Between Screams

“You were my nineties!”

That’s what a younger character says to Gale Weathers, played by Courteney Cox, early on in Scream 4. The comment is highly appropriate, because the Scream movies were my nineties.

The first one came out when I was a film studies major in college, and my friends and I reveled in the way it deconstructed stupid horror movies while simultaneously being a kick-ass one. But most of all, it made us — a group of intelligent, cynical, savvy academics — feel smart for being in on the joke. Plus, it scared the pants off of us. Everyone I knew saw it and loved it. We went back to theaters to see it again and again, always bringing newbies into the fold. It just wasn’t Halloween unless Scream was playing on a TV somewhere in my vicinity.

When Scream 2 and Scream 3 came out, I was among the first people in line to see them. I owned the DVDs. I could quote whole swaths of dialogue. I’m not ashamed to admit that the Scream movies were my Star Wars trilogy — something I could geek out to and defend from all critics. (Even though I was secretly disappointed by Scream 3.)

Naturally, I was excited to hear that they were making a Scream 4. I was nervous, too. We all know what happened to Star Wars fans when they got a fourth movie. Would Scream 4 be any good? Or would it be another Phantom Menace?  More important, would anyone care?

Well, Scream 4 is good, although not nearly on the level of the first two movies. And, I’m happy to report, it’s not nearly as awful as The Phantom Menace. But, the biggest question, did I care?

Truth be told, not really.

There’s a lot to like about Scream 4, from the dizzying opening to the unabashedly over-the-top climax. (Anyone who has read DEATH NOTICE can tell that I love my endings to be over the top.) In between there’s some smart dialogue and a few interesting set pieces. As for the ending, the more I think about it, the more I love it. It’s a sly, poison-tipped critique of (deep breath) our reality-show culture, our obsession with fame, the media that encourages it, violence against women in movies and the constant barrage of remakes that studios push down our throats seemingly every week now.

Yet when I was watching the movie, I couldn’t help but feel disconnected from the whole thing. Something didn’t feel right. The jokes weren’t as funny. The murders were more brutal. Spine-chilling suspense seemed to be replaced with mere violence. I didn’t really care about the characters or whether they lived or died. (Except Sidney, of course. My Scream roots are still deep.) I didn’t even care who the killer (or killers) ended up being, nor was I particularly surprised by it. Had my beloved Scream franchise changed?

No, it’s still the same horror series it always was, and if you’re into that kind of thing, go see it.

The disconnect came from the fact that I had changed. Quite a bit. A lot happened to me between Scream 3 and Scream 4. I lost contact with many of my friends. Friends and family members passed away. New ones were born. I changed jobs, relationships, apartments. Several times. I wrote a book and, lo and behold, it somehow got published, creating a new wave of deadlines, responsibilities and obligations.

In other words, I grew up and became an adult. The Scream movies, however, will always be a young person’s game.

I’m still glad I saw Scream 4. I enjoyed it for what it was. But I hope the producers are smart enough to not make a fifth one. (Judging from the film’s weak box office, I doubt it.) However, if they do, I won’t be seeing it. The Scream films and I are no longer compatible. It’s time to move on. The nineties are over.

Posted on by Todd Posted in Musings

Comments are closed.