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Scream 4 (2011)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/4/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/2/2011
It's happened to all of us -- you run into an old friend that you haven't seen in years, and you don't know what to say. You can remember all of the good times that you had with them in the past, and you can catch up on what they've been doing lately, but then what? Sometimes that connection is simply too tenuous and too tied to years gone by and there's no common ground here in the present. The same thing happens with sequels which show up years later. We can recall why we liked the original movie, and we know why we would be motivated to watch the sequel, but time has not stood still in the world of entertainment and there's a good chance that the new movie will not only pale in comparison to its predecessors, but feel stale as well. When I ran into Scream 4, it was definitely an awkward reunion.
Scream 4 takes place in the present, over a decade since a series of murders rocked the small town of Woodsboro. Dewey Riley (David Arquette) is now the sheriff of the town and he's married to Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), who has retired from journalism. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) comes to town, along with her publicist, Rebecca (Alison Brie), to promote her biography. Sidney's niece, Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts), is nervous about meeting her famous aunt. Things get even more tense when two of Jill's classmates are found brutally murdered and Jill receives an eerie phone calls asking about her favorite scary movie. Jill's best friends, Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and Olivia (Marielle Jaffe) rally around her. As Sidney can't believe that the murders are happening again, Gale decides to get back into the game and turns to local techno-geeks Robbie (Erik Knudsen) and Charlie (Rory Culkin) for help. Jill becomes wary of her ex-boyfriend, Trevor (Nico Tortorella). While everyone is fearing for their lives, it becomes obvious that the killer has set his sights on Sidney.
WhenScream arrived in 1996, it was a breath of fresh air to the horror film genre, despite what so-called "die-hard horror fans" may say. The movie took the spoof element of movies like Student Bodies and played with the formula while actually still trying to be suspenseful and scary. Writer Kevin Williamson was a horror fan, but also realist -- he knew that the audience had seen all of these movies and was wise to the mechanics of them, so why not let the viewer in on the joke? The movie broke down horror conventions like dying after having sex or the danger of saying "I'll be right back" and we laughed along with it. However, the movie also offered a good murder mystery, supported by plenty of action and gore. Williamson and veteran Director Wes Craven found a winning combination which they then parlayed into the surprisingly good Scream 2 which they had in theaters only 51 weeks later. Scream 3 limped along three years later, and while it has some good moments, the mystery aspect fizzled and it tried to hard to be clever.
So, 11 years later, we get Scream 4. Since the last time we saw a Scream movie, the genre has gone through many changes, having seen the torture-porn and Asian ghost trends. Also, movies like The Blair Witch Project andCloverfield, while fiction, put the camera in the hands of the "characters". In addition, we've seen four Scary Movie entries since 2000, which took the spoof-like nature of Scream and turned it into an actual spoof. So, what does all of this mean? It means that in the years since Scream debuted, horror movies have become more self-reflective, audiences have become more accustomed to the movies being self aware, and despite a plethora of PG-13 horror movies, many films have become much rougher in terms of violence. So, in order for Scream 4 to succeed in this world, it needs to do something new and different.
But, it doesn't. In what has got to be one of the most disappointing movies of the year, Scream 4 rides a wave of hype and anticipation and simply presents us with more of the same. The characters from the original films are now the elder statesmen to a group of younger characters/victims, but we really don't get anything new here. The dynamics between Sidney, Dewey, and Gale are the same. The new teenaged characters are dull and uninteresting. (And I was constantly distracted by whatever the hell Hayden Paettiere did to her hair.) They use not one, but two, characters to try and replace Randy (Jamie Kennedy) from the original trilogy, but it doesn't work. The movie openly tries to do something different by having the characters discuss the dynamics and remakes, reboots and sequels and how these films have to be different. So, it's even more ironic that Scream 4 plays like a direct copy of the first film. Words like "meta" are thrown around (and Gale actual has a great joke about this), but sounding intelligent doesn't make your movie intelligent.
The most telling element about Scream 4 came to me when I watched it for this review. I actually saw this one in theaters just shy of six months ago, and I didn't remember much about it, including who the killer was. This illustrates how disposable this movie feels. It also comments on how once we learn the killer’s identity, we realize that they couldn’t have done many of the things we watched Ghostface do. It's great that Williamson and Craven are back, adn they've clearly given this the old college try, but it sill feels like a re-tread. A Scream movie shouldn't feel as if it's ripping off a Scream movie. I was never necessarily bored by Scream 4, but I did find my mind wandering and wondering how Woodsboro seems to have no industry or infrastructure and yet, everyone lives in huge houses. I have to admit that I was excited about Scream 4, but a copy is a copy.
Scream 4 is yet another flop for Marley Shelton on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. Given that this is a brand new movie, this transfer is disappointing. If you look back at the first three Scream films, Craven and DP Peter Deming have worked to give the movies a very slick look. That look doesn’t come across here. The picture is soft and lacks detail. The colors are slightly washed out and flat-out change in the opening scene. There is a mild amount of grain and jagged lines can be scene at times. The image is never overly dark during the night-time scenes and the action is always visible. But, I was surprised by the look of this Blu-ray. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The audio plays much better than the video. The subwoofer effects are constant and effective, as the “jump” scenes offer thumping bass. The surround sound effects work well too, especially when victims are attacked from behind, or any scene where breaking glass is involved. The stereo effects are nicely detailed and show good stereo separation.
The Scream 4 Blu-ray Disc contains a small assortment of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Wes Craven, and Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, and Neve Campbell. The Disc houses twenty DELETED AND EXTENDED SCENES which run about 26 minutes and can be viewed with optional commentary from Craven. The alternate opening is sort of interesting, and may have been effective with the music added. The extended ending doesn't change anything, but it offers a nice joke from David Arquette. Two scenes which drive home the idea that the killer was trying to replicate the murders from the first film were cut. Allison Brie's murder was apparently much shorter at one time. We get a 9-minute GAG REEL. "The Making of Scream 4" (10 minutes) is a fairly straight-forward featurette which offers on-set footage and comments from the cast and fimmakers. Craven offers some insight into the movie, but oddly, we don't hear from Kevin Williamson, and he usually loves these things.
Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long