You may be thinking two things – i) why is he reviewing a film, given the title of the blog and ii) why is he reviewing a horror film? I’ll concede the first point, but as to the second – the Scream films, apart from a number of impressively timed jumps, are about as scary as the average episode of Scooby Doo. Just like the best years of that great TV show, the Scream films are very decent mysteries.
The set-up of the original film is simple – people in the town of Woodsboro get phone-calls, testing their knowledge of horror movies. Fairly quickly, an unknown person turns up in a mask mimicking the Scream painting (a bit) and starts stabbing people. A number of victims later, and things come to a climax, with the heroine, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and the other recurring characters, TV reporter Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Deputy Dewey Riley (David Arquette) living to fight another day. All the way through, the identity of the killer is treated as a whodunit, and, I think, it’s even fairly clued. Scream 2 repeats the formula with Sidney in college, with the events of the original film having inspired a film “Stab”. Scream 3 is set during the making of “Stab 3” and seemed to round off the events.
Scream 4 features a return to Woodsboro, with Sidney returning having finally buried her past traumas and Gail and Dewey married. Needless to say (otherwise it would be a pretty boring film), a Ghostface killer resurfaces, targetting those close to Sidney, in particular her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), claiming to want to make her suffer before he kills her too.
To be fair, it’s hard for me to write an unbiased review of this film, as I absolutely love Scream and Scream 2 (the third installment is less impressive, partly due to Neve Campbell being sidelined for the first half of the film). I went to see it on its first day (without Mrs Puzzledoctor – this will be remembered when Breaking Dawn comes out!) with a mixed feeling of excitement and dread – would this be a nail in the coffin or a revitalisation of the franchise?
I’m not going to write anything that spoils this film, but if you are a fan of the franchise, or even just of the first Scream, you want to see this film. Whilst it doesn’t ignore the events of 2 and 3, it only really references the events of the first film. There are some great shocks, some laugh out loud funny moments, some new methods of murder (death by letterbox?) and a well-constructed plot. Add in a cracking script that really makes you care about a lot of these characters while still setting a number of them up as suspects, and you have got a first rate evening’s entertainment.
To make one thing clear – I’m not generally a fan of horror movies, but this is no more gruesome than a particularly intense episode of Midsomer Murders – with one exception, when a shot of a dead body shows a little more intestine than is necessary. But this is a great mystery that any fans of the genre should see.
UPDATE: Just seen the film again for the second time – on DVD this time. Hmmm… when you know where it’s going, there really isn’t that much to see here, is there? I praised the film for its mystery content, but, unlike the original, that’s really all it’s got going for it. Also, when you know where it’s going (i.e.who the killer is) then there are some serious plot problems – switching to white font here as I’m going to spoil a bit.
The film needed to play as if Jill is going to replace Sidney in the franchise for the twist to work. But everything centres around Sidney again and, to be honest, Jill isn’t in it much and she’s hardly ever in anything approaching jeopardy.
Spoiler mode off. So, to summarise, a decent whodunnit, but it is lacking the re-watchability of the first (and even second) films in the franchise. Better than Scream 3 though… I think. Maybe I need to see it in the cinema again. Is there a local Scream-fest happening soon?