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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVDs. The Rest: Scre4m (Scream 4)


  (Also 2 Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (Three Stars)
U.S.: Wes Craven, 2011 Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay. (Also Amazon Instant Video)


What’s your favorite scary movie?

Excuse me? Who is this?

I said: What’s your favorite scary movie?

Well, Psycho, of course. Though M and Vertigo and The Night of the Hunter and Nosferatu and The Birds are all right at the top of the list too. More modern films: Silence of the Lambs. Blade Runner. Pan’s Labyrinth. Carpenter’s The Thing. Or, if I’m forced to name one of the post-Halloween, kill-the-kids teen-slasher genre — you know, to choose among all those post-70s gore fests where “scary movie” replaced “horror movie” as the genre tag of choice — I guess I’d pick the first 1984 version of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.


Scary idea. A homicidal maniac from Hell, with a mean sense of humor, invades your dreams. If he kills you, you stay dead. You can’t escape. You keep falling asleep and there he is, again and again. I don’t remember my dreams any more, so it scares me especially. Wow, what a nightmare!
But Psycho…

Not Scream?

Scream? The 1996 one? No. Although I like Scream fine. It’s a good comic shocker. Inventive. Funny. Scary too. Good monster, that Ghostface killer, that Halloween maniac in the black shroud with the twisted white face out of Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream.” Nice. Nice touch. But Craven is no Hitchcock after all. I mean, in some ways, he’s not a John Carpenter or a Dario Argento either. Not that grimly stylish. Or baroque…

Did you say “Baroque?“

Yeah. No, he’s not baroque, like Argento. But he’s a real filmmaker. A gifted shock-spinner, a funky scaremeister, with great command, great timing. Still, it’s not my favorite horror movie: Scream. But Hitchcock…

Not Scream 2??

Huh? No. Not bad, though. Almost as good as the first Scream, in fact. Kevin Williamson is a funny, cool writer and he brought smart dialogue to teen scary movies. That idea of having the characters in a horror movie be aware of the horror movie genre rules and to keep commenting on the rules, while some of them get chased and slaughtered. I liked it. And then, in Scream 2, Williamson and Craven start a chain of references to a horror-movie-within-a-horror-movie, based on what happened in Scream 1, a horror movie called Stab. Good, good idea.
But if you compare these guys to Alfred Hitchcock…

Not Scream 3???

No! Now that one I didn’t like as much as the first two. Craven’s still there, that’s good. (Guess he learned a lesson when he let those Nightmare movies get away from him.) But Williamson takes a holiday — he‘s busy with Dawson‘s Creek, I guess — and it’s more of a standard business-as-usual sequel.

I mean, it’s good that they keep bringing back some of the original characters — you know Neve Campbell as the persistent victim Sidney Prescott, Courteney Cox as the nosey reporter Gale Weathers, David Arquette (Rosanna’s brother) as that bozo, always-late-to-the-crime-scene cop Dewey Riley — but basically Scream 3 is just another standard franchise scary-business-as-usual sequel.
Hitchcock, on the other hand….

Not Scream 4 ????

What’s that?

I SAID: NOT SCREAM 4, YOU SON OF A BITCH! The movie you’re supposed to be talking about! The movie you’re supposed to be reviewing! The First Scream Sequel in More than a decade! The movie that’s coming out on DVD and Amazon Instant Video this week, YOU TALKY LITTLE BASTARD!!!!

Hey, you don’t have to scream! I mean, these are only movies, you know. Right? Get a grip.

Well, I thought Scream 4 was okay. Good. Better than Scream 3, anyway. Williamson is back. Craven never left  — though supposedly he threatened to take a hike, if this script wasn’t as good as the first Scream.  Campbell, Cox and Arquette are all back. Nice to have some adults around, always. In the movie, Sidney’s written a self-help book called “Out of Darkness.” Good touch, but where’s her ghost-writer?

And all those new kids that are maybe going to get massacred or maybe survive: Emma Roberts as Sidney’s Cousin Jill, and Marielle Jaffe and Hayden Panetierre as Jill’s pals, Olivia and Kirby. (Quite a party gal, that Kirby.) And Nico Tortorella as Jill’s rat of an ex-boyfriend Trevor. And Rory Culkin and Erik Knudsen as the high school horror movie geek-guys Charlie and his pal, who go around commenting on everything while it‘s happening (of course) and who put on that big, splashy Stab-a-thon Party. Nice touch: a high school shriek/geek cinema club, with nerds who use words like “deconstruct.“



Do you use words like “deconstruct?”

Well, I try not to, unless I’m making a joke.


Okay, to get back to Scream 4: There’s Heather Graham as Casey.  And all those actresses playing girls that get slaughtered (or not) in that great triple-whammy opening this new movie has — I mean. They had Kristen Bell; they even had an Oscar winner, Anna Paquin. I was almost sure they were going to pull in Drew Barrymore again somehow. It was like the young Johnny Depp in reverse in Nightmare on Elm Street. Now they do bits or supporting roles in a horror franchise after they’re famous.


But hey, you know, I was glad they had some more adults in this one. In fact, that’s an idea: Why don’t they make the next one, Scream 5, with a lot of horny or fornicating, slaughtered adults instead of, you know, the usual horny or fornicating, slaughtered teenagers? Broaden the audience. Just an idea.

These grownups were okay: Anthony Andrews, and Adam Brody and Gordon Michaels as more cops. And Marley Shelton as blonde Deputy Hicks, who’s got a crush on that idiot Dewey. (What’s he got, anyway?). And Alison Brie as Sidney’s pushy book tour publicist Rebecca, the one with the clockwork tush, who says to Gale “You were my ’90s.” And Mary McDonnell (real good to see her again, the Dances With Wolves lady, and she was also great in Passion Fish) as Jill’s mom, Sidney’s Aunt Kate.
Oh, and Roger Jackson

Who’s Roger Jackson?

He was the evil Voice on the phone.

Oh. Really?

Yeah. By the way, who is this? (Pause.) And then there was that character you never see named Meta….


Yeah, Meta. They talk about her in the movie, I think. All the critics kept talking about her, too. But you never see her. Or maybe they cut her.

Maybe they cut her, huh? (Laughs.)

I’m just joking. Yeah. Well, it’s probably not important.
Anyway, notice how I got almost everyone in there? I did that so I wouldn’t tip off who the killer — or who the killers – are, by not naming certain people, and maybe eliminating suspects. See, I know the rules too! Movie critics can’t give away too much. They have to leave out the surprises or the juicy plot twists or the important stuff in the last part. Or if they do…


They have to at least slap a “Spoiler Alert” around that section, to warn everybody away.


Anyway, there’s a lot of gore, and lots of inside jokes and horror movie allusions and at least two shock endings. And the writing and direction and the cast (good actors, all of them) and the tech stuff is all pretty much what it oughta be. Williamson: He just lays red herrings on red herrings, and keeps up the dialogue, and Craven, at 71: I tell ya, he still has the old style movie moxie, that Hills Have Eyes grab/you/by/the/throat visual razzmatatzz. Even if the picture has, you know, some “same old, same old” déjà vu kind of stuff.
Still, I’ve gotta say, if you compare this movie, Scream 4, to something like Fritz Lang’s M, or to Hitchcock and Psycho

Fuck Hitchcock.

What did you say?

I said Fuck Hitchcock. Fuck Psycho. Fuck Fritz Lang. Fuck Orson Welles. Fuck Stanley Kubrick. Fuck Martin Scorsese. And fuck you, you mangy little movie-making wannabe, you loser, you critic scum. This movie doesn’t need you. It’ll gross a ton on the title alone. Nobody needs you, you piece of wormy dead meat.

Hey, You know something? You sound a little Psycho yourself, pal. And I think you’re taking this whole thing too seriously. It’s only a movie.
Oh, really?

Yeah. Really. And, anyway, Wes Craven and Williamson themselves have references to Psycho and Vertigo, right in Scream 4, along with Suspiria and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween and Peeping Tom and Shaun of the Dead and My Bloody Valentine and a lot of others. So those two guys must think a lot of Hitchcock: Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson. Those guys wouldn’t say “Bleep Hitchcock“ and scream and carry on like this. You know something…


Oh, really?

You piece of shit. You know how you’re going to end up? Pal? Strung up over a cesspool with your balls in your mouth!

Uh. Yeah.


Okay. Listen. I want you to calm down. Lighten up. I didn’t say Scream 4 was a bad movie. In fact, compared to the average horror movie, the average scary movie, I liked it fine. I just compared it, and found it a little wanting, just a little, in comparison to two of the greatest movies ever made: Psycho and M.

Hey, I even laughed in Scream 4, when one of the characters says “The first rule of sequels is: Don’t bleep with the original.” Okay? I appreciate that Williamson and Craven are trying to bring some wit and intelligence and reflexive ingenuity to teen horror movies. I really do. I don’t care that they’ve sort of made it before. You know what they say: “Bleep with the original…”

Reflexive ingenuity?

Excuse me?

Did I hear you say “reflexive ingenuity?

Well, uh, yeah. I guess I did.

Do you know what I do to people who say things like “reflexive ingenuity?” 

No. No, I don’t.

Just this, you miserable rotten maggot-ridden little shit bag. I do to them what I’m going to do to you. I’m going to chop off your arms, hack you to pieces, tie you to a chain saw and set you on fire! I’m going to deconstruct your ass and tear out your reflexive ingenuity by the gut-strings, and pull off your baroque face by the veins and cut out your heart and stomp on it!

You are? Okay. All right. Gee, that seems like a lot of trouble. And isn’t that…wasn’t that out of that movie Saw Something or other? Five maybe?

You think that scene came out of Saw V?

Yeah. Or maybe Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Beginning? Or I Drink Your Blood? Or Return of the Living Dead? Or Blood Feast? Or some other Saw movie. Or, you know, maybe Psycho V? If there was a Psycho V.

You know, uh, Hitchcock didn’t make any of those Psycho sequels. They didn’t make those kind of sequels back then. In fact, uh, back then, before the first Psycho, people could just walk into a movie whenever they wanted. Psycho changed all that. They wouldn’t let you wander in just any time. They wouldn’t let people come into a movie, in the middle of anything, not even, uh, 101 Maniacs, I mean Dalmatians, or something, unless maybe it was President Kennedy on a hot date, or something like that. And that was eventually good for movies like Scream 4, you know, because otherwise you’d see all these people killed, like Janet Leigh in the shower (love Janet Leigh), and then you’d see them alive again in the first part of the movie, and that would be confusing…

You never saw a Saw movie, have you?

Uh, yes I have. I saw Saw 3D. Or Saw VI, or Saw VII, or whatever it was. I saw all of it. Reviewed it too. Hey, boy, that sure wasn‘t as good as Scream 4.

But I remember what your readers asked you and you never answered: How can you review one Saw movie unless you’ve seen all the other Saw movies?

I don’t know. Isn’t that kind of like saying: How can you eat one gefiltefish, unless you’ve eaten all the other gefiltefish?


Please. Don’t scream. I can hear you. There are neighbors here. Look, what do you want from me? Do you want me to give Scream 4 a better review? Or do Scream 5 or 6 and file them away? Do you want me to give every horror movie sequel or remake a four star review? Even Silent Night, Bloody Night?  Or Barn of the Naked Dead? Or the remake of The Last House on the Left? Even Troll II, for God‘s sake? You want me never to complain when I have a bad time at a movie? Is that what you want? Is that really what you want?

No. I just want you to crawl. And die.

Okay. Gotcha. (Pause.) Are we done? Is it all over? (Big pause.) Well, it was nice talking to you. Interesting, anyway. Hope it doesn’t get too drafty there in the closet. Or wherever. All right? I’m hanging up now. Hanging. Up. The. Phone. And I’m going to turn it off. I’m going to turn off the phone. And I’m going to lock the door. And I’m going to go to bed now. Right? I’m going to go to sleep. The day is done. Goodbye.

Oh, really?

Yes. Going to sleep. Snooze time. No more horror movies or gory chit-chat or scary stuff for tonight. Finito.

Wait. I’ve got another question.

You do?

One more question. Before I kill you.

Okay, shoot. Uh, I mean: Fire away. Um, I mean, that is: Let ‘er rip. Uh, what’s the question?

What’s your favorite buddy-buddy road comedy?


Well,  That’s an easy one. Midnight Run, definitely. (Pause.) But I’m open to suggestion. Planes, Trains and Automobiles?  Harry and Tonto? The Road to Morocco? I know: John Ford’s Wagon Master! (Pause.) Scream 4, maybe? What do you like?


I like Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Great movie. But not as great as Midnight Run…


Extras:   Commentary by Craven; Alternate ending and opening; 15 deleted scenes; “Making Of” featurette; Gag reel.


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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon