Tag Archive for Wes Craven

Movie Review: Scream 4 (4/16/11)

Movie Poster: Scream 4

Scream 4

Directed by Wes Craven
Screenplay by Kevin Williamson

Anna Paquin as Rachel
Kristen Bell as Chloe
Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott
David Arquette as Dewey Riley
Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers-Riley
Emma Roberts as Jill Roberts
Hayden Panettiere as Kirby Reed

Running time: 111 minutes
Motion Picture Rating: Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some teen drinking.

CLR Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Movie Still: Scream 4

Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell star in Scream 4.
Photo by: Gemma La Mana / Dimension Films

New decade, same old rules…but fortunately that’s a good thing.

 

Scream 4’s tagline “New decade, new rules” may be specious. The rules of surviving a slasher film are the same as they’ve always been – don’t drink or do drugs, don’t have sex, and never say “I’ll be right back,” or you’ll end up the next victim with your guts on the floor. Fortunately though, horror master Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson’s reunion brings back the same wit, glee, and panache of, if not the original movie, at least the second one. (Let’s forget Scream 3 ever happened, shall we?)

Avid horror fans have been waiting with bated breath for the fourth Scream movie, though we’ve mostly been reaching furtively out of our closet to high five each other. In 2000 hack writer Ehren Kruger apparently murdered the franchise with the third flick (but they always get back up, didn’t you know?). For the last decade fans of the original have been pretty sheepish about their love of the movie that brought slashers back to the big screen with a gush of blood and a tragedy mask you can now find on every costume shop’s wall around October. We flocked to midnight screenings and matinees of this weekend’s release, hoping it would be fun despite its well-publicized script and cast changes. Luckily, though it won’t be the year’s biggest hit, Scream 4 is sure to please.

Williamson, who also wrote for “Dawson’s Creek,” is a film geek. Craven is a well-documented horror nerd. The Scream movies are for film geeks and horror nerds alike (and the two intersect approximately 90% of the time). Although even film geeks will grow weary of the series’ pervasive meta-commentary on horror, verbose teenagers, and society’s ills. On the other hand, the horror genre in the last fifteen years is rife with remakes, foreign imports, and sequels – and it’s been begging for someone to place it under a magnifying glass. Who better than Craven and Williamson, who rebooted the slasher film in the first place?

Scream 4 returns our original Final Girl Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) to Woodsboro, California, an idyllic, wealthy town bursting with pretty teenage knife-bait and crawling with bumbling cops. Fans of the original will revel in Marco Beltrami’s familiar basso, choral composition and the recognizable columned entrance to Woodsboro High. Reporter Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox) chronicled the events of the first Scream movie in a gratuitous exposé that was immediately repurposed in the movies into a fictional film series called Stab. Movies don’t create psychos, movies only make psychos more creative – and the Stab series helped to mold a brand spanking new Ghostface, although in the end not an innovative one. Each movie in the series begins with a murder, and Scream 4 ups that ante. Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and wife Gail strive to unmask the killer even as the bodies pile up. (And famous bodies they are: Hayden Panettiere, Kristen Bell, Anna Paquin, Aimee Teegarden, Adam Brody, Alison Brie, Anthony Anderson, and Mary McDonnell grace the credits.) Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) has a sassy blond friend, Kirby (Panettiere), who’s distinctly reminiscent of Rose McGowan’s Tatum in the first film. Jill’s creepy ex-boyfriend Trevor (Nico Tortorella) lurks around every corner much like Scream’s spookshow boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich). Sidney, one of the three survivors of the original murders, is aptly termed the Angel of Death because, well, brutal casualties follow in her wake. Things are, it appears, as they should be for a reboot.

The new Scream is a whodunit, and whether you’re the type to spend the whole movie struggling to figure out who’s behind the Ghostface mask or just like to take it all in, the end result will probably surprise you. Williamson and Craven have both made less-than-stellar films (Teaching Mrs. Tingle or Vampire in Brooklyn, anyone?), but combine the two talents and you have a smartly paced, cleverly written, and tonally even movie. Scream 4 delivers all the right lines with the correct timing and rarely slows enough to become tedious. Aside from the Ghostface reveal, there are no great revelations, no fancy death footwork (although there is more gore in Scream 4 than we’ve seen in awhile). But as one of the characters says, why bother with the ridiculous complexity of torture-porn when you can simply have a crazy villain offing people with a knife? The movie tries too hard to make a statement about our current obsession with “reality”-based entertainment and YouTube sensations, but the point is there for the taking; Paranormal Activity and Justin Bieber are a part of pop culture whether we like it or not.

Williamson repurposes older material, tweaking it just enough to entertain us. Horror film nerds are almost always male (an obnoxious phenomenon), and the ladies will be pleasantly surprised to see Kirby whip out serious classic horror knowledge. Edgar Wright’s brilliant zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead gets much-deserved recognition, Williamson pokes fun at Robert Rodriguez (with whom he’s worked multiple times), and Dario Argento’s masterpiece Suspiria gets a shout-out. In Scream 4 we have the same old tropes: a big breasted blond running up the stairs when she should be going out the front door, a masked killer with a stupid motive, a Final Girl, and too much self-awareness. But those of us who love the original for just those things will be absolutely delighted to see the 4th film blow the 3rd out of the water.

Movie Review: Nightmare on Elm Street (5/1/10)

Movie Poster: Nightmare on Elm Street
A Nightmare on Elm Street

Directed by Samuel Bayer
Screenplay by Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer

Jackie Earle Haley – Freddy Krueger
Kyle Gallner – Quentin Smith
Rooney Mara – Nancy Holbrook
Katie Cassidy – Kris Fowles
Thomas Dekker – Jesse Braun
Kellan Lutz – Dean Russell
Clancy Brown – Alan Smith

CLR Rating: 1/5 stars

Movie Still: Nightmare on Elm Street

Katie Cassidy as Kris, Thomas Dekker as Jesse and Rooney Mara as Nancy in Nightmare on Elm Street
[Photo by Peter Sorel]

Unnecessary Remake
Leeches All the Fun from the Original

The man with knives for fingers is back for his ninth jaunt on the silver screen in twenty-five years, and this one is the least satisfying. With a select few exceptions (Zack Snyder’s 2004 Dawn of the Dead, 2010’s The Crazies) horror remakes are mostly pointless cash cows, but with Jackie Earle Haley donning the grotesque mask of Freddy Krueger, audiences had high hopes for this one. The original films, featuring characters created by horror maestro Wes Craven, were chock full of fantastic gore, creepy imagery, and some silliness to lighten it all up. Unfortunately, the new Nightmare on Elm Street will leave even those uninitiated to the original films wanting.

In idyllic suburban paradise Springwood, Ohio, bleary-eyed teenagers band together to fight the man who’s haunting their dreams, a horribly burned creature with blades on his fingers and a striped sweater. As he picks them off one by one in their sleep, Nancy (Rooney Mara) and Quentin (Kyle Gallner) decide to get to the bottom of Fred Krueger. Without revealing too much, Krueger’s past relationships with the kids is one of the movie’s biggest flaws. True evil doesn’t need an intricate back-story, but writers Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer chopped together bits and pieces from the original and made Freddy’s vendetta even more personal. Instead of clarifying things, this serves to narrow Krueger’s killings to a small, specific group of kids who were his “favorites” in life. The filmmakers tried to emphasize Krueger’s child molester background, and though this adds a new ick factor, we don’t need it pounded into us that, yes, Krueger was a creep in real life and continues to be in the afterlife.

The film opens with exhausted Dean (Kellan Lutz) chugging cup after cup of coffee at the Springwood Diner, fighting to stay awake. The blinking neon signs flash red, green, red, green; colors are overly saturated and shadows are deep and long; the “this-is-a-spooky-place” factor is through the roof. The horror tropes are enough to clue us all in to the fact that Dean’s dreaming. The movie continues to dumb down the dream sequences for new audiences, giving them neon flashing arrows that forewarn “hey, this kid’s going to run into Freddy soon.” It doesn’t improve on the first film, whose seamless transitions between dreams and reality made it truly creepy.

The new Springwood is a land of green lawns, money, and white-trimmed colonial houses where teenagers with flight attendant mothers drive brand new VW convertible bugs, wear UGGs, and are generally gorgeous. The original cast included Heather Langenkamp, whose quirky girl-next-door looks were perfect for the role of chaste sweetheart Nancy, and a young Johnny Depp in his first movie role as Nancy’s sweet, obedient boyfriend Glen. The new cast, though not downright bad, is terribly boring. Statuesque, slender blond Katie Cassidy’s role relies solely on her ability to look pretty while crying. Mara, Gallner, Lutz, and the rest of the cast are good-looking, thin, and tedious. Connie Britton, who’s brilliant in TV’s “Friday Night Lights,” and Clancy Brown, a great character actor, play the vengeful parents who doomed their kids to Freddy’s wrath. They’re suitably shady, but John Saxon and Ronee Blakley as Nancy’s original parents were sympathetic and flawed, giving the original movie an adult aspect the new one misses. Finally, Craven’s movies always follow the rules of horror (watch Scream if you want a rundown), one of which is that anyone who has sex dies. Not to complain about lack of sex in a horror film, but part of the fun of the seventies’ and eighties slashers was knowing the promiscuous would get their due punishment. Fans will recognize many of the iconic scenes from the original, with slight, effects-laden alterations that are completely unnecessary.

Finally, let’s talk about Freddy. Jackie Earle Haley is a slight man with a high voice, but when given the right role (such as Watchmen’s Rorschach or Little Children’s Ronnie McGorvey), he can transform into a disturbing weirdo. Unfortunately, the original Freddy, Robert Englund, left a legacy that just can’t be enhanced, and Haley is unmemorable as scarred, baritone-voiced Krueger. Without giving away too much about the way Freddy looks, let’s say the new mask doesn’t improve on the old. The new is perhaps more realistic, but Freddy haunts nightmares because he’s a figment, an ancient evil with a visage to shock even arrogant teenagers—and the realism was never the point.

Strick and Heisserer leeched every bit of humor from the original and quashed it. Part of the fun of the first Nightmare (1984) was Freddy’s over-the-top jokiness combined with his insane brutality. Subtract that predatory gleefulness and you have an unsatisfying flick with a villain as unmemorable as the kind that capers through eighty-minute low-budget slashers that end up going straight-to-DVD. Michael Bay produced the new Nightmare on Elm Street, which is the sixth slasher remake in the last decade with his name in the credits, and as with the others, Nightmare is completely unoriginal and unnecessary. Loud noises, a few good gory scenes, and a pretty, dull cast of characters fuel the new movie, and it’s a real shame. Take it from one who adores horror film: watch the original. It’s far more entertaining.