Craven leaves audiences ‘Scream’ing

By Herb Scribner

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After all the blood, twists, turns, jokes and creepy phone calls, “Scream 4” has emerged as one of the best of the series following its premiere last weekend.

The latest chapter of the story opens with Sidney Prescott returning to her hometown of Woodsboro, Calif., where the initial murders of the first “Scream” movies took place. Prescott is not only promoting her new book, but visiting her cousin Jill and connecting with old friends Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and Gale Weathers-Riley (Courtney Cox). Of course, Sidney’s return sparks a spree of murders that have a connection to the first “Stab” (a movie-within-a-movie) film.

The film is filled with familiar cast members that surprisingly don’t become annoying, and actually connect with the audience. Though many of them play minor roles (seeing as the story is still focused on Sidney and her cousin Jill for the most part), every character is interesting to follow. From Kirby’s rebellious attitude to Charlie’s insanely nerdy movie trivia, the characters are diverse and relatable, which makes the film all the more suspenseful. One of the key things in the “Scream” films is the continuous mystery about who is behind the mask. Because the cast is full of familiar faces, and so many of them are easy to sympathize with, it clouds the viewers’ vision when trying to decipher what is going on.

When the killers are finally revealed at the end of the film, the audience gasps at the realization about who was behind the mask and how it came to be. The ending provides the viewers with an interesting perspective as they exit the theater. There’s a duality evident  in the final moments between hero and villain. This is a part of the genius of the film, as it shows that one person’s hero is another’s villain, and vice versa.

It’s interesting to watch “Scream 4” because it’s a new form of the series in a new era. The initial “Scream” films poked fun at the slasher films like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th.” Fast forward 10 years, and “Scream 4” is calling out the “Saw” films and other current day horror movies. It’s an interesting transition to see how far the horror industry has come.

The downside to the film lies with its inability to accurately display the gap of time that has passed. While it shows the transition of horror movies, Sidney’s story doesn’t feel as though it has progressed 10 years. Other than publishing a book, viewers know nothing about what happened in her life between the two movies.

Additionally, Sidney makes no reference to previous killers except for Billy and Stu from the first movie, and that is only during one sequence. She doesn’t reference how she thought it was over after the third film, or the motives behind previous killers.

What’s also perplexing is that Sidney doesn’t ever reference the characters from the first film, or have any reflection of her previous life. When she visits Woodsboro High, she doesn’t look around the halls or get the chills of being in the school where everything started. She doesn’t visit her old house, or Stu’s house, or her (now dead) best friend Tatum Riley’s house. It feels as though Woodsboro could be replaced with any other town. There’s no real historical backdrop. Though viewers are told continuously about how Woodsboro is the scene of the original murders, they aren’t ever given any points of reference or images of that to relate back to.

Viewers will notice an interesting transition towards the end of the film. Without giving away too much, the scene could act as an ultimate ending to the initial series and a perfect beginning of a fresh new idea. Instead, there’s an added selection of scenes that not only lower the killer’s credibility, but also keep the series on the traditional path. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a little frustrating to have this entire build-up only for it to be diminished so quickly.

Ultimately, “Scream 4” works because it is in line with what the original movie set out to do. It set out to be critical of horror films while also presenting its own sort of modern interpretation, and proves that every generation has something to scream about.

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]