It feels like “Scream 4” is meant to be admired more than loved, and talked about more than enjoyed.
It does offer plenty to ponder, but the scares are getting a little old and the plot twist at the end really stretches credibility.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
It opens with a Russian Doll of a scene that riffs on the famous Drew Barrymore opening in the first movie.
We get Shenae Grimes, Lucy Hale, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Brittany Robertson, and Aimee Teegarden in a scene about two girls watching a movie about two girls watching a movie about two girls who aren’t watching a movie.
There’s plenty of blood as Ghostface shows up. It’s a good sequence, but right away it’s like the movie is showing off more than it’s trying to scare the audience.
The Drew Barrymore scene in the original was audacious, but it was also tense and scary.
And it ended with a real note of heartbreak as the parents of the dead girl arrive just in time to see their daughter’s butchered corpse.
The original “Scream” along with “Scream 2” remembered to make us care about the victims. In “Scream 4,” we open with five stabbings, but we feel hardly anything for the victims.
Once the movie starts in earnest, despite some very good elements, another problem emerges: The dialogue is fast and smart; the performances are great; but the plot seems very familiar.
At least in the first two acts, this script doesn’t really do much to update the “Scream” formula. And it’s a formula that seriously needs updating.
I know Dewey is now the sheriff, but even he should know to monitor all incoming calls to the Sidney and her immediate family.
About halfway through, I started thinking of the Bourne movies and all the times using cell phone was a dead giveaway.
There’s a point in the film where a character’s cell is used to send a Ghostface message but the guy isn’t even questioned. That’s a clear sign of going-through-the-motions-itis.
And when the kills do come they aren’t as shocking as in the original.
Seeing David Arquette and Courtney Cox playing a loving couple might have been the most unsettling thing in the first hour. But then the movie reaches the third act.
WARNING REALLY MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
No way to not talk about this — it’s one of the highlights of the movie and at the same time its biggest weakness. It’s the reason “Scream 4” has some of the critics on its side. It may also be the reason why it isn’t finding as much traction with the audience as the other entries.
The killers this time around are Rory Culkin and Emma Roberts (playing cinema nerd Charlie and Sidney’s cousin Jill respectively)
The good part. It’s a nice twist having the characters that are normally the victims be the killers this time around. And both are motivated by a simple, sociopathic desire for fame.
It’s a very timely idea for the “Jersey Shore”/”Real Housewives” era.
And Emma Roberts has a speech that really makes you nod your head. Andrew O’Hehir even quotes it in his review. It’s a damn good piece of dialogue.
Yet at the same time …
Emma. Rory. How could you?
No, I mean how could you?
It’s physically impossible for these two to have been Ghostface in this movie. Rory Culkin is 100 pounds soaking wet and with a brick in his pocket. Emma Roberts wouldn’t weigh 100 pounds if you dipped her in lead.
Yet, in that opening scene, one of them sends the corpse of Brittany Robertson crashing through a window.
They’d need a cadaver catapult to pull that off. Later they throw a full grown woman off the roof of a parking structure and onto a news van at least 10 feet from the side of the building. Corpse trebuchet?
Plus both Sidney and Gale tussle with Ghostface up close. Neither one of them notices the killer is considerably lighter than, say, Matthew Lillard, Tim Olyphant or Scott Foley.
Granted, there is a scene where Sidney flips Ghostface down the stairs which hints that this incarnation isn’t as bulky, but that just means Sidney really should have noticed.
So the twist at the end is simultaneously one of the better ones in the series and one of the worst.
It’s good in that it touches on ideas that are very timely and provocative. It’s bad in that it completely kills the suspension of disbelief.
And in the end, that’s what I took away from the movie more.
Not the super-self-aware screenplay. Not the Russian Doll opening. Not even the movie’s very well thought out theme stayed with me.
I kept trying to get my head around how Rory Culkin and Emma Roberts could possibly have been the killers.
Even the people behind the film had to know this was beyond a stretch.
It will probably make for a good drinking game, though.