Before the review starts, I want to quickly say that my interest in the Scream franchise isn't just some bullshit, kitschy interest. I genuinely enjoy these movies as a sort of classic "whodunnit" story. I've been a fan of these movies since I was 10, and while I'll readily admit that maybe part of my enjoyment is based on nostalgia, I also really believe that these movies have a lot of potential. Also, what I'm posting now is a modification of a review I wrote just after the movie hit theaters, you can find a variation of this review on most movie sites. Anyway, here we go, my review of Scream 4:
I can't believe just how bad this movie turned out to be, but more than that, I can't believe all the appropriately negative reviews I'm seeing that are missing the reason why this movie fails. Forget all the claims of "the series is starting to show it's age." If that's true, it's only because the writer(s) can't seem to get his (their) crap together. At it's core, this series is about a masked killer with a knife. He's watching you, and no one knows who he is. Evidence suggest it's someone you know.
That should be able to work.
It worked in the first two (mostly).
Here's a good reason to give for why this movie sucks: No one in this movie cares. About anything. Not each other and not the circumstances they find themselves in. I can buy that this series is set in a world where everyone is obsessed with horror movies. It's contrived, but that's fine with me. I just can't understand why it is that, in a group of friends, when one person gets murdered, the others go to a party just after they're done screaming.
I should say, though, that I'm being a bit unfair to Neve Campbell (Sidney), Courtney Cox (Gail), and David Arquette (Dewey), whose characters remain fairly consistent with the earlier movies. You do get the idea that these characters truly exist for one another. When one of them is in trouble, the other two come running. The supplemental (they never really take hold) cast, however, are the worst example of expendable 2D nameless victims as I've ever seen. They're all young and pretty (with the exception of Raury Culkin...His lips and eyebrows...Jesus...), but they're all too clever for their own good and lack charisma. They're not interesting or captivating! There are only two new characters in the whole movie (which is PACKED with new faces), who come across as reasonable and interesting in any way, and they aren't given enough to do. The film is also suffering horribly from what used to be the series' defining factor: it's wit.
All of a sudden, every damn character that walks onto the screen has some quip to make about horror movie clichés. It's no longer clever to make fun of yourself if that's ALL you do, in the same way that George Lucas' overuse of CG reduces the intrigue of CG. Too much is too much! And not only that, but we're subjected again to the movie-within-a-movie Stab, which was once used by the film makers to show why they're good at making horror movies. In the Stab series, characters are attractive and dull and the writing is unrealistic and goofy.
Scream 4 suffers from every stupid b-movie hiccups that the Stab movie wanted to point out as being a mistake.
So here we have a "real world" horror movie where, for some reason, characters are quipping as they're bleeding out. Far too many characters have a quick little insult or joke they'd like Ghostface to hear just before they die. It's gruesome to watch, especially one absolutely cringe-worthy moment about midway through the film where a boring character whose hardly been used dies from what might be a physically impossible stab, but not before blurting out a great little reminder of a previous joke. Barf. The wit of the series is gone, replaced with characters who faint with perfect comic timing, and who just won't shut the hell up. Everyone is a horror movie expert, and everyone knows all about Sidney, Dewey, and Gail. To illustrate that point, 18 year old kids refer to Sydney Prescott as "Syd," as if they've known her for years. It's annoying.
There's no mystery here. People are dying on screen, but they don't seem to mind, and possibly worse, the world around them doesn't seem to either.
So why should I?
I got lost in the plot. I've been a very dorky fan of the series for years, watching Scream 3 without hesitation (if you know the series at all, you know how significant that is).
I don't watch these movies to watch people die in funny clever ways. The humor isn't supposed to be at the fore front, it's not meant to intrude on the human life-or-death situations these kids find themselves in. It's meant to be human and natural, establishing who these people are and why I should care. For these reasons, the reveal to the killer(s) falls flat.
I will say, though, that moments after falling flat, it blows up into one of the most embarrassingly overacted sequences I've seen of any movie.
I've read a lot of reviewers talking about how the ending to the movie is very modern. They're right, to be sure, but modern doesn't mean clever or creative. I do think there's some merit to the general idea, but ultimately, it comes across as corny and contrived. I'm a big fan of this series, and if you are as well, then I say without hesitation go see it, but if you're just in the mood for a good movie, you won't find it in Scream 4. You deserve better.
TL;DR Scream 4 sucks. Don't see it unless you want to spend the following hour picking apart how the mistakes could have been avoided.