‘Scream 4’ pays tribute to film franchise

Features Editor Charlotte Kyle writes the movie reviews.

Photo courtesy of allmoviephoto.com

Do you like scary movies?

No, seriously. Do you? I’m not usually a fan, but nostalgia and a fondness for hip young actors made me give “Scream 4” a chance.

When “Scream” came out in 1996 I was not old enough to watch it. However, sometime in middle school I caught parts of “Scream 2” thanks to the appearance of Sarah Michelle Gellar.

I didn’t appreciate it, of course. Until fairly recently my knowledge of the “Scream” series was based solely on the “Scary Movie” franchise. That’s not something I like admitting but it’s true.

In preparation of the DVD release of “Scream 4” I watched the first three movies to truly gauge the quality of the last release. The movies were genre-savvy, self-aware and the perfect mix of funny and scary. It seems bizarre now that “Scary Movie” exists since the “Scream” films had that comedy element to them in the first place.

I finally appreciate what the “Scream” movies were about. They were ridiculous, but always entertaining.

“Scream 4” lives up to its predecessors. There are, after all, so many things you need to make a “Scream” movie. The first goes into the casting.

The first film had all of these super cool actors I was interested in at the time. Drew Barrymore, though briefly, along with Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette. The last three, of course, would appear in all of the franchise’s films.

The sequel brought Sarah Michelle Gellar into the murdered-blonde-girl role, while the third used Jenny McCarthy and a series of younger actors to play the film-inside-a-film versions of the main stars.

Watching the films now it’s amazing how many recognizable stars can be spotted. It makes sense for “Scream 4” to follow this formula.

Emma Roberts takes the lead as Campbell’s cousin, with Rory Culkin and Hayden Panettiere played supporting roles. Young stars like Lucy Hale, Shanae Grimes and Britt Robertson appeared at various points. It was like every teen drama offered a celebrity, right down to a small role for “The O.C.” star Adam Brody.

The movie tries to make use of current trends in technology. Where the first movies were more about scary phone calls, the latest film uses Facebook, text messaging, live webcam feeds, etc. It works for the movie but, at times, comes across hokey, as if your grandparents were explaining “Twittering” to you.

It works, though.

The series never takes itself too seriously and “Scream 4” keeps with that tradition. From the opening “Stab” movie-in-a-movie-in-another-movie parody montage, which features star after star in cliche horror movie moments, one knows to take everything with a grain of salt.

The film would not stand on its own well. It was made with the intent of bringing back memories of the first films. It features references to the past and continues to build the ridiculous legacy of Campbell’s character Sidney Prescott.

Realistically this character could not easily function in society. Almost everyone she’s known since high school has been brutally murdered. Most of those were right in front of her own eyes. I?imagine it’s fairly hard to bounce back from that.

In the movie, however, it’s been 15 years since the original murders and Prescott is promoting a book about how she’s doing OK now. It makes sense for the timeline, even if it’s unbelievable.

Like Jamie Kennedy’s character in the first two films, Culkin and Erik Knudsen’s characters provide the ultra-meta references to previous horror movies.

They’re the ones who point out that all of the murders taking place are using the rules for movie remakes. It’s not the most original idea but it fits in with the previous films.

The effects have improved, but there is nothing that is so gross the easily disgusted will need to turn away. I speak as one of those people.

Obviously critics and viewers will compare the film to the originals, and that’s expected and necessary to appreciate what is good about the movie. It never tries to be better than the “classics,”?but rather pokes fun at even the idea of a remake. Sure, it’s not a remake, but it’s been long enough that it might as well be.

“Scream 4”?is available now on DVD. It is rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some teen drinking.

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