Friday, May 6, 2011

Movie Review: SCRE4M

          SCRE4M is another way of saying Scream 4, which is another way of saying Scream: The Reboot. These are all acceptable titles, and I actually feel that that last title would have been more appropriate. That is because SCRE4M is really just a reboot. It is a self-aware, "meta" remake of the original Scream. That first film, if you can remember all the way back to 1996, received unusually good reviews for a teen slasher film. Most of the reviews hailed Wes Craven's direction as "fun and fresh," and carrying "a dollop of sarcasm and wit rarely seen in low-budget horror."

          Craven, the most well-known and financially stable director of the teen slasher film genre, still carries the slasher film torch all these years after the success of the Scream trilogy. And, realistically, after the success of the slasher movie genre.

          Because, let's face it, slasher movies are kind of dead. They've been replaced by shaky-cam thrillers and torture porn. The whole high-school-students-slowly-killed-by-immortal-murdering-monster thing has sort of turned into a crazy-guts-spilled-for-no-reason-by-immortal-mastermind thing.

          I suppose the question wouldn't be whether or not SCRE4M is any good, but rather is it anything new? If you're wondering whether or not the new Scream film is any good, then you are probably mistaken about what these films represent. They are not "good films." They are also not "bad films." It's hard to call it bad when, for the entire duration of the movie, it is reminding you that it has all of these rules that it must follow. And that it has no choice but to follow them. The entire charm of the series lies in this self-awareness.

        The thing is, for the first movie--released in a time where people had grown very, very weary of slasher films--audiences knew all of the rules and expected the film to be bad, being surprised mid-way through the film by its smart, post-modern plot. In other words, audiences were aware too. They were aware that the movie was aware, and everybody was on the same level.

        With SCRE4M, it feels like there is more of a disconnect between the film and its audience. Where the first film's scenes of teenagers discussing the rules of horror films felt fresh and fun, this new film's identical scenes feel more like a quota being filled. And this is where the film runs into problems.

        SCRE4M is a remake of the first film. So everything that happens in this new film is something that we have seen in the other one. With a remake comes the baggage of the original film. There MUST be an equally shocking murder in the beginning. There MUST be nerds who know too much about movies. There MUST be a good motive for the killer. The film MUST be aware of all of these rules.

        Now imagine a film that not only fills all of these quotas, but also has to acknowledge these quotas. Then imagine a remake of the film that is filling and acknowledging these quotas, and then acknowledging its acknowledgment. That means that on top of the original film's attempts at meta-narrative, this new film must also comment on the fact that it is commenting on a quota that it is also filling.

        Confused? Look at this:
SCRE4M is this caption.
            The seemingly unnecessary complexities aside, this film is definitely worth watching for fans of the other films. Most of the actors are back, and most of the reasons you liked the first ones are back as well. The beginning, while not necessarily shocking, is pretty hilarious and worthwhile anyway. And everything that follows, while a definite retread of things seen before, is sort of what you're asking for anyway when seeing the third sequel (not third film, third sequel) to any movie.

           The problem lies in the film's existence. If Wes Craven wanted to comment on the current wave of horror films, why did he decide to bring a decade old franchise out of mothballs? The original film was so charming because it was existing as a current film while commenting on one. It did the same thing that Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead did just a few years ago with zombie films. It is important to be a good example of the thing you're critiquing as you critique it, or your criticism feels meritless. As an aside, Shaun of the Dead is showcased in this film.

          If Wes Craven had really wanted to criticize modern horror, he should have started a new franchise. While it is funny to see characters in a reboot commenting on the fact that there are so many reboots out there, it is also incredibly tedious to go through the motions all over again. For a film that is so excited about breaking its own rules, it follows a pretty narrow formula.

          In fact, SCRE4M reveals a semi-solution to the problem about half-way through the film. In a scene where some high school kids are watching one of the Stab films, the series within a series, we learn that the fake film is directed by Robert Rodriguez. We are then shown a couple of minutes from this film, a clip actually directed by Rodriguez, and they are probably the best part of the movie. The scene is fresh, twisted, intentionally campy, and awesome.

          After that, we are brought back into the tired world of SCRE4M once again, not only aware of Craven's inability to leave a tired franchise behind, but in his inability to see that his reign as king of the  low-budget innovators has ended, succeeded by directors who are more willing to take risks like Robert Rodriguez and Edgar Wright. Which is strange, considering that both director's works are given screen time in the film.

          If you skipped everything above, here's what you need to know: if you like the Scream franchise, go see it; if you are expecting something new or innovative, you will be disappointed.

The bottom line is that the film is fine, but a real missed opportunity.


  1. i couldnt agree more with this. saw it last night and laughed almost throughout, but still felt a little empty when i left. but the reboot idea was decently attempted, but it still could have been better.
    this is justin

  2. so are you saying this film was trying to comment on modern gore films but failed through staying so rigidly to the ol' formula? I have yet to see the film, but as always I enjoy your reviews-- they always give me great ideas for movies I will watch in the future.

  3. I really liked this movie as I am a big fan of horror movies. I would highly recommend this film to all who love watching scary movies.
    Scream 4 2011