Scream 4

Sidney Prescott is making a name for herself as the author of a series of books. Her publicist, walking through a lonely parking garage, gets a call. A call from Ghostface. When she asks if she can take a message for her famous client, Scream’s masked assailant warns, “you are the message.”

Is this some too-clever-by-half Scream 4 allusion to Marshall McLuhan (“the medium is the message)? Who needs the author of The Gutenberg Galaxy in an era where “nobody reads anymore,” as one character here puts it.

That may be so, but they sure do talk.

Kevin Williamson, the man responsible for the first two Scream flicks, returns as if he’s paid by the word. Jesus, nobody ever shuts up in this, the fourth and extraordinarily painful installment of the self-referentially-winking series.

Less is more, and this more is considerably less. If an endless word babble reference of every classic horror movie floats your boat, feel free  but it’ll capsize the rest of us.

Scream 4 is an appalling cash-in even by the seemingly bottomless well of horror sequel cash-ins.

But it’s notable for one thing.

Everything is meta. Its meta is meta, there’s even a reference to the act of being “meta” (sadly, no reference to ex-baller/LA Laker, Metta World Peace). Its meta drives an orbitoclast smack into your orbital lobe.

Scream (the original), was undoubtedly solid, sharp as Ghostface was stabby, and playful to boot. Unfortunately, its legacy is tarnished because for a while in the 90s, we suffered many films that tried to encroach on similar comedy-horror territory. So it’s odd that this installment, Scream the 4th, upped the “look at me, I’m so clever” ante, when it was meant to have been a return to form.

Featuring a bunch of ever-telegenic TV cast-offs (people from The OC/90201, etc, etc and even Anthony Anderson, pre-Blackish) the film’s saving grace is the steely determination of Neve Campbell. She’s quite excellent, even if she’s acting in a different movie entirely.

In 2013, Harvey Weinstein, while speaking at the Zurich International Film Fest, expressed interest in making a fifth and final installment of Scream. Luckily for all of us, he’s no longer in the movie biz.

*1/2 (out of 5)

[Listen to our chat about the original Scream on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]

The House That Dripped Blood

The house is the epicenter of so much in horror, whether it’s the caller calling from inside it, the creaky door slamming in the middle of the night, the body lodged in the wall, or the phantasmagorical figures appearing in the bathtub. That’s why it’s a bit odd that in the anthology horror, The House That Dripped Blood, the role of the abode is so diminished.

But that shouldn’t diminish the impact of this fun little 70s feature, which showcases the combined talents of some horror icons, albeit appearing in different segments: Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

The set up for each of the four segments involves prospective renters of a sprawling, dusty Victorian home.

In Method for Hire, a crime writer played by Denholm Elliott rents the place for some peace and quiet (a bit like Ethan Hawke in Sinister). He’s soon plagued by visions of his own fictional creation, a leering strangler named Dominic.

In Waxworks, Peter Cushing portrays a retired stockbroker who becomes completely obsessed with the image of a waxwork figure in a local curiosities museum.

In Sweets to the Sweet, Christopher Lee is a hard-ass dad who won’t let his young daughter associate with her peers or have any toys. He hires a tutor, and soon the daughter is exacting her revenge.

In The Cloak, a two-bit b-movie actor is dissatisfied with a vampire production he’s starring in. Acting as his own wardrobe stylist, he procures a Dracula cape from a rundown curio shop (never a good sign, see Dario Argento’s Inferno). Soon, he’s overcome with vampiric/method acting tendencies.

The Cloak is the cheekiest of the bunch, Sweets to the Sweet the most unpredictable.

They’re each delightful in their own way, as are many/most Amicus productions.

***1/2 (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of The House that Dripped Blood!]