidney Prescott's cousin Jill (a brilliant Emma Roberts). I also love her motive. Jill grew up in the shadow of Sidney's notoriety of surviving three rounds of serial killings and now she wants the spotlight. In this era of becoming internet famous without really doing anything, it's a wickedly clever twist. Jill has killed her accomplice, her friends and her own mother, and it appears she has killed Sidney. Oh, but no. Sidney is alive and she, along with Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox), once again stops the killer dead. I recall leaving the theater thinking how I had already seen this film three times before. If Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson had really wanted to reboot this franchise for another trilogy, SCREAM 4 should've ended with Jill killing Sidney, therefore successfully becoming the survivor girl by being the killer. This would have set up a fresh scenario for the next installment and made the final line of the film that much more profound.
"An American hero, right out of the movies." - a news reporter waxes poetic about Jill, unaware she was the killer and that Sidney & friends have killed her and the film franchise.
In conclusion, I don't completely hate SCREAM 4. I just wish it would've truly had the guts to go beyond what audiences had seen in the first three films.
Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.
P.S. An old post where I take a trip through a different horror franchise...
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