Scream 4

I wrote in one of my first posts aaaaaaaaaaages ago that I was really looking forward to this film, as I loved Scream and Scream 2, and enjoyed Scream 3 enough to justify owning it, but when the reviews came out and Scream 4 was deemed something of a failure I became lukewarm to the idea, and have put off watching it until recently. I went in with fairly low expectations, which is probably the best approach to take if you want to enjoy this film.

The problem with the Scream franchise, and indeed with pretty much every horror series, is that it tells the same story every time. Yes, a new batch of barely-characterised nubile young hotties is brought in to be creatively slaughtered, and at least with these films the killer changes each time, but the motive always seems to be the same and it’s always someone you’re not supposed to expect, meaning you work out who the killer couldn’t possibly be, and then you’ve solved the mystery.
It’s not difficult to see why the surviving leads from the series, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, have returned, seeing as none of them has had a very successful venture since the last movie, and the likes of Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin and Adam Brody were probably only too willing to work with Wes Craven, the legend behind the original trilogy as well as A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes and The Last House On The Left.
The plot sees Sidney Prescott (Campbell), the key surviving victim from the series, as she returns back to her home town of Woodsboro 15 years after the original murders to promote her new book, where Dewey (Arquette) is now sheriff and married to Gale Weathers (Cox). At times it’s more than a little awkward to see Cox and Arquette working together after their divorce, as they’ve lost that spark of chemistry present in the earlier films. Coinciding with Sidney’s return, a new killer is murdering random victims, and seems to be doing so by following the rules set by modern horror multi-sequels. This time amongst the knife-fodder is Sidney’s niece Jill (Roberts) and her friends, as well as movie nerds and audience cyphers Charlie and Robbie (Culkin and Erik Knudsen).
Seeing as the antagonists murder weapon is a big knife, the kills here can never be all that inventive. It’s more a case of where the killer jumps out from and who is behind the mask more than how will everyone die (hint: by being stabbed). The film has now surpassed it’s previous level of satire and whip-smart semi-parody by becoming overly self-deprecating, with the multi-layered opening being a prime example of how silly it has become, and how little the film cares about the kind of emotional attachment the audience is willing to put into the characters and plot. The ending makes sense within the film’s universe, but only because it’s frightfully similar to that of the three films before it.
If you enjoyed the previous films, and heaven knows I did, then chances are you know what you’re getting yourself in for here, and won’t necessarily be disappointed. If, however, you’re looking for the series to get a kick start and head off in a new direction, you’ll find it sadly lacking. This was intended to start another trilogy, but somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen.
Choose life 4/10

A Nightmare on Elm Street

I can only imagine Hallowe’en parties in 1984, but I’m guessing quite a lot of people were dressed up in a battered fedora, red and green striped sweater, poorly applied ‘burned’ make-up and a glove with cardboard blades glued on, for if anything has endured from Wes Craven’s multiple-sequel spawner, it’s Robert Englund’s nightmare-stalker Freddy Krueger.

If it’s true that a horror movie lives or dies (generally by running upstairs instead of out the front door) by it’s killer, then there’s no surprise that this franchise is still going. I haven’t seen the 2010 reboot and I’ve only heard bad things, but I’m intrigued to see Jackie Earle Haley’s take on the former child murder released from prison on a technicality but burned alive by the parents of Elm Street. Krueger is an icon from horror history, up there with Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and the Guy in the Scream mask, making up the B-team behind the likes of Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolfman. For Krueger, you see, is unstoppable. He’s risen from the dead to take the children of those that murdered him, but he does his killing in the one place he cannot be caught; the children’s dreams. This is a genius conceit, but also the film’s biggest let down.
If you want to terrify your audience and instill in them genuine fright once they have stopped the film and gone about their daily lives, you scare them with something ordinary. A situation they themselves will find themselves in on a regular basis. Hitchcock did it in Psycho with having a shower. Craven did it with going to sleep. There’s nothing you can do about it, eventually you’ll have to go to sleep; quite often it happens without you even planning to. And once your head is resting gently on your pillow, all you can think about is that maniacal laugh echoing around the walls. That tapping at the window, surely that’s just the branch of a tree blowing in the wind, it couldn’t possibly be the knifed glove of the man out to rip you to shreds? When asleep you’re at your most vulnerable. It can happen anywhere – at home, school, prison, hospital, and there’s no way to defend yourself (short of Inception-style techniques, crossover anyone?) and Craven knows this. In his world, a glass of warm milk is as deadly as any conventional weapon.
But the fact that Freddy exists in dreams, can defy physics by being everywhere at once and can take on any form he chooses to terrify you the most, makes him almost less scary. There’s a sense of inevitability. Much like in Ring, once you watch the tape, you’re going to die. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it. You can’t kill Freddy in a dream, you can’t stay awake forever, there’s really only one possible outcome. Yes, in this film and the ever diminishing sequels they find loopholes to temporarily get around the issue, but I’ve always found these to be annoyances and cop outs from the original story. I’d forgotten the ending of this film when I saw it, and I was almost incredibly annoyed at the backdoor excuse they try to use.
It’s a good, solid horror film, and is much more effective if you never, ever watch the sequels. Whilst they have some inventive kills (hearing aid? genius) and increase the comedy quotient, Freddy becomes a watered down pantomime villain, whose incessant survival becomes more grating the more films you watch. But here his terrorising of four teens (including a 21-year old Johnny Depp in his movie debut) is played largely for tension and scares, though there’s a few lull-in-the-score moments that are clear setups for something to jump out and grab our virginal heroine Nancy (Heather Langenkamp).
There are moments of black comedy – a cop telling a paramedic “you don’t need a stretched, you need a mop,” and the kills are satisfyingly gory. Nancy looking in the mirror got a laugh out of me, as at the time of the film’s release Langenkamp was, you guessed it, 20 years old. The image of Krueger’s hand emerging from between the legs of a girl asleep in the bath is more than a little terrifying.
Choose film 6/10

Scream

It says something about the sheer volume of horror movies made in the 70s, 80s and 90s that in 1996 Wes Craven, himself creator of such classics as A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Hills Have Eyes, was able to create a film almost entirely about other horror movies, whilst still existing as a genre-defining horror-comedy along the way. Namechecking the likes of his own works (whilst having a dig at the sequels he wasn’t directly involved with) as well as Halloween, Friday the 13th, the Exorcist, Basic Instinct, Frankenstein, Prom Night, the Howling, Evil Dead, Hellraiser, Clerks, Psycho, Carrie, I Spit on Your Grave, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Silence of the Lambs to name but a few, the script revels in its horror knowledge, with one character, Jamie Kennedy’s Randy, working in a video store (remember them?) and dictating the rules of surviving a horror movie (don’t have sex, never drink or take drugs, never say “I’ll be right back”).

Scream was one of the first horror movies I ever saw, and rewatching it now brings a much greater level of enjoyment and understanding, for now I’ve seen most of the films it references as a masked killer stalks the inhabitants of Woodsboro, one year after the mother of Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a high school student, was raped and murdered. Hilariously, most of the characters refer to the serial killer as though it were a horror movie (“there’s a formula, a very simple formula – everybody’s a suspect!) and the script is full of other little notes that you’ll enjoy this a great deal more if you like films in general.

Typically with all franchises, the sequels deteriorate in quality, but it’s clear this was set up as a franchise from the beginning, with Sydney predicting Tori Spelling would play her if they made the story into a movie (as happens in Scream 2’s film within a film, Stab), and Liev Schreiber’s role of convicted killer Cotton Weary beefed up a great deal for part 2. This is exactly the horror film needed to reinvigorate the once tired genre; a horror film made for people who love horror films, by people who love horror films, about people who love horror films.
Choose film 8/10

Scream 4

With the recent release of the trailer for Scream 4, I wish to express my excitement about this forthcoming film. I feel that, in the ten years since the release of Scream 3, the horror genre has progressed significantly, with the introduction of the torture-porn sub-genre in the likes of the thankfully now finishing Saw franchise and the nauseating Hostel films (I still can’t watch the bit with the eye in the first one) as well as the near constant onslaught of remakes, prequels and ‘reimaginings’ of existing films, be they masterpieces or less so.

Continue reading