REVIEW: Scream 4

22 10 2013

Few franchises can come back from after a decade and still be entertaining, much less relevant.  Pixar can do it, but just about everybody else is incapable of such a feat.

And though the poster for “Scream 4” promises “new rules” for this new decade, I can think of few sequels that make the case for their own existence less persuasively.  Wes Craven’s latest parodic horror entry into the “Scream” series is just the same old stuff, entertaining the first time but now just stale as day-old popcorn.

He tries to hide the rotting of the franchise with two transparent ploys.  First, he brings back some of the surviving characters from the original trilogy to gin up some nostalgia sympathy for “Scream 4.”  If nothing else, you should enjoy seeing Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott, the smart one who outwits the morons slashing people with the “Ghostface” mask.  And they also trot out David Arquette’s Sheriff Dewey and Courtney Cox’s obnoxious reporter Gale Weathers just for fun too!

But then, of course, they have to bring in the new … because every horror franchise needs young, fresh blood!  We get it in the form of Hayden Panetierre, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin, Allison Brie, and the grating Emma Roberts.  I wouldn’t mind if it had just been an “American Reunion” style sequel where they just brought back the old characters for another unnecessary adventure, but these new characters just bring nothing to the series.  Make a clean break, go no old or all old.

“Scream 4” is the Emma Roberts show, much to my chagrin, as her character Jill Roberts becomes the new final girl for the franchise.  There are laughs to be had and frights to be felt, sure.  But by the time the movie reaches its conclusion, I was left with little but a painful awareness of how far the “Scream” franchise had fallen from grace.  I wished I hadn’t tarnished my image of “Scream;” the better choice would have been to watch the 1996 original again.  That opening scene with Drew Barrymore just doesn’t get old.  C2stars

F.I.L.M. of the Week (May 27, 2011)

27 05 2011

With Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” earning its place in the box office record books (but still nowhere to be found in Houston theaters), I figured the right way to kick off the return of the “F.I.L.M.” (First-Class, Independent Little-Known Movie) of the Week was to shine a light on one of star Rachel McAdam’s finest flicks, “Red Eye.”  The phrase “killer thriller” gets thrown around a lot in regards to chilling cinema due to alliteration, yet few actually merit the descriptor.  This one does.

Say what you will about “Scream 4” being a critical flop and a box office disaster, but you can’t deny that director Wes Craven can send chills up your spine.  “Red Eye” is more in the vein of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” than it is in horror-comedy of “Scream,” and even on DVD and the second watch, it’s still as frightening as ever.  Running at only 85 minutes, the compact volume of terror keeps the tension so taut it could be cut with a knife at any moment.

McAdams stars as Lisa Reisert, a hotel manager taking the red eye home to Miami from her grandmother’s funeral.  Little does she know, however, that she is in the thick of a terrorist plot spearheaded by the devilishly charming man in the seat next to her, Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy).  His plan of terror is not to hijack the plane but rather hijack Lisa’s sanity, exploiting her position, threatening her, and playing intense psychological games with her.

Murphy, channeling his eerie performance from “Batman Begins,” is an absolutely terrifying villain.  He keeps most of Jack’s ferocity bubbling under the surface, just waiting to explode, and it keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat awaiting the moment when he finally snaps.  Thanks to Murphy, “Red Eye” keeps the blood pumping and the heart pounding all the way to the movie’s climactic moments.

F.I.L.M. of the Week (February 11, 2011)

11 02 2011

Wes Craven has made many a good horror movie, helming such classics as “The Last House on the Left” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” but arguably leaving his biggest mark on the genre with the revolutionary self-aware “Scream” series.  He merges the two together to form the irresistible guilty pleasure “Cursed.”

Yes, I fully realize that by labeling it a guilty pleasure, I’m saying that you could easily hate this movie.  But if you love that seamless blend of comedy and horror with a touch of irony, I think you will be drawn in by the cultish appeal of “Cursed.”  In an era marked by movies that are emasculating such fearsome beasts as werewolves and vampires, Craven delivers a werewolf movie with true bite!

Not to mention that it features fun performances from plenty of ’90s stars like Christina Ricci and Joshua Jackson that have disappeared, as well as providing one of cinema’s first glances at an Academy Award-nominated actor by the name of Jesse Eisenberg.  In one of his earliest screen roles, Eisenberg still has the same fast-talking and dorky awkwardness that has marked his career ever since.  (“The Social Network” just served to refine and harness that power.)

As for the movie’s plot, it’s a mash-up of the typical werewolf curse stories as two siblings, Eisenberg’s high-school dork Jimmy and Ricci’s professional Ellie, are attacked and are forced to confront and kill the beast if they want to avoid total transformation.  But along the way, they find little changes make a big difference.

…Ok, it sounds dumb on paper, but I loved this movie because in all the ways it should have failed, it somehow worked!