The age of Ghostfacebook: ‘Scream 4’

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.

—  John Wright

The 5 most famous lesbian scenes on film

Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in ‘Black Swan.’

CHRISTY LEMIRE | AP Movie Critic

LOS ANGELES — Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis play bitter ballet rivals in Darren Aronofsky’s trippy Black Swan. But the heightened emotion they feel for each other ends up bubbling over into a passionate sex scene that’s had people talking for months before the film’s release.

Well, now Black Swan is finally here, so it’s a great opportunity — and not gratuitous at all, really — to take a look at the five most famous lesbian scenes on film. A side note: Showgirls might have been a serious contender, but it appeared last week among the five most irresistible guilty-pleasure movies. It is tempting to find a reason to talk about Showgirls every week, though …

Mulholland Dr. (2001): The first intimate encounter between Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring is soft and sweet … but because this is a David Lynch movie, naturally the relationship between these two women becomes darker and more complicated. Watts, as aspiring starlet Betty Elms (at this point in the film, at least), gets tangled up with Harring’s gorgeous amnesiac Rita. As the two embark on an adventure, playing girl-detective to solve the mystery of Rita’s past, their fear and loneliness lead to a kiss which leads to one of the loveliest lesbian scenes ever filmed. In a movie full of twists, this is a rare moment of pure, instinctive emotion.

Wild Things (1998): It starts out as a face-slapping, hair-pulling cat fight in a swimming pool and ends up in a make-out session, complete with bikinis and T-shirts being tossed aside with sultry music in the background. Denise Richards plays the naughty rich girl and Neve Campbell plays the naughty poor girl; despite coming from opposite sides of the tracks, they manage to get together to concoct some rape accusations against their high school guidance counselor (Matt Dillon). The fact that this takes place in South Florida makes the whole movie feel even more steamy and tawdry. Wild Things easily could have made last week’s guilty-pleasure list, too. It’s so multipurpose.

• Bound (1996): Before The Wachowski Brothers entered the Matrix, the writing-directing duo made their debut with this funny, tense and sexy neo-noir. Jennifer Tilly plays Violet, the seemingly ditzy girlfriend of a mobster; Gina Gershon plays Corky, the maintenance woman in their apartment building who just got out of prison. Violet’s attraction to Corky is instantaneous, and eventually the two cook up a scheme to steal $2 million in stashed cash from Violet’s boyfriend. A ridiculous amount of contrived meetings and flirting leads to an intense — but artfully photographed — love scene between the two women.

D.E.B.S. (2004): As if it weren’t enough to have a bunch of beautiful, teenage spies dressed in naughty schoolgirl outfits, their leader (Sara Foster) ends up secretly falling for the deadly criminal (Jordana Brewster) who is their primary target. Writer-director Angela Robinson’s film isn’t exactly great cinema but it also doesn’t take itself too seriously, and features plenty of fun, cheeky moments. (Its tagline: “They’re crime-fighting hotties with killer bodies.”) That’s indeed true of Foster and Brewster, who share a few kisses and teasing moments before their eventual playful and passionate hook-up.

Cruel Intentions (1999): The most chaste of the five on this list, but it did earn Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair the highly coveted “Best Kiss” prize at the MTV Movie Awards. In this prep-school version of Dangerous Liaisons, Gellar functions in the Glenn Close role as a conniving and manipulative rich girl who dominates Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Blair is in the Uma Thurman role as a malleable innocent. Since Blair’s character has never kissed a boy before, Gellar’s teaches her what to do during a picnic in Central Park: “I’m gonna stick my tongue in your mouth, and when I do that I want you to massage my tongue with yours.” It all sounds pretty straightforward.

—  John Wright