Reference Reference Reference Reference (*Fart*)
Scre4m is like a thousand amateur Freudians queefing in an echo chamber and then discussing it for the next hour. It is an amazing combination of ambitious, pretentious, narcissistic, and idiotic. It is a remedial-English class slam poem. This is a film in which each character can demonstrate familiarity every horror film franchise and plot cliché of the last 60 years, yet seem totally unaware when they’re actually executing one. It is a film shamelessly aspiring to meta post-modernism in which Anthony Anderson plays a sassy black deputy who exclaims “DAMN!” unironically. It is boring, pointless, obnoxious, and terrible. Oh, and one scene involves, I kid you not, DUELING WEBCAMS.
The film begins with about six cutesy false openings in a row, always beginning with the iconic (I guess…) scene where two girls are in a house, and one of them gets a call from Ghostface. You know the drill: she thinks it’s just a joke at first, but then it’s not and she gets killed, only really she doesn’t, because then the camera pulls back and it turns out the previous false opening was actually just a horror movie on TV, which two new girls were watching. Then the two new girls talk about how horror movies are stupid (WINK WINK, AUDIENCE!), and the process begins anew. This continues until it’s finally not a winky inside joke anymore and the movie can actually start. DESENSITIZING THE AUDIENCE TO YOUR OWN ARTIFICE BEFORE THE STORY EVEN BEGINS, WHAT A BRILLIANT STRATEGY!
For the entire movie, I was expecting a twist that never came. Nope, it’s just really bad.
Finally back in the real world, we’re back in Woodsboro, Anystate on the 10th anniversary of the original murders. Former reporter Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox) wrote a book about them, which was then turned into a film called Stab, which got seven sequels. Now, the star of the book, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has returned with her own book, Still Squintin’ After All These Years, I think it’s called, along with her publicist Alison Brie in a push-up bra (YAY!). Sidney has a younger, super-hot doppleganger played by Emma Roberts (Eric Roberts’ daughter, somehow), who, conveniently, actually lives in Woodsboro and is Sidney’s cousin. Wouldn’t you know it, now she’s the one being taunted by ghostface prank calls and a creepy, maybe-he’s-the-killer-type boyfriend.
The characters barely have time to interact with each other between all the movie referencing, and Neve Campbell seems to be the only one not blatantly winking at the audience the entire time, which is either admirable or sad, depending. Upon watching the young cousin’s ex-boyfriend climb in through her upstairs window a la Skeet Ulrich in the original, Neve Campbell says, in complete earnestness, “You know who you remind me of? (*HUGE DRAMATIC PAUSE*) …Me.”
If the goal was to incite the entire crowd to silently scream “NO SH*T!” in unison, mission accomplished.
Besides Sidney, her cousin, and Gail, there’s David Arquette as Sheriff Dewey, who seems to be playing the retarded parody of his original character from Scary Movie, two film nerds played by Rory Culkin and Erik Knudsen, the latter of whom is apparently filming his entire life with a head-mounted webcam (VLOGGING! IPADS! WEB 2.0! RELEVANCY!), and Hayden Planetarium, smugly portraying “The Girl with the Pixie Haircut.” Before you know it, some people get killed, Anthony Anderson shouts “DAYAMN!” and the characters try to find the killer, using the NEW rules of horror movies, where, as webcam head tells us, the new paradigm is the “Shriekuel,” or “Screamake,” in which the new version must out-do the original.
GAIL WEATHERS: “It’s totally meta!”
SHERIFF DEWEY: “Met-what?”
GAIL WEATHERS: “…I heard one of the kids say it.”
OOOH, MORE IRRITATING DISCUSSION OF TERMS WE ALREADY UNDERSTAND, PLZ!
So then Scream 4, itself being, like, this totally meta Screamake of itself, totally outdoes the original. SPOILER ALERT: The killer has a moronic motive and is wholly unbelievable from a logistical standpoint.
It is incredible to me that a film asking us to recognize and analyze the story tropes of schlocky horror films, and populated by characters constantly comparing their own lives to a movie, can simultaneously ask its audience not to question the fact that in a town that experiences more than 20 knife murders in less than a week, the only police we ever see are four comically-inept Sheriffs. Or that the residents of a town so historically beset with homicidal slashers could be so uninterested in guns, stun guns, pepper spray, or seemingly obvious self-defense tools of any kind. Or that cops could burst into a bookstore investigating a murder and the visiting publicist there would dismiss them with zingers like, “Can’t it wait, Barney Fife? I’m doing an event here.”
Or that an 100-pound high school girl could beat a full-grown policeman to death with a bed pan. Or that horror-film-obsessed kids would plan a horror-movie marathon at “an abandoned farm” (which is apparently still full of hay bales) in the midst of a murder spree by a killer copycatting horror films. Was that last sentence exhausting to read? Now you know what it was like to sit through the movie. This is a film that asks you to question everything, then assumes you’ll accept anything. And it’s so tumescent with self-regard that you can’t even enjoy its utter ineptitude.
The telling moment of the film comes when the killer is doing the old horror-movie quiz thing with Hayden Panettiere, and before he can finish his question, she just blurts out every horror movie she’s ever heard of.
Hey, Hayden, have you considered screenwriting?