Lamar Giles
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SCREAM 4: Spoiler Free

My wife and I checked out SCREAM 4 (or SCRE4M if you prefer…I don’t, but you might) last Friday, and I can’t seem to get this film off my mind, so I decided to pass on this semi-obsession to you. You’re welcome.

First, just like my post on WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN, this is NOT a review per se. I liked the movie. I thought it was plenty of fun, and despite what some critics and the box office receipts indicate, I’m going to say it was the best installment since the 1996 original. With the exception of a very effective joke based on the movie-within-the-movie, STAB, I think you could easily view 1 and 4 back-to-back and enjoy a complete viewing experience without missing a beat. But, I digress.

I really want to talk about the experience of the movie itself, and how it wasn’t quite the nostalgic booster I thought it was going to be (and how maybe that’s a good thing).

When the original SCREAM premiered, I had no interest in seeing it. It looked stupid to me. I was 16, so a lot of stuff looked stupid to me in my infinite teenage wisdom. It was by my cousin’s recommendation (or maybe I should say abduction since she just about dragged me to the theater after seeing–and raving about–it the night before) that I made it to a Saturday showing. I won’t go into any big recap about Drew’s shocking death in the opening scene, or the crazy number of red herrings, or the big dual reveal. I’ll just say I was impressed (like the rest of Teen America), and by the time I made it to college and SCREAM 2 premiered, I needed no prodding.

What I remember most about the SCREAM craze of the 90’s was the rush of knockoffs, each one demonstrating the Principle of Diminishing Returns. I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER was the best riff (mostly due to Father SCREAM Kevin Williamson’s involvement), and URBAN LEGEND was the first–but certainly not the last–weak entry into the scrum. Despite the sense of “I’ve seen all this before” they were all event films. I’m talking fun, crowded theaters. Audience chatter that was enjoyable instead of annoying. Friday Night Premier of the new SCREAM-like film = Mandatory Date Night.

With the SCREAM franchise returning after more than a decade, my wife and I went to the Friday late-show (a practice we abandoned years ago after seeing a group of rowdy teens assault a guy who had the gall to ask them to stop talking) with hopes of the same frenzied excitement from our high school and college days. Well, you know the saying ‘you can’t go home again’…the same pathos felt appropriate when we arrived at the theater and found it less than 3/4 full. The waiting crowd was listless, almost irritated, as if they’d really wanted to see Rio, the current box-office champ, but found all showings sold out and settled for this obscure scary movie instead. In the dim theater, smart phones glowed like plutonium on THE SIMPSONS and I spotted more than a few games of ANGRY BIRDS in play through the previews.

As the film progressed, my wife and I laughed at jokes that few in the theater seemed to get and we silently communicated (because married people are telepathic) our guesses of who the killer was while many of teens in attendance seemed bored by the whodunit. Perhaps they were too enthralled with level 25-3 of ANGRY BIRDS…it is a toughie.

The movie ended to bland audience reaction, and I heard some teenager (probably an infinitely wise 16 year old) pronounce, “That was stupid”. At that moment, the oddness of it all hit me…along with my decision that SCREAM 4 was a fantastic and satisfying film. Because the subtext of the murder mystery bled (pun intended) beyond the confines of the silver screen. This movie was about the very thing me and my wife had just experienced in a disconnected theater of teens who couldn’t stop texting long enough to realize the filmmakers were painting a very unflattering portrait of them.

This movie is NOT for the latest  generation of teens and every frame was like a subliminal message out of THEY LIVE flashing that very sentiment. We got the inside joke, the one Wes Craven, Kevin Williamson, and Ehren Kruger threaded throughout the entire film so blatantly, and it was damned funny.

But sad, too.

Every year we age, we slowly slide up and out of the demographic that Hollywood targets, and SCREAM 4 was like an hour and forty minutes of a dying man deciding not to go quietly. In retrospect, the film played like a last hoo-rah for my generation of movie goers disguised as something else. Just like Ghostface it paraded around in the costume until the Final Act Reveal, then unmasked and showed its true identity. I dug that.

So, we didn’t get the nostalgia we were looking for, but I was happy to see that the filmmakers hadn’t forgotten about us. Money talks, and people are calling this movie a financial disappointment. I don’t know, though. I’m hoping word of mouth spreads, and more of those kids I used to bump into at the popcorn line back in the day will find babysitters, gas up the mini van, and get out to a show to let Wes, Ghostface, and company know that we appreciate the shout out. Even if it is the last.

I certainly hope it isn’t. Maybe in another 10 years we’ll get SCREAM 5 and the newest crop of teen starlets will see that no mid-life crisis or prostate exams can keep us down.

After all, there will always be some young hot blonde to slice up in the first reel, but the 90’s will never die.



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