Friday, October 7, 2011

Scream 4: What Went Wrong?

This year has not been kind to the box office. Theater revenues have been down for most of the year. Even though the summer receipts increased, it was the lowest attended summer season since 1997. Once of the most unexplainable disappoints of the year was “Scream 4.” It was released with high expectations and hype, but upon release the film landed with a thud. Its domestic gross was less than half the previous film and, at $38 million, it didn’t even cover the production budget.

While “Scream 4” wasn’t as well received critically as its predecessors, it didn’t get trashed either. There was also some behind-the-scenes drama with writer Kevin Williamson leaving the film that had people questioning the quality of the film. But when the celluloid hit the screen it received mostly favorable reviews from fans.

It’s the best of the sequels, but “Scream 4” does have its faults. With the film being released in DVD this past week, I am taking a more critical look at the film’s shortcomings.

Know the Rules, Don’t Be Cynical About Them

The original film laid out the rules to successfully survive a horror movie. That was 15 years ago. The characters in the film are savvier and have grown up in a world where everyone knows how to make it into the last reel. But most of the characters, from Jenny in the opening scene to Robbie and Olivia, they are not just aware of what to do, but are now also completely cynical about the rules that have been seen again and again in movies.

When the murders started happening, the characters aren’t actually scared to be mutilated. If the characters don’t have a fear of being killed, then how is the audience supposed to be frightened? In the opening scene alone, Jenny gets a call from the killer. When she realizes it’s not a friend playing a joke, you would think the terror might have set in. Instead, she retorts to him, “I have a 4.0 GPA and 135 IQ, asshole.” As of doing well on her geometry test will keep her alive. Less than two minutes later she is hiding behind a door that opens outward and gets stabbed in the back – literally.

Too Many Characters, Too Little Time

In movies like the “Scream” series, having extra characters serve as red herrings are necessary to keep the audience guessing. But when you have 6 victims in the opening, 6 teenaged friends, 3 returning characters, and 5 adult characters that need to have screen time in a film that runs 111 minutes, it’s going to get tight. Williamson and ghostwriter Ehren Kruger do their best to deliver personality to the characters, but that’s a lot to serve. Sure, it also gives the film a body count of 15 – a series record. But there is too much going on in the film.

Survivors Keep Surviving

Gale, Sidney and Dewey are the “Scream” series. Having survived 15 years and multiple attacks, they are all survivors. But how much suspense is there when there is an underlying, unspoken rule that none of them will be killed. It has long been known that Sidney wouldn’t get killed since she is “the last girl.” But the filmmakers have painted them into the corner with a trio of last girls.

For a film series that is known for breaking the rules, what better way to prove that than by killing the last girl?

Despite its faults, “Scream 4” is a fun film and has some good scares in it. While in development Williamson said that he was looking forward to making another trilogy for the series. Word from the Weinstein Company is that they are interested in continuing the series. Hopefully for the next film, they will lock the script in before the cameras begin to roll.

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