Scream 4

Emma and Rory

An episode of Law & Order: SVU, that makes the error of referring to itself as a horror film.
Reported on 28th of April, 2011

The Scream movies have always been problematic, with the excessively dull reliance on what can now be called the Law & Order: SVU format, that is to say: everyone is a potential suspect. And yes I’m aware that Ms. Agatha Christie is possibly the originator of this structure, but it took Mr. Dick Wolf to beat it into the ground, set it on fire, roll it into a burrito, and use it to scare old people into staying into their homes.

Scream 4

17 April 2011 @ The Cineworld Brighton

$2.50 or, if one must be prosaic, and one must... 
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆


To wit (and without any), the characters run around opening doors, forget to call the police, walk into dark rooms with nary a chopstick as a weapon, and express surprise as they die off one by one. The Wolf/Christie format requires no internal logic (and so creates no tension) as the situation requires that anyone can be the killer, until for the sake of ‘drama’, we discover, much to our relief (relief, that is, that the film has only six more fake endings to go) that it turns out to be the one person it couldn’t possibly be.

Sorry, that wasn’t specific enough. It’s Ms. Emma Roberts and Mr. Rory Culkin.

That’s very clever, Mr. Kevin Williamson: using two ghostfaces is both a homage to the original and lazy screenwriting. Hats off!

To reiterate: these are the killers.

If you haven’t seen the film, I have just made it 40% more interesting by transforming it from a dull episode of an NBC franchise to mediocre episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. You’re welcome.

Get out my head, evolutionary psychologists! And be replaced by Emma Roberts!

What’s interesting about the failure (and yes, the success) of a film like Scream 4 is the way in which it frustrates the most annoying group of our social fabric. No, I’m not talking about fundamentalist Christians, or family-minded media regulators, I’m talking about my arch-nemeses: (shudder) evolutionary psychologists. It’s a popular vocation for those who wish to sound scientific without the requirement of proof or even a half-decent argument and when they’re not busy arguing that our love of iPods may somehow based on listening for predators, they’ll always tell you the experience of fear is all about survival. In this sense, Scream 4 is my friend, in that it proves that people will actually spend money for the experience of being afraid for an hour and forty minutes. Tell me about why a caveman would do that, you pseudo-scientific neo-Darwinan proto-inductionists!That’s quite a blow to all the evolutionary psychologists that are currently reading this. Well, then, at least that’s a blow to evolutionary psychologists in my head. Get out my head, evolutionary psychologists! And be replaced by Emma Roberts!

(In bad taste? First of all, Emma Roberts is of age. Second of all, even when she wasn’t, I have made Emma Roberts jokes in the past (see below). Though this is possibly a topic for a movie like Léon, or a photo shoot for Glee, let’s finally just air out whether or not we are supposed to have those special feelings for those who may not be age-appropriate. A conversation scene after a film like Sucker Punch, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, or Submarine goes something like so:

‘She was hot!’

‘But she was only 14.’

‘But at the end, it turned out she was only pretending and was really 18.’

‘Well, that’s okay, then.’

‘Until it was further revealed that her birth certificate was fake, and she was under 18.’

‘That’s disgusting.’

‘But the actress was 18.’

‘Well, that’s okay, then.’

‘But it turned that she also had no birth certificate, and was probably 17 and a half.’

‘That’s disgusting.’

‘Fortunately for you, Congress, with the approval of a Senate quoquorum special hearing, has passed the ‘Indeterminate Age That Disturbs Me Act’ which allows for the Department of Health and Human Services to test, forcibly if necessary, the age of someone that may or may not be 18. The test – the development of which cost 500 million dollars – takes six months and the removal of a significant piece of bone. Her left leg is now one inch shorter, but it has been determined, with absolute scientific certainty, that the actress in question was in fact over the age 18 at the time of filming.’

‘Well, that’s okay, then.’

‘But the film was directed by Danny Boyle.’

‘That’s disgusting.’

Here’s the deal. Saw it hear. Lost the ticket.

I’m going to end this whole sexual attraction to girls and boys under 18 thing right now. When you’re 13, and you get funny feeling down in the old interzone because of another like-aged person, that is okay. When you get older, it’s not going to go away, you being the same you. Just as any evolutionary psychologist would tell you. They would totally back me on this, if I hadn’t insulted them earlier.

Please, by the way, do not act on said interzone feelings. Yes, it would be illegal, and, if you must, unethical, but I implore you not to because it’s so boring. I mean, what are you going to talk about? Scream 4?).

Now. Where were we? Scream 4 (or sorry Scre4m, sorry $€r@/|) is not a horror film. Going back to those damnable evolutionary psychologists who wouldn’t back me up about Emma Roberts, we pay the filmmaking industry a very reasonable sum to feel a little tense, and then have said tension relieved. This is true for every type of film (in romantic comedies, they don’t after all, meet and then just talk about how great their wedding is going to be for two hours, just as in action films if bad guys didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent them, so we do, and then pay to see the result) but horror films are the most extreme version of this, since we are giving up a certain amount of food and rent to be afraid. Within these parameters, a film can be either gory or scary, or both, or neither, or a little bit of the former, and 30% of the…oh, never mind. The point is, we can create tension with just fear, as in the case of The Blair Witch Project, The Haunting, Jaws, and back in its day, Psycho. Even the FX laden Poltergeist is primarily this first type, as when everything ghost-wise is seemingly resolved. JoBeth Williams is simply taking a bath and nothing happens. Watch it again, before the reboot bores you to death.

Was so dedicated to you, the Reader, or rather my imagined impression of you, the non-existent reader, I actually bought a second ticket to scan. Whereupon I found the first ticket (see above). I paid for Scre4M twice.

..was so dedicated to you, the Reader, or rather my imagined impression of you, the non-existent reader, I actually bought a second ticket to scan. Whereupon I found the first ticket (see above). I paid for Scre4M twice. I even fake tore the ticket. It’s just sad.

There is also the gory sub-category of horror, one which involves our fascination, disgust, and then fascination with what can be done with the human body. This can be seen in an pre-1999 Cronenberg film, Jason’s 4-9 but not 8, and Return of the Living Dead, Part III, which is almost exclusively about body modification to prevent zombification. Also not to be missed.

Scream 4, being an episode of Law & Order: SVU, is not a horror film, but it makes the error of referring to itself as one. Such is the price of self-refereniality: if you mention, as was done at least six times in this fourth installment, that ‘the sequel has to top the original’, then one must actually do same (this is like naming your film after a period of time and failing to make it interesting. As in, Two Days in the Valley felt like two months, or 28 Days felt like 28 days in rehab or Slumdog Millionaire felt like 127 years or Nine Months made me want to kill myself. Also, don’t name things after the two main characters. It’s lazy).

And so poor Scream 4 sets itself up to fail. I readily admit we are living in a post Pirahnna 3D world (simply one of the goriest films ever made, and in 3D), for which I pity any filmmaker. But our poor Ghostface is given a knife. A knife. I’m mean, he stabs people. Um, ow?

But for all this, I would say there’s an interesting movie in there somewhere. It would be easy to criticize it for being ‘meta’ (also mentioned in film six times), but that’s one of the only parts that makes it an actual horror film. In the beginning, as we are treated to various fictional false starts of what may or may not be the actual film. The thing of it was, it was the only time I was actually scared, and don’t think I could even say why. There’s something kind of offputting, in the best way, when you’re not really sure if you’re watching what’s ‘real’ or “real” or «réel». I envisioned a whole series of movies within movies, the feeling of never knowing where you are. Once the actual film begin, it was formula (as who will be killed, and who is doing the killing), there is a familiarity, a safety. I paid good money to feel bad, godammit! Now I’ll never evolve.

The Take

Seriously, the bit at the beginning was kind of awesome and inexplicably scary. Make a movie about that.
Total Profits
Say ‘meta’ one. More. TIME…
A knife. It’s a knife.
Total Losses



The Compleat Willis Œuvre

I mistakenly thought I had written about my love of Emma Roberts as an inappropriate post, instead it was an inappropriate, and very long, facebook comment. It is reproduced here, without the required permission of the estates of either Mr. Mark Zuckerburg or Mr. David Fincher. Given the below, it is now clear that I was destined to start doing this again. It is left intact with references to people you don’t know. That is to say, the only people reading this.

And to clarify: every single one of Mr. Bruce Willis’ films: in the theater. Is it because I secretly love Bruce Willis, or that I want to be him? Neither.

I am Bruce Willis.

Bruce Willis films, ranked in order of inverse greatness, starting….now!

50) North – In order to be a truly bad film 1) It must be poorly made, 2) everyone making it must think that it’s really well made, 3) it must have a deeply evil ‘message’, and 4) everyone making it must think that it has a really ‘important’ message. This includes, but is not limited too, Nine Months, A Life Less Ordinary, Swept Away, The Happening, and North. Say what you want about Cop Out, it is NOT boring. You don’t need to say anything about North. That would entail seeing it.

49) Hostage – Don’t, under any circumstances, see Hostage.

48) Sunset – A movie about old movie stars that even I don’t care about. Though good to see James Garner getting work besides Maverick.

47) Armageddon – What can I say: Bruce Willis sacrifices himself for the Earth and I didn’t cry. That is the literal definition of bad filmmaking.

46) The Kid – If you met a 12 year old version of yourself, you would kill you, wouldn’t you? So would Bruce Willis.

45) The Jackal – Richard Gere: Irish accent. Nuff said.

44) In Country – Remember Vietnam? It’s the place Robert Downey Jr. went to parody actors self-seriousness. This is the comedy remake of Tropic Thunder. The funny one.

43) Nobody’s Fool – More acting. Bleech.

42) Blind Date – I remember a lot of screeching. And John Larroquette. And a screeching John Larroquette.

41) 16 Blocks – At Les Halles, with the French subtitles, when I was very, very sick. I think someone baked a cake.

40) Fast Food Nation – Apparently someone made this. Apparently Bruce Willis was in it. Apparently I saw it.

39) Bandits – Also ouch. They’re brothers, but something stands in the way of their being brothers until they find out they’re brothers. Then they die.

38) Look Who’s Talking – I’m not counting voice over movies. Or ones that make my muscles exit my skin.

37) Look Who’s Talking Too – see above.

36) Perfect Strangers – The twist is that he did it, but didn’t do it, because Halle Barry is secretly evil by being good. What’s stranger than this synopsis? That you actually know what I’m talking about

35) Tears of the Sun – I do remember that he said ‘Cowboy Up’ at one point, which may be the first use of this line in a film. Of vital interest to historians.

34) The Whole Nine Yards – See below.

33) The Whole Ten Yards – I know, I took a big chance ranking this below The Whole Nine Yards and ABOVE Four Rooms. You have no idea what I’m talking about, and you should be grateful.

32) Four Rooms – see above.

31) Last Man Standing – I remember Richard had something great to say about LMS. I do not.

30) Sin City – The same movie, three times, with the good one first (always put the good one last – it’s the New York Stories rule). But if this is the movie where Robert Rodriguez convinced him to do Planete Terreur, it was worth it. For Bruce. Not for me.

29) Surrogates – Really good trailer, which should have tipped me off in the first place. The guys who made the movie should have seen the trailer, said: ‘That’s a way better movie’ and proceeded to reshoot everything immediately. Always remake everything eight times. It’s just common sense.

28) Ocean’s Twelve – I would have liked this more, but it wasn’t really Bruce playing himself; it was his character from The Player. Ba-da-bump.

27) Billy Bathgate – Nope. No idea. I’m pretty sure it introduced that guy that no one ever heard from again. If only we could say the same for that other guy.

26) Hart’s War – Studies show when millions of people are dying, people always worry about whether or not a mock trial in POW camp is fair. Or at least Hollywood producers do.

25) The Bonfire of the Vanities – There’s nothing like a topical film that’s actually dated while it’s being shot. Wall Street, will they ever stop being so greedy? I mean, what if Oliver Stone remade…nevermind.

24) Lucky Number Slevin – Ben Kingsley was evil, just not as evil as he was in Bloodrayne. I think there was a building.

23) The Siege – Given my current topic of study, it is amusing to think that Hollywood objected to fictional camps for Muslim people after a fictional terrorist incident, but didn’t object real ones after a real one. I can’t wait for the remake.

22) Loaded Weapon 1 – A wildly underrated film. I remember nothing whatsoever about it.

21) The Story of Us – I want to hate this, but it does get Cop Out points for being completely random and insane. Any time someone (in this case Rob Reiner) gets a chance to compress the entirety of his bad marriage (or was it a good marriage) to the audience, and by that I mean me and Joe, the guy who wants to get out of the LA heat for a few hours, it’s not a bad thing. Just a strange one.

20) Breakfast of Champions – This movie is great because of my significant contribution to the gross. Without my ticket purchase, they would be down 16%, and that’s a lot of percent.

19) Mercury Rising – I want to hate Mercury Rising. I really do. But every time I think of it, I remember the beep-boop-beep-boop sound that autistic children always make when they’re breaking unbreakable codes. And I get a little smile on my face.

18) Death Becomes Her – Not in any way a comedy.

17) Die Hard 2 – Memorable because I saw it with Mary in a 1990 Denver mall spree that included Navy SEALS and Quick Change. Not memorable otherwise.

16) Color of Night – Why is Color of Night (the ticket stub I have says Color of Nig) so great? Besides Scott Bakula? Because the whole time you’re asking the screen:Hey, characters? What about that girl who’s dressed up like a boy? The one with a really bad wig? The fake mustache? The breasts? Shouldn’t we be asking her about like, what happened, or something? Turns out: it’s a girl dressed up like a boy. Now THAT’S a twist.

15) Mortal Thoughts – Well liked, because it was Bruce being the evil version of himself. They needed to be twins. I told them, but does anyone listen? Yes, and so they made I Know Who Killed Me. See it now.

14) Nancy Drew – I don’t remember Bruce in this, just the very inappropriate feelings I had for Emma Roberts. I’m actually allowed to say that because of her character’s scary perfect clothing sense. There’s another movie not even nominated for costumes. I sense a theme, which is strange when all you do is talk about the same thing. In this case disappointment. Or happiness. Eh, What’s the difference?

13) Die Hard: With a Vengeance: I really hate this movie, and yet watch it all the way through each time it comes on television. It is the crack of films. Which means that crack is legal. Do some today.

12) The Fifth Element – Mary, you are incorrect. The Fifth Element is great for many, many reasons, even besides the costumes (from Oscar bridesmaid Jean Paul Gaultier), Luke Perry, at the height of his career, in something too small and confusing to be called a cameo, scene of girl crying before hero makes fateful decision (this is actually in EVERY Luc Besson movie, including Taxi, and by that I do mean the Queen Latifah/Jimmy Fallon remake. At the Culver City 8 as a producer’s meeting got bumped) and Tiny Lister as the President of the United States. Even Nathan and I wouldn’t have tried that.

11) Striking Distance – Though terrible, in many ways the most 90s movie ever made. Sarah Jessica Parker…as the love interest!Originally titled: Three Rivers! Dennis Farina! Robert Pastorelli (look him up) as the evil mastermind? Did I say terrible? I meant great, great, great, great, great

10) The Last Boy Scout – Though great, in many ways the most Bruce Willis movie ever made. It’s strange that this is the only Shane Black/Bruce Willis combination ever. I think they worried if they partnered up again, they would create a singularity of buddies, suicidal football, cheating wives, profane put-downs, improbable action and Taylor Negron and thus destroy the universe. The universe almost thanks you, but it would have been worth it.

9) Pulp Fiction – At this point, does anyone have anything to say about Pulp Fiction? I can only relate that my friend Chase, aged 21, has never seen it. Such a world does exist. A world where Hostage gets made. Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to reboot it.

8) Live Free or Die Hard – What can I say? I’m a LFODH defender. He jumps from a semi-trailer on a collapsing overpass onto a plane. HE JUMPS FROM A SEMI-TRAILER ON A COLLAPSING OVERPASS ONTO A PLANE. What’s not to like?

7) Cop Out – The first truly improvised film, where they would finish a scene and say, okay, where do we shoot next? After a long discussion of cowboy boots and oversized graves, there’s something about weddings and how farting relates to The Warriors. I can say this: you really, really won’t have any idea what’s going to happen next.

6) Hudson Hawk – You all know my take on Hudson Hawk (the first, and best, multi-genre film ever made). There are two kinds of people: people who think Hudson Hawk is the greatest film ever made, and people who have never seen Hudson Hawk. See it now.

5) The Sixth Sense – as below, want to hate it (especially given M. Night’s recent unfortunate turn, see The Happening, above), but don’t. A man who would take a chance on Breakfast of Champions would also take a chance on this. God bless him for that.

4) Unbreakable – Dude, just a great movie. Like the remake of Dawn of the Dead, do NOT see in theater so that you may fast forward over the last, weirdly tacked on 10 seconds, which ruin the film(s). Fortunately, I have a selective memory, so the film remains great. The selective memory explains why I keep seeing movies in general.

3) Planète terreur – Europeans wisely separated Grindhouse. Again, seem to see a lot of Bruce Willis movies when I’m in Paris. Not a great Bruce Willis film per se (as he’s only in it a moment), just a great, great film. Should have revolutionised (or reverse revolutionised) filmmaking. Didn’t.

2) Die Hard – film by which all narrative films are judged, and come up lacking.

1) Twelve Monkeys – This was a tough one, being that Die Hard is so damn archetypal, but this is still the greatest Bruce Willis movie, for Bruce himself. All films since then reflect his bitter disappointment for not even being nominated for the bit when ‘Sleep Walk’ comes on the radio. Or is that my bitter disappointment?

50 films, plus a four episode character arch on Friends. A life well spent. Mine. Not Bruce’s. Think of all the standing around he had to do, just for my entertainment. It’s not worth it, man.

Thoughts on Scream 4

  1. Mary says:

    I object! 5th Element was originally cited as #3 or #2, now down to 12??? Come on! The tattered tuxedo shirt alone warrants this, as does the entire basic premise, which is all basically true…This is Bruce’s creme de la creme. Nancy Drew?!?!?

  2. Scott Scott says:

    Ahem. I reserve the right, oh I don’t know. I’ll change my mind about everything I said today by tomorrow. Remember this is before I endured A Good Day to Die Hard, Moonrise Kingdom and The Cold Light of Day. 2012 was not his best year. I would update, but I have no idea how to rate the last three against North. Three way tie for last?

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