Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Scream 4

As slasher movies go, the 'Scream' series set the trend for self-referential horror. In each movie, cinema savvy characters discuss the absurdities and formulae for successful horror movies, often right before succumbing to the inane behaviour they critique. There's always a couple of cinema geeks on hand to outline how this particular installment should unfold if it is a true sequel, or the third part in a larger story, or ...another postmodern sequel.
Kevin Williamson, the writer of the original movie, returns this time around, as does series director, Wes Craven. He has absorbed all that has been said about the rest of the series (and indeed the whole modern Horror genre that it shaped), and makes that the target of discussion. So we get movies within movies, second-guessing of rules in a self-aware culture, and a stab at a celebrity culture that thrives on people famous for being famous. Despite alluding to all these ideas though, there isn't too much real insight on display. But then why should there be? This is a slasher movie. And at base it's the same drill as the other three films, with a killer in a ghost mask and an annoying telephone manner, and a new set of suspects. Not to mention a whole new selection of bright young things to be sliced and diced.
Truth be told, I dislike stabbings, gratuitous gore and (especially) the needless slaughter of those bright young things. I get no kick out of the 'inventive' slayings. What's more, the 'Scream' series, by using the whodunnit device (like Argento before), ridiculous though the unmasking always is, places more emphasis on character and so makes the deaths a little sadder. You do kind of care. Not to say the characters in 'Scream 4' are any more than paper thin tropes - they're not - but they have a damn sight more likeability than the teenage tokens usually appearing in dreck like 'Friday the Thirteenth' or 'My Bloody Valentine'.
All that said, Craven delivers the requisite shocks, Williamson delivers the knowing humour, and a mixture of familiar and attractive cast members deliver a lot more than we have any right to expect. (Only Marco Beltrami's brainless score really jars, not only fanfaring events clumsily, but often needlessly drawing attention to itself.)
It's not as smart as it thinks it is, but 'Scream 4' is still a silly slash above the norm.

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