Most recently I was discussing the “Scream” movie series with someone online, and while discussing Tatum Riley, they made the statement that she literally contributes nothing to “Scream.” I completely disagreed. Not only is Tatum Riley a major contributor to the fate (and genesis) of Sydney Prescott, but she’s easily the most important character of the first “Scream,” barnone.
It’s funny. Even with all of the technological improvements and modern facets that Wes Craven implements with “Scream 4” for his new Ghost Face Killer, this 2011 output of the “Scream” franchise still feels painfully dated and utterly irrelevant. At a time where slasher films were once old news and horror was a dead genre, “Scream” came on to the scene and revived both the slasher sub-genre and the horror genre once more. But during a time where horror has become choked with new directors, original visionaries, foreign artists, and remakes galore, “Scream 4” feels much too little and much too late. “Scream” maintained a firm relevance through the years for quite sometime because it was a welcomed revival that brought to mind why we liked the genre in the first place. But with the film industry becoming more and more a bastion for the new filmmaker with at home technology that allows him to cut a film in under a year so easily, “Scream 4” doesn’t really do much for the genre. Had this entry arrived five years ago I can safely say that Craven would have surely been welcomed in to theaters by yours truly, but there simply is nothing left to do with the “Scream” premise.
Bereft of the typical doldrums of the previous films, “Scream 3” at least tries for something new and unique in the end. And while that doesn’t result in a watchable movie it’s at least admirable for its attempts to do something interesting. While “Scream” examined the crime, “Scream 2” examined the fall out from the crime where the idea became the institution, all while “Scream 3” explores the institution becoming so steeped in sensationalism that the crime has all but been snuffed out as a memory and urban myth. This sets the stages for Sydney’s return in the final installment of the first trilogy of “Scream” where she’s not a recluse living among her own devices avoiding the outside world. But fate comes knocking at her door when Ghostface returns anxiously looking for Sydney who has gone in to hiding and has taken on a new moniker and profession.
What with so many horror movies offering up a surprise ending we will not see coming for the last ten years, it’s a given that the lure for “Scream 4” is not so much the surprise ending and the revelation, but the nostalgia. Hallelujah Wes Craven on the way to career hell is finally taking “Scream” seriously again in what promises to be a reboot to please the fans and no one else. The problem with “Scream 4” or “Scre4m” is the inability to be about as entertaining as it possibly can. The only thing worse than a bad horror movie is a boring one and “Scream 4” manages to be boring in about as many wave lengths as possible, delving in to the same old tropes we saw in the original series, and lacking the balls to even off core characters to keep us grinding our teeth and our guards low.
With “Scream 2” you can pretty much sense Craven and writer Williamson struggling to create a sense of atmosphere that they did with the original. And the movie series that claims to dodge the slasher clichés while also mocking them, eventually became so clustered with attempts to bring audiences a new experience they pretty much relied on clichés and a formula they streamlined in the original. We have someone offed in the beginning, we introduce the old cast, we get to meet a new cast of characters, someone is killing the cast members, Sydney has to find out who or whom is doing the killings, a load of red herrings are thrown at the audience, there’s the obligatory thought that perhaps one of the original three cast members are behind it, and then there is the grand stand off in the climax where we’re given a bunch of “gotchas!” Officers and all authorities are also immensely useless.
When I first watched “Scream” back in 1996 I thought it was a masterpiece, a horror film filled with endless possibilities. But as I’ve gone on and managed to watch “Scream” again I’ve come to realize that Wes Craven played many people, and (whether I like it or not) the series he followed it with has been successful. “Scream” is just more of the same humdrum slasher fare that we’ve seen a billion times, except it’s served up with the deceit that we’re seeing something wholly original. What with the Ghost Face’s eerie facade and the atmospheric setting, “Scream” definitely has that illusion that what we’re laying our eyes on is something we’ve never seen before. In actuality we have, except Craven and writer Kevin Williamson never quite let on about it. “Scream” is a movie that never knows what it wants to be. Is it a murder mystery posing as a slasher film? Is it a horror comedy? Is it a spoof of slashers? Is it a loving satire? If it pretends to be an anti-slasher then why does it jump head first in to cliché slasher trappings in the final half of the film?