Review: Scre4m (2011)

Director: Wes Craven

***

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Wes Craven’s original Scream was a deliciously tongue-in-bloodied-cheek examination of the ridiculous clichés that pervade horror films. The irony was that the movie-savvy teens that populated Scream kept making the same mistakes that Michael Myers and Jason Voorhes’ victims made time and time again (Remember: never say “I’ll be right back”. It’s a death wish!). In the decade that has passed since the lamentable Scream 3, we’ve had countless horror remakes (The 13th Halloween Of The Dead On Elm Street), almost as many horror sequels (We must be at Saw 23 at this stage, right?), plus the rise of the ‘gornos’ (Hostel and its ilk). With that in mind, Scre4m has plenty of material for Ghostface to cut down like so much teenage flesh.

On the 15th anniversary of the events of the original Scream, survivor Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to her home town of Woodsboro to promote her self-help book. She meets fellow survivors Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courtney Cox). He’s now the local sheriff, whilst she’s hit writers block since moving to the quiet leafiness of suburbia. Unfortunately, it’s not long before another familiar (white plastic) face shows up for a little reunion. Sidney’s publicist (Alison Brie), aunt (Mary McDonnell), cousin (Emma Roberts) and her friends (including Hayden Panetierre, Rory Culkin and Marielle Jaffe) are all under threat/suspicion, as are the local constabulary (Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Marley Shelton). Cue self-referential bloody mayhem!

Scre4m works best as a mockery of the 2000’s horror trends. A wonderful opening sequence sees two teenage girls being butchered by Ghostface, before we realize it’s the opening scene from movie-within-a-movie Stab 6 (Sta6?). Scre4m is well aware that it’s another sequel in a sea of sequels, and pokes fun at itself mercilessly. Indeed, it’s probably the funniest of the Screams to date, with Kevin Williamson’s script delivering one-liners and asides that should have film geeks giggling with glee. However, the laughs come at the expense of scares. A few jumps aside, Scre4m is more interested in the satirical rather than the suspenseful. Anyone who has seen any of the first three films may experience deja-vu; the new horror rules are established, and the film follows some of them perfectly whilst breaking others with gleeful abandon. Unfortunately, that lack of surprises goes beyond the plotting. Besides the opening and closing twenty minutes, there’s not a whole lot new on offer. The formula goes thus: Ghostface makes call, dumb teen makes stupid mistakes, guts are spilled. Repeatedly. There are some gloriously bloody kills, and the mystery of who actually is behind the mask may keep you guessing, but Scre4m will rarely move you anywhere near the edge of your seat.

The performances are game (Campbell and Roberts in particular), and Craven embraces the new rules (killers filming the murders, for example) with enthusiasm. That said, watching Scre4m is like running into an old friend you haven’t seen in 15 years; you’re happy to see them, and you have a good laugh, but reminiscing about times past isn’t as good as experiencing them first time around.

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