Wes Craven: The Scream Years Part 8 – Scream (2010)
As I rounded out the final retrospective, looking back on Wes Craven’s latter movies, which I have dubbed ‘The Scream Years’, I had a moment where I thought that I had criminally missed out on watching what was then the last instalment of the Scream franchise, Scream 4.
I admitted as much to a friend online, as the film unfolded, only to realise that I had seen it, and my recollection came flooding back. So why this absence of memory, regarding the movie?
Was it so bad that I had blocked it from my mind?
Or had the franchise run the gauntlet and exhausted any further possibilities to keep Ghostface and his multiple personalities to haunt Sidney Prescott and those who survived the original Woodsboro Murders?
For Scream 4, Craven would once again reunite with writer Kevin Williamson, suggesting that the old formula was still ripe for the making. Set fifteen years after the initial murders, the premise was to look at the impact that this had on the wider circle of friends and family, including Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts). When a double murder occurs once more involving high school students in Woodsboro, Sidney becomes prime suspect (laughably) as a way to promote her new book. She is forced to stay until the murders are solved, but when Jill gets a threatening phone call from Ol’ Ghostface himself, things start to heat up again and the body count starts to pile up.
Meanwhile, Dewey (David Arquette), who is now the town sheriff tries to restore order, but struggles to contain his wife Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox) from doing her usual undercover sleuthing.
There are the typical traits that we had now become accustomed to from the franchise with film geeks, Charlie (Rory Culkin) and Robbie (Erik Knudsen) who annually throw the Stabathon festival in Woodsboro; the ex-boyfriend of Jill, Trevor (Nico Tortorella); the snooty, highly opinionated character, Rebecca (Alison Brie) as Sidney’s publicist; and the best friend Kirby (Hayden Panettiere); and that’s not to mention some of the early cameos from the Stab movie series snippets including Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell among them.
As the sands sift through Sidney’s serial turmoil, and the audience weaves their way between numerous whodunnit style investigations, we’re left with a film that boasts some sharp dialogue and humour to match, plus some pretty decent kills that are delivered by the hands of a highly experienced craftsman in Craven. What it lacks though is any satisfactory scares as we’re swallowed up by some typical horror tropes; a surprise considering Craven had once re-invented the genre with the original movie. The final reveal also feels tired and weak considering the twists and turns we take to get there. Having said that, there are some elements that the impact of social media can have on people, which shows just how cutting edge and forward thinking Craven could be in his film-making; a testament to how fundamental and important he was for the horror genre.
A U.S. movie that came out with a trailer JBC (Just Before Covid) that looked “kinda interesting”, “might be cool” in a “popcorn/shut-off-the-brain & enjoy-the-carnage” sort of way. You know – like Ready or Not! (which is a good ‘un…).
But THIS film gets banned, and you hear it’s for reasons around politics (or some such) and you automatically assume it might have something to do with… umm… guns? I mean, it’s clearly a violent film, and let’s face it, if there’s one country that is insanely messed up around the issue of firearms, it’s blah blah blah.
So we all move on without giving it further thought, as there are plenty of other things to devote our daily quota of brain-focus towards. For example, for Aussie audiences at the time, it was all about trying to not catch on fire… (remember around Xmas when THAT was a thing?)
But we are in the now-now time, and in terms of entertainment stocks, pretty much any content today (see the date this review was/is posted) has a chance of finding an audience via a streaming service; whether it be old (Community), new (Tiger King) or banned…
If The Hunt was hoping to slot into that 3rd category, it severely misread the room. Because when you live in an age where a global pandemic can be politicised, releasing a film that pisses off the American President (and therefore a hoard of his followers) for INCORRECT reasons (he hadn’t seen it) and Snowflake Liberals (for fairly legit reasons) then you’re just being annoying.
And not in a cool “look at us – we’re so out there! We’re-provoking! We don’t care if-you’re-offended! You’ve-reacted-so-our-point-is-made! We’re-forcing-you-to-look-at-the-issue!” sort of way. (For a start, if any of those were true, you would’ve made a better film…).
So premise – and for this review we will be entering spoiler territory, so beware – we have a Predators-esque/Hunger Games style set-up where a bunch of random “everyday” Americans wake up in the countryside, bound, groggy and with no idea how they got there.
A cache of weapons is found, and as soon as they arm themselves the hunt is on.
They are shot/blown up and generally hounded in what these people called “Manorgate”. An extreme right-wing conspiracy sorta along the lines of Pizzagate (wiki that one!) that in this instance, claims rich Liberal elites kidnap people and hunt them for sport on the grounds of one of their mansions.
And considering every one of the hunties are right wing fanatics in some form or another (bloggers/vloggers/YouTube & Facebook Commentators etc.) this is both Xmas and Reverse Xmas at once.
The former because for all their nutjob ramblings, they have been proven right. And the latter because… well…hunted…
And the divide between the victims (The Right) and the bad guys (The Left) are underlined even more when it is revealed that some of the hunters are the sort of people who equate soft drink to poison (‘cause you know, sugar ‘n shit) and one of them admits to being (in effect) a Crisis Actor; one of THE MOST abhorrent things in the world to ever admit being real, let alone being one.
What’s more, these snowflakes are so useless (a term The Right love to label The Left with) they need to be taught how to kill by a military consultant who is not that qualified – again kneeling to the notion The Left don’t do their research or “check their facts”. Fakes news anyone?
So you get the idea. The victims are portrayed as mostly ineffectual and somewhat simple folk – apart from when they go on an Alex Jones-esque rant. But their horribleness (as determined by the Evil Liberals who selected them) is never fully explored because the majority of them get killed in the first few minutes.
But the Liberals haven’t even played their worst mistake card yet. Because here is another thing they didn’t fact check – the real identity of one of The Deplorables, Crystal Creasey (played by Glow’sBetty Gilpin. AKA Ghost Town’s ghost-nurse Betty Gilpin).
Crystal has the same name as one of the selected victims, but is in truth not her (‘cause, as established, Lefties get things wrong) so she’s worse than a Deplorable. She’s an innocent.
But not a helpless innocent. Oh no, she is ex-military – sour, quiet, smart, tough and resourceful. She scowls like a female Clint Eastwood, and kicks ass methodically and intuitively. She is not only cool, but she wins. She takes charge. And she doesn’t give a shit what anybody else does, or whether they need her help or not. Just so long as they don’t get in her way. (Remind you of any kind of person?)
So this Libertarian poster child kills her way to the Boss Fight, featuring the Mastermind behind it all, Athena – played by Academy Award winner Hilary Swank. Where it is revealed this whole murderball spree has come about because of a scourge act of the 21st century. Mob outrage over an inappropriate internet comment. In this case a private messenger conversation between the Liberal Elites about Deplorables that gets leaked, that – jokingly or not – sees them lose their careers because political correctness is clearly out of hand yada-yada-yada.
So as an act of revenge they create Manorgate for realsies…
Anyway, back to the final confrontation – where we also discover that not only has Athena made a mistake with Crystal, but she somewhat condescendingly is shocked to realise her would-be victim knows Animal Farm; an in-joke revolving around their codename for Crystal (it’s Snowball) which plays into yet another notion about The Left. They assume everyone outside their bubble is uneducated.
So where does this leave us – the audience?
Well – seeing as one of the writers is a man not immune to internet outrage – Damon Lindelof – you can expect to be annoyed (and you will be. Although to his credit he’s achieved this outside his normal modes. Ie: There are no spirals of logic leading to nowhere with this one).
In fact, it’s all pretty straight forward plot wise. Just the why & the what of it really hits you.
The set-up is unoriginal, which in itself is not a sin. But it’s outcome? All Crystal had to do was show that she was politically above or below all this in some way, and suddenly you have a palpable indicator of what this film is trying to say.
“BUT WAIT! Why does it have to say anything at all? Why does she have to take a political stance!?” To which the booming answer is – the filmmakers started it! But yeah, the film certainly didn’t HAVE to. A really great example how this type of movie can be a fun popcorn ride with no political lacing is the afore mentioned Ready or Not, where the only people it seems to slag off are rich ones who worship Satan. Which, as targets go, seems easy, but still pretty legit….
So Lindelof and co-writer Nick Cuse start a project that definitely wants to say something about the party divide in America. But the only 2 immediately obvious outcomes you can hope for is that they are against both, or they are on the side of the victims. Which is the right. And if Crystal – their avatar – does indeed sit somewhere on the elephant/donkey spectrum, it’s never revealed, as she’s a fairly shallow character whose only virtue is she can take an unrealistic knife wound to the gut and live.
So that leaves us with the “Aww – don’t be so wound up, it’s only a bit of fun” brigade.
And in a different time, that could be a fair enough point to let through the gate. But in a PC age (Post Covid, not the other one) idiocy is a virus more virulent than the one that’s currently killing a whole lot of people. And if there’s one thing today’s idiots don’t need, its misguided fuel in any way, shape or form. Even if it is silly entertainment.
Yes. This review is THAT condescending.
Because – and this is a reverse spin kick to contemplate – what if this movie actually says “Yeah! The Right ARE victims! This film shines a spotlight on how harshly and unfairly they are treated by The Left and their Big Government Ideas, fake media and social justice bullshit”. In which case I say to you…
STAY RIGHT THERE. Resistance is futile. We will find you. We will get you. We will make it painless. Probably. Just as soon as we finish implementing universal health care so we can inject you all with autism causing brain tracking lifesaving vaccines…
If you hate this film you are an uptight lefty elitist wanker. If you like it you are deplorable. Either way watch Ready or Not. It’s much better.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter churns away at the soul and the psyche with a slow and effective grind that resonates deeply.
Osgood Perkins directorial debut which he also penned may not be for everyone with a pace that is so slow you’d be forgiven for that thinking that you were positively stationary.
What lifts this above most standard fare is the performances of Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) who continues to show a level of maturity that belies her age and Emma Roberts (Nerve), who is also carving a strong career path with her film choices.
Told in two separate timelines that isn’t revealed until the climax, we initially follow Shipka’s Kat, a freshman who is waiting for her parents to pick her up from a prestigious boarding school for the holidays.
Surrounded by snow in a wintry climate that is reminiscent of Let The Right One In, Kat becomes increasingly more aloof and her behaviour more peculiar as a result.
Her sense of isolation is further exasperated as she fails to connect with the nuns at the school and the only other student on the premises, Rose (Lucy Boynton) who is herself too consumed with her own pregnancy that she fails to see Kat’s shrinking from the world and inner turmoil.
Meanwhile, Roberts’ Joan is making her own journey towards said boarding school where she is offered a lift by two parents grieving for the loss of their daughter.
The father seems sympathetic to Joan’s plight as if he recognises hisown daughter within her. The irony being that she is far from it and actually the perpetrator of his daughters death.
The struggle of human connectivity or lack thereof is front and centre of this film as the characters are minimal on number and those that we do see are so trapped in their own world that it’s no wonder that Kat is drawn to the darkness that surrounds us all and bows to the whims of a being that lurks beyond our own existence.
Perkins first attempt in the directors chair certainly impresses and it will be interesting to see what he does next as his vision feels like a strong one and for that he’s made a fan from this writer.