April 26, 2011

How Can I Spoil Something That's Already Bad?

Who killed Scream 4? It was Kruger!
Let me preface this by saying I am a big fan of the original movie Scream. Coming at time when nobody else had thought to write a horror movie script where the characters had actually ever seen a horror movie themselves, the screenplay was clever, refreshing and exciting. 

Not only that, but adding the icing on the cake was the fact that the killer was not a mindless killing automaton whose only rationale for slicing and dicing the cast was explained away as "pure evil" as was the norm at the time. In Scream, the killer was quite human and could be killed himself -- actually, themselves. Yes, the savory cherry on top was the twist that there were two killers working together, and not two. Again, at the time, that had rarely, if at all, been done before.

Now, I just saw Scream 4, and it was a huge disappointment -- not because it failed to recapture the magic of the original, but that it came so close to doing so before falling woefully short. Spoilers ahead, so if you don't want to know, stop reading.

There were really only two possible ways for this new movie to have lived up to the original's audacity, in my humble opinion. One would have been to have the three surviving cast members from the original films die. The other, to have one (or more of them) be the killers. Sadly, neither of these options happened -- although it appears that fault may not lie with screenwriter Kevin Williamson. 

I don't know what his original script looked like, but I do know that they brought in Ehren Kruger -- the auteur who penned the weakest member of the original trilogy, Scream 3 -- to do extensive rewrites, most notably to "fix" the ending. After seeing the result, it's clear to me that this turned the plot into a incomprehensible nightmare.

Actually, I look more like the younger Salinger sister...
The film clearly wanted to end with Sydney's death at the hand of her cousin, Jill. That final tableau had been foreshadowed throughout the movie and when it finally happened, it seemed  "right" to end that way. Now, having the killer actually survive the movie would be a huge twist -- and a divergence from the end of all three previous films -- plus, using the media's reaction to Jill's survival, calling her a "hero" with zero actual investigative reporting or fact-checking, would have been a perfect commentary on today's society.  

Unfortunately, that's not how it ends. No, instead we are treated to an implausible, hack job of an ending where Jill attacks Sydney -- who miraculously survived the stabbings -- in a somehow completely vacant wing of the local hospital. Jill subdues Dewey with a *sigh* bedpan, and holds Gayle at gunpoint until the killer is finally defeated by our eternal hero, Sydney -- just as Neve Campbell's character did in each of the first three movies.

Not only is this a preposterous scene, seemingly written just so Syd can fire off the clever bon mot, "Don't &%#$ with the original" but it also completely renders moot the social commentary that preceded it. 

Hold on, folks. I'm just an actor... I didn't write this crap.
I would have been willing to overlook the stupidity of some of the characters who died in this film, like the agent who gets out of her car in a failed effort to reach the stairwell to freedom in the deserted parking garage even though she has a working cell phone and could easily have dialed 9-1-1 from the safety of her locked vehicle. 

I would have excused the pathetic decision to have Anthony Anderson's cop character get stabbed in the head, piercing his brain, which should have caused him to die instantly, instead resulting in his slowly getting out of his car, blindly throwing punches at the air and ultimately firing off an unfunny one-liner before dropping dead. 

Whatever this film could have been it clearly changed once Kruger got his knife-like talons into the re-writing process, and that's a shame because even though Sydney survived in this version of the script, the franchise -- at least as far as I am concerned -- no longer has a pulse. 

3 comments:

  1. Hey, nice review...

    My wife and I saw this the other night. I was staggered by just how bad it was. I realize it is the 4th in a series so my expectations were low, but even with that in mind...HORRIBLE.

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  2. Thanks, Corey. I was hoping for the best, and there were glimmers of hope -- but when you yawn more than you get startled during a horror film? Eek!

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  3. That's a real bummer, AJ. The opening scene in the original movie really grabbed a hold of you and the movie didn't let go until the end. The inside campy jokes coupled with unexpected genuine scares made for a solid platform. Mix in some decent actors and it gets difficult to fail. Pretty rare for a traditional fright flick these days. Too bad they couldn't sustain it.

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