Now Playing: Nothing to ‘Scream’ About

First, a brief biographical note: When the first ‘Scream‘ came out way back in 1996, I (like most people) missed it during its initial theatrical run. There was a second-run house where I grew up in Texas that showed movies for a dollar, so, on a Monday, I saw ‘Scream’. I was blown away. I went back every day for the rest of the week. While ‘Scream 2‘ (released the following year) was pretty great, ‘Scream 3‘ was lackluster at best. Nonetheless, I still had an unearthly amount of excitement for the latest installment – which is why it’s so hard for me to write about its mediocrity.

‘Scream 4’ opens with gusto, in easily the best pre-credits sequence since the original film. It’s too good to give away (and too hard to explain), but the sequence has more layers of reality than ‘Inception’ and will leave you howling. The rest of the movie, though? Not so much.

The basic premise is that Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is returning to her hometown of Woodsboro at the end of a book tour promoting her memoir that chronicles the events of the earlier films. So we get to catch up with the only other surviving characters. Dewey (David Arquette) is now the town’s sheriff, and his wife Gale (Courtney Cox), formerly a television news anchor and author, is currently a bored housewife. A series of murders occur, and things turn into another whodunit, with a cast full of nubile cuties (among them Emma Roberts as Sidney’s cousin and Hayden Panettiere as a closet horror geek) for slicing and dicing.

For much of the movie, I enjoyed being back in the scary/funny wise-ass ‘Scream’ universe once more. That’s all well and good, except that the old characters are given so little to do (and are off-screen for long stretches of the film), that you wonder what the point was in bringing them back at all. (Arquette, in particular, looking sweaty and bloated, seems lost.)

Original ‘Scream’ screenwriter Kevin Williamson wrote the first version of the script, only to be replaced at some point during production by ‘Scream 3’ scribe Ehren Kruger .The movie’s main trouble comes with its inability to articulate its intent. About halfway through, the idea is brought up that the crimes are being constructed as a remake of the events of the first ‘Scream’. But the filmmakers (including series stalwart Wes Craven) seem confused. If it’s a remake, who is the surrogate for Dewey supposed to be, especially since Dewey is still alive?

Questions like this plague and ultimately derail the somewhat sophisticated fun of ‘Scream 4’, which is gorgeously shot and acted with gusto. (Alison Brie seems to be having a ball as Sidney’s bitchy agent). If the movie falters on a basic conceptual level, it’s tough to get behind. There are a few pleasures to be had here, and it certainly isn’t as dismal as ‘Scream 3’, but you’d think that in the years in between the films, there would be more fertile material to cover, mock, and reinvent. Instead of a remake, ‘Scream 4’ just feels like a warmed-over rehash.


  1. Cant wait to see this, both IGN and Joblo’s Arrow in the Head gave this really great reviews, 4/5 from IGN and 3/4 from Arrow

    Hate to say but I normally cant rely on your reviews for horror movies as you seem to hate pretty much every movie that most other people like and I know that I’ll usually go with the opposite of what you say in your reviews and I’m golden, so you do have that going for you 😉

    • Gosh, Chaz. I’m actually fascinated by your response here and ask with all seriously and full confusion: what in the world possessed you to write this to another human being? Did you have a bad day? Did it make you feel good? Does it make you feel better than others. Bold and strong?

      Yes, I’m a co-staffer with Drew and his work here is public, and therefor open for comment, but please know I don’t always share the same taste in movies as Drew.

      May I inquire as to what you do for a living? You can be vague, that’s okay. Would you feel good if someone walked into your place of business, and said, “Oh, I just wanted to tell you Chaz that I come here so I know NOT what to buy. Have a great day :)” Then again, I’ve worked plenty of jobs where customers are a-holes, so perhaps you do experience this a lot. Maybe it doesn’t bother you, or maybe it bothers you so much you have to take a digital dump on someone else. I have no idea, really. Maybe you have awesome coworkers and great customers.

      Man, the Internet / People just fascinates me. I wish you well, Chaz, but seriously, I normally can’t rely on your forum posts to learned how to comment on the Internet from you as you seem to not know when you are being rude even though you put an emotion at the end of what you are saying. So you do have that going for you 😉

      • Keith

        I don’t understand what was so horrific about what Chaz wrote. Honestly, I have to agree with him on a certain level. Seems to me that Drew hates just about every movie ever made that isn’t some deeply intelectual arthouse independent “film”.

        • Again, I have to point out that Drew says right in his opening paragraph that he loves the first two Scream movies. I wouldn’t call either of those “deeply intellectual arthouse independent films.” It seems to me that when evaluating a movie called “Scream 4,” the relevant question isn’t what the reviewer thought about Black Swan, but rather how he felt about the earlier Scream movies.

          Is liking the first two Scream movies and disliking the third considered out of the norm among Scream fans? If this new movie is more like the third and less like the first two, isn’t it likely that a lot of Scream fans are going to be disappointed… again?

          • CK

            I don’t really see the big deal either. It seems that nobody actually said they were dismissing his review for this movie, but that they “normally” couldn’t rely on his reviews in general or for horror movies in particular. They don’t seem to be insisting that the reviewer is wrong, just that they consistently have opposing tastes.

            Josh: They seem to be making general statements; whether he liked the Scream series or not doesn’t negate the fact that they don’t “normally” agree with his opinions on “just about” every movie that isn’t an arthouse movie. What he thought of the other Scream movies is a more relevant question for a review of Scream 4, but what he thought about Black Swan or anything else (or at least other horror movies) would still be relevant. If someone said that Gladiator, Avatar and the Transformers movies were the greatest films ever made, would that not be a factor if they recommended a movie to you?

          • Keith

            I’m not questioning anything about the Scream franchise or whether he likes any of them or not. My post was just inteded to back up Chaz for being called out for “disrespecting” Drew.

            As a person who is often criticized for being too negative (trust me, I complain a LOT! lol), I just happen to notice that Drew really doesn’t seem to care for much these days unless it’s some kind of artsy fartsy intellectual type movie.

          • Well I get criticized for being too positive all the time, which I didnt think would ever happen, but it does, people just cant believe I really really enjoy certain movies….the three you mentioned are some I’ve watched numerous times, I loved Transformers (the first one, 2nd not so much), had a great time with Avatar and Gladiator is one I will watch whenever its on, but like I said I enjoy almost EVERY movie I watch in some form or another, I think I’ve only turned off a movie before it was done a couple times in my whole life, I can sit through and like just about anything 🙂

          • For what it’s worth, I don’t think that Chaz crossed any lines with his first comment. It’s his opinion, and he’s entitled to disagree with anything we write here. Mike perhaps overreacted a little bit.

        • Nothing horrific. Just trying to ask an honest question, Kieth.

          In the same way you feel an sense of, for lack of a better word, ‘brotherhood’ with Chaz here as someone who gets criticized for having certain opinions, perhaps I felt the same way about Drew.

          I guess I don’t always understand why reviews and reviewERS are interchangeable as topics in the forums. But I should know better — people generally converse differently here than in person. Cheers and thanks for reading.

      • I’m not really sure where you are coming from here, if someone wanted to come into my place of work and tell me that, more power to them, they dont want to trust my expertise in Computers than thats fine, but thats a far cry from writing a personal opinion about a review

        Writing reviews like this invites criticism of all kinds, if he cant take what I’m going to comment about he shouldnt be doing this, plain and simple. I’ve seen many of people call others names, insult them and numerous other crazy things on the internet when it comes to stuff like this, no where did I insult his opinion, insult him personally or anything of the like. I simply stated that I’ll go the opposite of what he likes because so far I think there has been ONE movie he’s covered that we could actually agree on.

        So really what is wrong with my post here? I have every right to disagree with him and he has every right to dislike Scream 4 more than most others seem to so far.

        On one of my other message boards I get blasted all the time for my taste in movies, I enjoy most anything and can find the fun in almost every movie no matter how bad it is, people just dont get that mentality and have to rip on me for it all the time, I get stuff like “I have no faith in humanity now” because I enjoyed Sucker Punch A LOT, I thought it was a fantastic film from start to finish (Drew hated it), but in the end I could care less what anyone tells me or how they view my opinion on a film.

        I’m a big movie guy and watch most anything I can get my hands on, I watch foreign films a lot, I love Japanese splatter flicks, Horror films, Scifi movies, good Dramas (my favorite movie is Requiem for a Dream), Indie films, etc. most of my every day life constitutes buying and watching films of all kinds….so I believe that my opinion on films is just as valid as anyone else who gets to review films on these types of sites, but it comes with the territory to get hated on or liked a lot when you do express that opinion

        • thanks for the response. i’m glad you love movies and read about them here.

          I was simply hoping to learn more about why people feel the need to say things like, “as you seem to hate pretty much every movie that most other people like.” Your opinion here on any films is always equal and valid, but perhaps I mistook your words as an attack, because you were talking about the reviewer, rather than the film.

          I guess I am alone in thinking this way; so be it.

  2. I was sad that they didn’t screen this for critics in my market 🙁 Was mildly interested in seeing it, but I’m not going to pay to see it.

  3. despite the fact I often agree with Drew’s reviews I will see this.

    I’m a slave to franchises like this.
    Even when I know it will be horrid. It’s a sickness.
    But I’m happy to hear it’s not horrid only mediocre! Woohoo!

  4. I just watched the first three again this week, and was surprised looking back how really “bloodless” both Scream 2 and Scream 3 were (not that I mind, since I’m turned off by excessive gore in movies). That said, the first one is still the scariest of the three, and the second one is still the funniest of the three. Scream 3 gets a little sidetracked by becoming a little TOO “movie within a movie” (really, did we NEED a Jay and Silent Bob cameo?!), but it’s not as bad as I remembered…just not as fresh and fun as the first two flicks. After a decade, though, I’m definitely ready to see these characters again on the screen.

  5. motorheadache

    It’s funny because I used to kind of think Drew was a film snob who “only liked art house indie films” too. I remember at one point that he envisioned bringing a girl home and her being excited/turned on by his giant stack of Criterion discs. I’m not sure if he was serious or not 🙂

    But the more I read his articles, the more I realized that wasn’t really the case– I had developed a preconceived notion of his tastes and found myself being surprised at what he liked and didn’t like (like Pirahana 3D for example, which I also thought was great). I kind of realized that although I don’t always agree with his opinions (when is that not the case?), he’s no more of film snob than I am in his own way (okay maybe a little bit more 🙂 )

  6. Piranha 3D surprised me, to like something like that and to not like something as over the top and ridiculous as Sucker Punch just seems odd to me, I loved Piranha, it was such a blast in 3D and still a great time on Bluray, hilarious movie that gets what 80s movies used to be like and then he goes on to highly enjoy Drag Me to Hell, but then comes out and says Insidious sucks (which is very similar with the same type of scares as DMTH), I just dont get a consistent read from Drew.

    After loving something like Piranha and then go and hate something you would almost guarantee he would like based on previous likes (if that makes sense), its a strange mentality to follow and its hard to gauge what the hell he’s going to enjoy watching 🙂

    Sorry to go off topic…..