Earlier today I clicked on “Box Office Mojo” to find out that “Scream 4” had bombed. I was a bit surprised to learn this, as I watched it with quite the lively crowd of teenaged horror fiends on Friday night. The whole experience was like a trip in the “monster movie” time machine, taking me back to 1996, experiencing the first film in a Fort Worth multi-plex. Then to 1997, dressing up as “Ghostface” with a group of friends and going to see “Scream 2,” Only to find out that Wes Craven had beat us to the punch; melding horror-villain with audience in a surreal manner. I was steeped in a wonderful, nostalgic vibe as the crowd around me laughed, screamed, and heckled at what was on the screen. It’s been a long time since I can safely say a movie made me feel like a kid again. If nothing else, the atmosphere of watching the earlier films was re-created perfectly.
Teenagers engage horror better than any other audience. As a teen, you feel unstoppable; the stress of the adult world is not in the picture yet. Death seems foreign and far away. Horror cinema allows it to be part of a fantasy world. It doesn’t matter if death comes in the shape of Dracula, zombies, or a knife-wielding maniac. It’s still safe if it’s only up on the screen. It’s no mistake that characters like Leatherface and Jason Voorhees become almost like friends to young horror fans. After a while you start to laugh with
and AT horror movies. Once you learn the rules, you can see death coming a mile away. In the 1990’s, no franchise understood that better than “Scream.” The series surely had has it’s creative highs (Scream 2) and lows (Scream 3), but the idea is novel. Unlike most horror franchises, it’s “villain” is a concept, not a person. The “Ghostface killer” is someone different in each film; someone whose brain has been fried by all of the scary movies they’ve watched. Turns out your mother was right, horror fans. They assume the identity and go on a killing spree. In this way, each film is also a mystery. The film’s heroes, along with the audience are allowed to play in the guessing game by utilizing horror movie triva for both clues and the keys to survival.
So the question poised by “Scream 4” is what does this all mean in the era of remakes and “torture porn?” Well, a decade has passed us by since we last saw Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), foolishly returning to her hometown on the anniversary of the original killings. It seems someone has taken their love of remakes too far. A new, foul-mouthed “Ghostface” has emerged, aiming to take a stab at the 21st Century. And in this horror hound’s opinion, he fairs pretty well.
While not up to the first two films, it’s a huge step up from “Scream 3.” Director, Wes Craven has a lot of fun revisting the iconography he helped create, but never forgetting to lampoon it as well. Having a whole new generation of “techno-doodads” for “Ghostface” to play with, gives the filmmaker a lot of options to both comment on the voyeuristic state of society and create fun “jump scares.” Restraint isn’t on the menue either. Blood flows, heads are chopped into, and people are tossed around like ragdolls. Fans worried about a PG-13 reinvention don’t need to have any concern. This is easily the goriest of the “Scream” movies.
I have to give kudos to Craven and screenwriter, Kevin Williamson for delievering a movie that never stops and apologizes for what it is. Sure, like all of the previous entries, it winks at it’s audience and allows for you to scream at its characters for making stupid mistakes. But that’s part of the fun, part of the formula they’re revamping. And it does it all with the swagger of a really good Elvis impersonator and I mean that in a good way.
Of course maybe that’s part of the problem. In an era where vampires are teen idols, zombies are in art house flicks, and slasher movies are all based around torture, maybe horror isn’t supposed to be “fun” anymore? For whatever reason, cinema go-ers couldn’t connect with this flick. Maybe it’ll find astronger afterlife on DVD. I hope so. Otherwise, next time someone asks “What’s your favorite scary movie?,” the answer might be “Twilight.” An answer that would surely get you killed.