The age of Ghostfacebook: ‘Scream 4’

Posted on 14 Apr 2011 at 6:45pm
ANOTHER STAB AT IT | Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) pursues another series of murders in the clever reboot ‘Scream 4.’

‘Scream 4’ wants to be your favorite scary movie. And it just might succeed

When Scream came out in 1996 — Damn! Really?! — it turned the horror film on its head with post-modern genius: It was the first slasher film to acknowledge the genre of slasher films has rules, and that anyone aware of them could manipulate the outcome. It meant if you were the big-breasted bimbo babysitting alone in a house with lots of windows… well, let’s just say you won’t be around for the shreikquel. And certainly not the screamake.

By the time Scream 3 rolled around in 2000, the plot was folding in on itself: Movies were being made about the events portrayed in the original, and we had a metafilm.

The slasher film has morphed a lot in the last decade, partly due to the Scream series, with the rise of tortureporn (Saw, Hostel) and the docu-horror (Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity).

But society has morphed just as quickly, with reality TV documenting our lives and inventing fauxlebrity culture, victimization becoming a catch-phrase and Facebook, Twitter and smartphone apps changing the way we relate to one another.

So really, Scream 4 was overdue, even necessary.

Screenwriter Kevin Williamson is back, as are director Wes Craven and stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, and the twisty Mobius strip of a movie they’ve conjured up is a worthy addition to — and a worthy evolution of — franchise.

It’s been 10 years since the murders in Woodsboro stopped. Deputy Dewey (Arquette) is sheriff now, and his wife, Gale (Cox) is smothering in small-town domesticity. Sidney (Campbell) has come home to promote her memoir and visit her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts). But Ghostface is back, and targeting Sidney’s family and friends.

Scream’s ability to reinvent itself has always been its greatest asset, along with actual actors doing good work and a wicked sense of humor that both undercuts and heightens the tension.

There are new rules to horror films now — one being the only way to survive is to be gay (only that doesn’t work out so well for the gay guy), and S4 does an admirable job adapting while still making some degree of sense. The body count may get unreasonably high, but Williamson’s snippy lectures about the Facebook generation have actual merit.

Part of the success of the series has always been Ghostface himself, both as a lithe, shockingly grotesque image and as a growling, threatening voice on the phone. It still offers chills, and if not as powerfully as it once did, well, we’ve all gotten older. And savvier. We’re all a little more meta. Maybe my enjoyment was po-mo ironic, maybe retro-GenXer-lame. I can’t tell anymore. But it was nice to revisit Scream and remember a time when “friend” wasn’t a verb and people talked to each other face-to-ghostface and not through meaningless modspeak. OMG! ; ) L8r, beeyotches.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 15, 2011.

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