Scre4m - Directed by Wes Craven, written by Kevin Williamson, starring Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette - Rated R
"How meta can you get?"
Horror sequels have gotten out of control. It just seems to be the same old crap churned out year after year and the filmmakers seem blissfully unaware of the crap they are producing. That isn’t a statement about horror films right now…that statement applies to the cinematic atmosphere when the first Scream came out. Add the terms “reboot” and “remake” to that complaint and you have today’s scary movie situation. The original “Scream” was entertaining and original because it acknowledged that it was a slasher movie and played with audience expectations. And after a couple of goofier sequels and a ten year hiatus, Scre4m is here to mock the horror genre again.
Scre4m (by the way, it sickens me a bit to type that stupid title with the “4” replacing the “a,” but that is the actual title) takes meta to the extreme. This movie is so meta that at one point a character actually asks, “How meta can you get?” If you’re new to “meta” as a film phrase, it basically just means that a movie acknowledges that it is a movie, stopping short of having characters flat out staring into the camera and addressing the audience (although that happens sometime, too).
The world of Scream has been self-aware since the very beginning and there’s even a film franchise based on the events of the first film within the series. Sound complicated? It kind of is, but it’s easier to follow onscreen than it is to read about. If you’re savvy with the horror genre and you’ve seen the previous films you should find plenty to enjoy here.
The whole idea of a meta film works very well for the horror genre and it makes Scre4m stand out from the rest of the pack. One could argue that it actually turns the film into just as much a comedy as a horror film. But hey, if you already like to laugh a bit at the genre, what’s it hurt if the film is in on the joke?
Is the movie actually scary, though? That depends. Scre4m is still your basic slasher flick. People get killed in increasingly violent ways and you’re constantly trying to guess the identity of the killer. Maybe you find that frightening, maybe not. There are also jump-scares aplenty if that floats your boat. It never actually seems like the film is attempting to be a truly terrifying film, though.
The main Scream elements are what make this film enjoyable. The main cast has returned (Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette) and there’s Ghostface, the masked knife-wielding killer. Ghostface has never been a truly terrifying physical presence, but the iconic voice may get to some people still. And the voice is still very funny when he gets angry and lets loose with some ultra-violent threats.
Scre4m is not without its problems, though. It’s very hard to care about any of the new characters. In fact, you end up wanting most of them to die in as bloody a manner as possible. Perhaps that’s the point, but there are just too many new faces to go along with the regulars and the film gets too busy at times and loses focus. Also, this is just a sloppily made film at times. There are pointless establishing shots and some time-editing issues that should’ve been dealt with in the editing room.
You may have noticed that there isn’t even a plot summary in this review. Do you care? You know it’s about someone in a mask killing people and it’s all somehow connected to Neve Campbell’s character. That’s all you need to know, isn’t it? Sometimes watching a self-aware film is enjoyable enough that you don’t need much in the way of plot or character development.
Just being self-aware doesn’t excuse all of the problems, however. It’s cool that a horror film references a lack of character development in most horror films, but does that excuse that particular film from the flaw? No, it doesn’t. But it at least sets the film apart from all the rest. Because of that, in a sea of crazy sequels, reboots, and remakes, Scre4m, stupid title and all, manages to be fresh and memorable. Though this is the second time the series has been a “fresh” entry in the slasher genre. How meta is that?
Random Thoughts (SPOILERS)
I love the Scream franchise, but I was definitely lukewarm on the overly goofy Scream 3. Thankfully, this one tones down the camp just a bit.
Fans of bloodletting should be pleased; there is an insane amount of blood in a few scenes. It’s always good to see a room completely coated in blood in a slasher movie.
I Still have a problem with one element of these films: how can Ghostface take so many kicks to the face yet none of the potential killers ever shows up with so much as a bruise or a broken nose? No big deal; it doesn’t ruin the films for me or anything, but c’mon.
Thankfully Jamie Kennedy didn’t somehow show up (like he did via an old videotape in Scream 3 even though he died in the first sequel. But they did add a new version of his character who was just as annoying…
Really dug the multiple fake openings…
Anthony Anderson takes a knife to the forehead. Fantastic.