Sunday, April 17, 2011

An Absolute Scream

There are some movies that you appreciate for their artistic value but don't really enjoy (though I really did like Jane Eyre, I can understand why others might have an "it's good but I wouldn't watch it again" response). Then there are some films which are utter guilty pleasures with no real artistic value (The House Bunny comes to mind--though talking from experience, it is the perfect movie to watch while sick). When a great movie is completely enjoyable from beginning to end, however, you know you've hit the jackpot. This year's greatest jackpot so far is Scream 4.

What is the best part of Scream 4? Is it the magnificent ensemble work by actors who are completely aware of their role in a horror parody who look to be having the time of their lives? Is it the standout work from the ├╝bertalented Allison Brie and Emma Roberts? Is it the script, a focused and effective parody that succeeds both as a horror film and a comedy? Is it the dialogue, witty and quotable while remaining completely contemporary? Or is it Wes Craven's direction, a sign that the master has not lost his touch?

The fact of the matter is that this completely unnecessary sequel a decade after the original trilogy ended still wouldn't work even if everything came together so magnificently as stated above. What really makes Scream 4 go above and beyond is the true sense of awareness and genre savvy that permeates every scene. These aren't stupid characters--they know exactly what's going to happen and somehow still can't avoid it because--surprise!--this movie is beyond meta.

The twists are completely believable--I thought I knew where the story was going only to be surprised at least twice and yet I totally understood. The characters are well-defined and, though not always, there's stakes involved with their deaths. The old guard who returns to the film (Neve Campbell, who plays the wearied victim so well as Sidney Prescott, and the long-suffering Arquettes, David and Courtney Cox) is still having a good time, while the newcomers (especially the previously-mentioned Brie and Roberts, though dues must be paid to Hayden Panettiere who transcends her previous work here) give promise that this franchise has plenty of life left in it.

The film delights in being meta, poking fun at itself and other horror films constantly. It could have become the latest entry in the Scary Movie franchise but avoided it with aplomb by making the kills as intense as ever. It is truly two fantastic movies in one: an edge-of-your-seat thriller and one of the best parodies of the decade. What a thrill to watch. A-

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