Movie Review: Scream 4 (The REALLY Short Version)
By Tom Houseman
December 22, 2011
Scream 4 takes a different tactic. It blatantly throws the fact that it is fictional in your face while simultaneously denying it. It's as if the movie gives a big a speech about how seriously you should take it while it is wearing one of those fake arrow-in-the-head things and flatly denying that there is anything on its head. These first two scenes are Williamson and Craven's way of announcing that you should take everything you see at face value while holding up a sign that says “I'm full of shit.” And it is confusing!
Okay, so within five and a half minutes we see three characters get killed. We are supposed to have an emotional investment in these characters because in movies like these that is a thing we are supposed to have. But after all these characters get killed the movie then tells us, “no, you are not supposed to have an emotional investment in these characters because none of that was real. It was all just part of a movie.” “But wait!” We respond, our brows furrowed. “Everything that is happening in this movie is just part of a movie,” which is a statement that seems stupidly obvious when we say it out loud. “Why should we care about any of these characters?” And then the movie just raises one eye brow coyly, leaving us even more confused than we were before we asked the question and also jealous that this movie is so good at raising one eye brow.
And that question is, along with the mystery of who the killer is, the driving force behind the movie. Are those first two scenes any less real than the rest of the movie? If not, why are we watching any of it? Why watch any movie other than documentaries if we know that what is happening isn't real? “it's illogical,” says the blonde girl who isn't Julie Taylor to Julie Taylor in the third opening scene of the movie. “It begs the question that if the beginning of Stab 7 is Stab 6, then is the beginning of Stab 6 Stab 5, and if so, what is Stab 4?” It's brilliantly simple and at the same time massively convoluted. We mock the Stab movies because they are the fake movies within the Scream movies, but they are no less fake than the Scream movies. In the end we're just watching actors pretend to get stabbed and cough up corn syrup.
There is a scene later in Scream 4 that adds another layer to the complication. Olivia, one of Jill's friends, gets killed by Ghost Face, as characters in the Scream movies are wont to do. In a sick twist, Jill and Olivia's friend Kirby is forced to watch the scene through a window from the house next door, helpless to stop her friend from being executed. Kirby is horrified and brought to tears by what she is witnessing. We, of course, are not. We might be sickened by the scene, but honestly, we're so desensitized to violence that we probably think it is cool and entertaining and maybe a little bit scary. That is why we watch horror movies: to be scared and entertained.