In my last post, I made it quite clear that the first Scream film is a contemporary horror classic, and its follow up, Scream 2, wasn’t quite on the same level but worthy all the same. After these first two entries, the series was done with the nineties, but returned in 2000 with Scream 3, and then again 11 years later with Scream 4. One of the main reasons the first two Scream films are great is because the intelligent, sometimes scathing, satire that went along with the traditional horror fare. Unfortunately, these next two entries don’t live up to their predecessors and disappoint on many levels.
Wes Craven was back, but Kevin Williamson was out. Already a rough start for Scream 3.
Life has been rough on Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell). In order to feel safe, she has secluded herself from society and rarely sees anyone other than her father. When a series of murders begin occurring, with the killer donning the Ghostface costume, and inquiring Sydney’s whereabout, she is brought out of seclusion and goes to Hollywood where the newest Stab movie is being shot. She isn’t alone in this, however, with Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courtney Cox) returning to aid and protect her. As it is said in the film, the rules all change here, and a big reveal that changes everything we thought we knew is the only way to truly end a trilogy.
If you to make a line graph showing all the Scream movies and their quality, this is where you would see a sharp decline. Like…sharp. Everything feels different, and not in a good way. First of all, Sydney gets little screen time, especially since she’s the main protagonist and was onscreen most of the time in the other films. But the biggest problem is the new screenwriter, Ehren Kruger. Kevin Williamson wrote a draft for Scream 3 as a point of reference, but Kruger dismissed pretty much everything Williamson wrote, and did his own thing. The result is not very good at all. Instead of taking shots at the horror genre and the ins and outs of a generation, all of the satire focuses on Hollywood, and turning it into this cartoonish hellhole that is populated by idiots and corruption. Sure, that does sound like Hollywood, but this is way too over the top.
Bottom line is this: Scream 3 is silly in that stupid kind of way. It isn’t a complete disaster, and the twists at the end are cool, but this is a weak entry with a screenplay that seems like it was written by a high schooler who’s a big fan of the movies. The jokes are too direct and cheesy, the satire is misdirected, and the heroine that we’ve come to root for is in the movie for too little a time. Scream 3 should be seen if you’re serious about this series, but if you’re just looking for something to watch and aren’t really a fan of the others, than this can be skipped easily.
Cut to 11 years later. In a world of reboots, it only seemed fair that Scream comes back to the silver screen and make self referential jokes about what kind of movie it is, and make a comment on the next generation of film goers. The result is… meh.
15 years after the Woodsboro Massacre, Sydney makes her return to her old hometown to promote her book. As luck would have it, Ghostface also has returned, threatens Sydney, kills some people, and sparks up a new investigation to see who is behind the mask. Dewey and Gale, who are now married, return to help Sydney, and Sydney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) is caught in the middle of all of the violence that is engulfing her family and friends. As bodies begin piling up in a brutal fashion, the people of Woodsboro begin to realize that the rules of the game are all different, and anything goes this time.
If this were any other horror franchise, I’d be annoyed to see it again thinking that there really is no need to bring it back. With Scream 4, I felt pretty comfortable with its return. Williamson is back as screenwriter and only does an OK job. That’s right. Scream 4 isn’t really anything special, but it’s a big improvement over Scream 3. The witty banter is back and it’s pretty funny hearing the characters talk about the rules of reboots. Hollywood is in an age where every other movie seems to be a reboot or a remake of some sort, so it was interesting hearing a movie produced in Hollywood make such blatant jokes about it. The film’s biggest failing is when it tries too hard. There are moments where the satire is so in your face and over the top that it falls flat and just comes off as annoying. We all get it. You’re making fun of reboots and the film industry clichés. This movie also seems to go nowhere fast for awhile then picks up the pace dramatically in the third half.
Scream 4 is a huge improvement over Scream 3, but still just doesn’t reach the same heights as the first two movies. I appreciate what it’s trying to say about the state of the film industry and this generation of film buffs, but it’s a bit too big for its britches and comes off as pretentious and annoying at times. That’s not what the Scream films are all about. They’re about laughing and fear, and then laughing at ourselves for being scared. Scream 4 is a good time and if you’re a fan of the series, give it a watch.
I grew up with the original Scream trilogy, and these movies are a few that really helped get me begin to love movies to the degree that I do today. In that way, these movies are very special to me, and it was good to finally get around to seeing Scream 4. Despite the weaknesses that creep up in the last two movies, I can’t say that I could ever truly hate a Scream movie. Disappointed, yes, but hate is a strong word.