Meta-references are not always good

Michael Phillips | Boulder Weekly


In the first few minutes of Scream 4, the teenage girls home by themselves on a dark night are watching a DVD and discussing the merits and demerits of the Saw franchise, which one of the girls refers to as “torture porn,” and then brrrrrrrrrrrrp brrrrrrrrrrrrp goes the slightly too loud cordless phone. This announces the presence of the serial killer who will be killing them soon, and not softly. A minute later, blood all over the walls, and turns out we’ve been watching a scene from Stab 6, which is being watched by two teenage girls home by themselves on a dark night. Brrrrrrrrrp brrrrrrrrp. The real movie starts. We think. Does it?


Begun in 1996 by screenwriter Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven, the Scream franchise has consciously made an in-joke virtue of its meta-critiques, its yakky way of calling attention to the horror-movie tropes while deploying them anew. Scream is all about the text and the film-geek footnotes.

The opening of this franchise reboot — wait, is it a reboot if it’s from the same people? — promises a gory delirium the film cannot sustain. All in all, though, it’s a moderately entertaining exercise in running in circles and chasing one’s tail. I won’t give too much away,

except to say that the killer is really … nah, better not … but I will say that I appreciated the movie’s gentle insistence on actually ending. As opposed to sequel-ending, which is more like nyah-nyah.

Craven and his cinematographer, Peter Deming, remain clever exploiters of widescreen film, as opposed to standard verite digital, and even if you tire of the all the “BOO!-oh-it’s-just-you” setups, in their fashion these men play more or less fair. The film is jam-packed with stabbings, mostly to the stomach and chest region, but the gore doesn’t impart that salacious, lingering Saw/Hostel feeling.

It’s fun to see that charming under-reactor Neve Campbell, looking about 20 minutes older, back as Sidney Prescott. The character is the author of a cathartic best seller about what it took to survive the Woodsboro slasher attacks. Sidney’s in town just in time for the anniversary celebration of the horrors and her old high school’s “Stabathon,” a festival of the Stab movies based on the killings, held in an abandoned barn. And who do you think shows up for that?

As always the town can count on Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) to show up a tetch late. Courteney Cox’s Gale Weathers reconnects with her TV reporter’s instincts for ego and detective work once the bodies start piling up.

At this point is there anywhere left to go with the Scream brand of genre self-love? Not really. I jumped a few times. I loved the prologue. I hope Craven gives us a taste of something new sometime soon.

—MCT, Tribune Media Service