Film Review: Scream 4

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Craven Images

Warning: This review reveals the killer’s identity.

Years ago I began to draft a book called Film Underground: An Anthology of Cult Movies, composed entirely of fictional capsule reviews. Sadly my computer’s hard drive crashed and the file was lost, but amongst the entries I can still recall was one entitled Postmodicon: The self-referential spectacular. The review discussed a film in which each set of characters, tonguing their cheeks, played versions of themselves, drawing attention both to the artifice of their on screen personas, but also the filmic conventions employed to manipulate the audience. At the end of the film, all pretence at creating a self-contained world was abandoned. The actors sat next to each other looking directly to the camera and winked in tandem. Slowly the camera moved in, settling on a single eye that winked at the audience for the rest of the picture. It was post-modern filmmaking in its purest form. It was also meant to be a joke.

We don’t call post-modern films post-modern anymore of course; the term has its own contemporary, post-post modern label, “meta”, which when employed by film geeks to draw attention to their knowledge of cinematic conventions, knowledge built at the expense of a critical faculty, causes those of us still interested in the simple pleasures of story, character and meaning to reach for their gun.

Whatever you call it, the Scream series is unique in that it was the first to build its audience using a form of genre recognition whereby the filmmakers subverted expectations by opening up their feeble box of tricks to audience scrutiny, then showing us a new one. By acknowledging that the repetitive nature of the slasher film had de-sensitised gore whores to the shocks, and featuring characters that knew how the game was played, they could simultaneously celebrate this low-brow crud, while imbuing it with a hitherto unseen amount of knowing sophistication.

This civil partnership between genre stalwart Wes Craven and fanboy Kevin Williamson, worked very nicely. The problem in resurrecting the series in an era where a post-modern perspective is de rigueur amongst the young, thanks in part to movies like the original Scream and when our knowledge of genre clichés has reached saturation point, to the degree that we’re crying out for originality rather than the tendency to substitute it with self-referential asides, is how do you make it fresh? What does a post-post modern movie look like?

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Directed by: Wes Craven

Country: US

Year: 2011

Running Time: 111 mins

Certificate: 15 for dated  post-modernism and potential audience lethargy.


3 Responses

  1. Bob says:

    Goodness you sure use fancy words in your review. Of course you should have just said you didn’t like the movie because it was an unoriginal sequel. Wow a sequel that had the same elements as the original what a crazy idea. Oh but there must be something new or original in a sequel right…well actually most sequels by their nature aren’t original at all so you being a typical critic who puts your nose up to “unoriginal material” must hate most sequels. Moviegoers know what to expect going into a movie like Scream 4 so a movie reviewer who #1 Obviously dislikes this genre #2 Tells the viewer something they probably knew without seeing the movie #3 Give away the ending for no reason whatsoever = A real bad movie reviewer who should probably get another career quickly. Oh and writing like your some kind of 19th century Euro academic for a movie review on Scream 4 makes you a real douche bag.

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      Hi Bob,

      I’m grateful to you for dumbing down your comment soas I can undurschand it.

      This site may not be for you, and I apologise, because you were the specific person I had in mind when I wrote this review.

      I’d like to recommend an alternative critic. Britain’s most respected commentator on film culture and the man who can make or break a movie in the United Kingdom – Alex Zane. He should be more to your liking:

      God speed.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    lmao ahaha I laughed at loud at the comment. Silly. This movie was horrible, I loved the Scream films growing up and I was sorely disappointed with this.