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May 9, 2011 | by  | in Film |
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Scream 4

This is the one we’ve all been waiting for. Well, horror nerds have, at least. Scream 4.

It’s cliche now to say that the first Scream redefined horror, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone who’s never seen the original. It’s a great tale told well—a gory murder-mystery with an unpredictable twist and a self-deprecating reflexivity. The sequels firmly pushed the post-modern slant with the expansion of the ‘Stab’ franchise (the film-within-a-film gag), though Scream 3 was a little unengaging and lacked finesse.

But horror maestro Wes Craven convinces quite quickly that he hasn’t lost his touch by framing this fourth addition with a healthy littering of horror references: a simple close-up of a poster for Hitchcock’s Rear Window; Shaun of the Dead playing on the TV and underlining a key scene; a placard for Halloween 2 adorning the film club wall (the 2009 version, if you were wondering). Two characters slag off the Saw franchise before there’s time to even take a mouthful of popcorn.

This Saw reference is key. Clever Craven knows what his audiences have been fed in his absence for past ten years: increasingly extreme torture scenes with a voyeuristic edge bordering on, at times becoming, pornographic. The two girls slagging off Saw are quickly wiped from the equation, though, as Craven suggests a distaste for this new type of movie and signals that it’s time to settle in for a good, old-fashioned, franchise horror.

Scream favourites Dewey, Gale and Sidney reappear, of course, though celebrity cameos are a bit lighter after Scream 3’s Carrie Fisher coup. Anna Paquin appears early on, looking trashy but workin’ it. Heather Graham makes a surprise reappearance (rehashed footage but still golden). And nice to find Erik Knudsen featured, whose character in Saw 2 has disappointingly been lost in the annals of that franchise’s convoluted plotlines.

But no matter the how many layers of meta-fiction/film Scream slathers on, it’s always brought back to reality by Scream-queen Neve Campbell. Whenever Sidney is running from (or towards) the Ghostface killer, crashing through doors and traversing verandas, we’re there for every heart-stopping swoop of the knife.

And that’s where we find the interesting paradox of the film. Though the blood and the murder are part of the fun and the pleasure, Scream is about the will to fight for life at any cost. A film like Hostel or The Collector, while purporting to value survival, invokes fear through the graphic depiction of gruesome violence against people. Scream’s horror moments differ in that they are hinged upon the protagonist’s fight for life. Connection to the right-wing, anyone?

It’s not often they make ’em like this any more though—smart, scary and satisfying. Give me more!

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