Scream 4

Back in my younger days, I used to build models of cars, airplanes and spaceships.  I was cursed with the unfortunate combination of not being a very good model builder and being something of a perfectionist.  As I examined my overly glued and poorly painted efforts, I would think that if I dabbed on a bit more color here or trimmed some excess glue there it would be perfect.  It never was and I was rarely satisfied with my results.  If I had just left my imperfections alone, the model probably would have looked just fine.  Leaving things well enough alone is a lesson I still struggle with today.  In that regard, Hollywood and I are a lot alike as is proven by this week’s movie, “Scream 4.”

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) comes home to Woodsboro to promote her book “Out of Darkness,” written to help her deal with all the anger and guilt associated with the many murders that have occurred around her through the years.  On her first day in town, the anniversary of the original Ghostface murders, two young women are found stabbed to death.  Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) traces one of the victims’ cell phones to a rental car Sidney is driving.  In the trunk he finds the phone, a knife and the victims’ blood.  Sidney is now a suspect.  Other young women report getting threatening phone calls that sound like they are coming from the Ghostface Killer.  Sidney wants to leave town to protect people but Sheriff Riley tells her she needs to stay since, at least for the moment, she’s a suspect.  The sheriff’s wife, former reporter turned author Gale Weathers-Riley (Courteney Cox), wants to help solve the murders but Dewey tells her things are different now that he’s sheriff and she needs to stay out of it.  She announces she’s “going rogue” and will catch Ghostface by herself.  The sheriff puts 24 hour protection on Sidney as she stays with her Aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell) and cousin, Jill (Emma Roberts), but Ghostface always manages to avoid detection and the body count quickly builds.  Who is the Ghostface Killer this time?  Is it Jill’s clingy ex-boyfriend Trevor Sheldon (Nico Tortorella)?  Is it Sheriff Riley’s protective and smitten deputy, Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton)?  Is it one or both of the leaders of the high school cinema club, Robbie Mercer and/or Charlie Walker (Erik Knudsen and Rory Culkin)?  Or, has Sidney finally snapped under the pressure and become the Ghostface Killer?

By the time you reach the end of “Scream 4” you may not care all that much.  You’ll just be thankful it’s over.  “Scream 4” feels way too long.  It is one chase or murder, or chase and murder, after another.  The parade of supporting characters dispatched in bloody fashion seems endless.  A few of the killings didn’t make any sense in the alleged story of the film as the Ghostface Killer is supposed to be “rebooting” his own horror franchise by recreating the murders of the first “Stab,” the fictional movie based on the fictional books of the fictional Gale Weathers character.  But worrying about how the plot doesn’t hold together will just give you a headache since the film isn’t about storytelling but the body count.  In that regard, “Scream 4” is a smashing success.  Teenagers and adults alike are stabbed at a breakneck pace and the fake blood flies, runs, drips and spurts like the fountains in front of the Bellagio in Las Vegas.  I do hope the phony fluid tasted good as several victims spew copious amounts of it from the mouth.  I suppose that’s a sure sign of a fatal injury in the movies and it’s used over and over again here.

The film attempts to make a statement about the plugged-in, logged-on, uploaded, status-updated nature of today’s world, especially as it pertains to the youth.  It also takes a backhand to the notion of being famous simply for existing, not actually having done something; but, these efforts at social commentary are either too scattered or too preachy to raise the movie to anything other than a dim shadow of its earlier versions.  While the movie is somewhat self-aware as to how silly it is, it doesn’t embrace the silliness with enough knowing humor to invite everyone in on the joke.  In the end, the story, the characters, the acting and the humor all are given short shrift and film as a whole seems to have been made up on the fly.

“Scream 4” is rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some teen drinking.  The stabbings are too numerous to count.  One death is particularly graphic as we see a victim’s intestines lying next to the corpse.  There is a party where all the guests are seen with red cups in hand, the assumption being that everyone is drinking an alcoholic beverage.  There is also a scene at a private home where one teen is seen drinking shot after shot of tequila.  Foul language is fairly common, especially the “F-bomb.”

The film industry is in the business of making money, not art.  That’s a concept with which I’ve been comfortable for a few decades.  Still, it seems to me that a film should have some reason for being over and above the desire to make a buck.  “Scream 4” appears to exist for no other purpose than to line the pockets of its studio and producers.  And, if the film makes enough money, there will be more episodes in the franchise.  Thanks, but if this version is any indication, I’ll choose not to “Scream” in the future.

“Scream 4” gets two guitars out of five.

It’s a mixed bag of features this week as we get everything from a nature documentary to a new Madea flick.  Vote for the film you’d like me to see and review next.

African Cats—Two cat families survive on their power and their cunning, while they protect and teach their cubs the ways of the wild.

The Conspirator—The story of a Confederate sympathizer who was tried as a conspirator in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family—Everyone's favorite wise-cracking, take-no-prisoners grandma jumps into action to take care of family drama.

Water for Elephants—Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon star in a Depression-era drama about a veterinary med school dropout who joins the circus.

Win Win—A disheartened attorney who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach stumbles across a star athlete through some questionable business dealings.

Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film in theatres.

Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.

Questions?  Send them to  Follow Stan on Twitter @moviemanstan.