Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nathan's "Scream 4" Review


When discussing the Scream films, everybody talks about the tongue-in-cheek humor, meta horror constructs, and slice-of-life deaths. These are valid and inspired reasons to fall in love with this genre-changing horror series. For me, however, what I’ve always loved is Scream’s heart (and I don’t just mean the one stabbed and left to bleed in the final reel). When Scream opens and Drew Barrymore is killed – shocking us all that first time we watched it – we were actually saddened because Barrymore is a well-known actress, and one known for her Good Girl status of more recent years. As Scream moves past its opening sequence, and we get to know Sidney Prescott, Gale Weathers, Dewey Riley, and the rest of the Woodsboro gang, we are not only pulled into a mystery but into a slasher movie setting filled, oddly, with heart and soul. Neve Campbell has always been one of my favorite actresses, ever since her Party of Five days; she’s uniquely pretty, down to earth, and almost unassuming. Yet she’s a strong, talented, dramatic actress who also has the physical prowess to take center stage when fighting off knife-hungry maniacs out for Greek tragedy worthy revenge. (Heck, Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson even played with this concept in Scream 2, when Sidney personifies the goddess Cassandra in her college play.)

Speaking of Scream 2, don’t tell me I’m the only one who felt a(n emotional) stab in their gut when Randy bites it in Act Two. I was pleased that Craven, Williamson, and the producers took a chance and killed off one of the series’ regulars – this helped ground us in that trippy meta feeling, “Are they inside a movie or not?” – but I was also heartbroken that the geek nerd who understood all the movie rules couldn’t save himself in the end. In fact, my friend Jennifer who attended the S2 sneak preview with me got angry at Randy’s death, and my friend Karin told me she lost interest in watching any more Scream films after that – she cared about Randy that much. Now Scream 3 is a different story – and a much weaker entry in the saga – but even I have to give kudos to the Cotton Weary-heavy opening. It left me going: if one of the regulars dies right off the bat – and if the series flips things on its head by having a male lead be the focus of the pre-credit kills rather than a female lead – then maybe I’ll be able to ride this rollercoaster and continue to dig my nails into my palms. I’ll stay surprised, curious, on edge – as we should be in life (and death).

This brings me to Scream 4. I had high hopes. Watching the trailer 50 times? Check. Original Scream trilogy marathon the weekend before 4’s release? Check. Eleven years in-between films and Kevin Williamson’s return to the writing table? Check and check. And I do have to say that the opening sequence(s) – Lucy Hale and Shenae Grimes dying inside Stab 6, being watched by Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell in Stab 7, who are being watched by Aimee Teegarden and Brittany Robertson in Scream 4 – got me giddy and diving into my box of Snow Caps like nobody’s business. I looked over at my boyfriend and mom, my fellow viewers, with pure glee. “Now we’re onto something,” I thought. “I’m going to be rocked and rolled.” And who couldn’t smile, geeky Randy style, at the return of Sidney, Gale, and Dewey, not to mention the return of Woodsboro as the setting? I felt edgy, dicey Greek tragedy on the horizon; I felt ready to care again about what happens to these people.

But then things got messy, and I’m not talking about Sidney’s publicist’s blood being smeared on the parking garage wall. Who of you – I really want to know – can say we got to know or care about most of the new characters introduced for this intended second trilogy? One, the dialogue imposed on them by Kevin Williamson (and fellow scribe Ehren Kruger) felt forced and way too meta/cheeky for its own good, taking me out of the story. Two, none of them garnered enough screen time save for Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere to say we have a true sense of their personality or depth. Three, all the teens died! Every single one! Who’s going to steer the next two films for this “next generation” of fans, as proclaimed in the trailer? In addition, Courtney Cox and David Arquette – still full of great on-screen chemistry – didn’t have much to play with in their roles. Only Neve Campbell’s Sidney truly shone. Sidney returned with a vengeance, so to speak: she’s scarred but healed; looked great; and championed the mother/protector role of the younger cast in the same way Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy Thompson did in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. That being said, this next comment might sound strange and even deranged. I’ll accept that. I was hoping that Sidney was going to die in this film. You heard me. I wanted her to pass the torch to a new heroine, who would carry the film series for another entry or two; I wanted something real to be at stake, like her life, so that not only was this film a commentary on the horror genre but a true commentary on who pays the price when society and pop culture are mingled into an American bloodbath of spotlights and fame-seekers. I wanted to be stunned, saddened, and even angry that Ghostface killed Sid – because I wanted to know that the filmmakers were taking chances and creating waves of raw emotion for us to ride.

In the end, I’ll leave you with this final question (and it’s not “What’s your favorite scary movie?”): Who of you thought the final edit of this film felt cobbled together? I can just picture the Special Edition being released on DVD and Blue-ray with 20 extra minutes or something. And while that doesn’t always guarantee a better version of a film, maybe it will indeed be the case with Scream 4. Scenes didn’t flow smoothly from one to the next, and many famous actors – chiefly Mary McDonnell – were sinfully underutilized. I mean, is there a whole storyline involving Sidney’s aunt that got chopped and left on the cutting room floor? Here I thought that Aunt Kate would turn out, yep, to be Sidney’s birth mother and that this revelation would play a huge role in the third act, and ground us in what’s been at stake for Sid all along: a sense of family, belonging, and purpose. Instead, we get an inane plot involving Cousin Jill that – while admittedly fresh in its exploration of heroines versus villains – was stale in its execution and logic. I didn’t buy her reasoning, or the whole ending of the film, for even a second. In one pivotal scene before the end credits, Sidney, Gale, and the killer face off and share a “Clear” moment in a hospital room. Woefully, while diehard fans shouldn’t steer “clear,” per say, of checking out Scream 4, they should remain (Cotton) weary of their expectations. I walked out of the theater not digging my nails into my palms, but shrugging. What a buzz kill.

*2 out of 5 stars*

For other opinions, check out three reviews at Camp Blood:

or Fangoria's review at:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Dear Audrey"

Two days ago, on my lunch break, I was talking on the phone with my brother Aaron. While chatting, I came across two loose-leaf pieces of notebook paper on the sidewalk, wet and streaked with dirt. Being the curiosity maestro I am, I picked them up and flipped them over and saw that they were two handwritten letters, by two different people, to an Audrey. After reading them -- and from the shapes of the block letters -- I gathered middle-schoolers must've written them. Had they come from two brothers whose mother had told them to thank Audrey? Were they two friends or classmates in school?

I asked Aaron's advice: take them with me so I could study them, be amused by them, and ponder them and even write about them on this blog, or leave them there in case they hadn't been handed over to Audrey yet or in case Audrey accidentally lost them in a gust of wind while walking to her car or something? Aaron's answer: leave them. The writers or recipient might be back. So I tucked them in against a tree trunk with some low-hanging branches and pressed them flat and hoped they'd find their way to their rightful place.

I talked about the letters with Gus, my boyfriend, and how touched by them I was. He also loved the mystery of it all. Who the heck was this Audrey anyway? Who wrote them and why?

Yesterday, I decided I'd go back to that same spot and see if they were still there. If they were, I was going to snag them and record Audrey's "story" and immortalize her on this blog. But when I got to the tree they were no longer where I'd tucked them. Had they blown down? Had someone indeed come and claimed them? Had another nosy passer-by snagged them, curious about the same things? So I peeked around for a minute, and -- lo and behold -- scattered on the sidewalk and in a pile of wet leaves and in the street were not only the two letters I'd seen the day before but an additional four letters, all to Audrey, all thanking her for the books.

Here they are -- Audrey, whoever you are, I hope you stumble upon this someday. And keep in mind, dear readers, that these letters were written in big block letters and filled up the notebook pages. I also left all spelling, grammar, syntax, you name it, as is.

Dear Audrey,

Thank you for the books. It was really nice of you to give us money so we can read more. At frist we had no good books to read untill you gave us money to buy new and better books so now I have good books to read.

Sincerely Jerard

Dear Audrey,

I wanted to take the time to thank you very much for the money you donated to my English class. In my class we read for half an hour every day, some of the students read more in the first semester of school this year then they have in their entire life. It really means a lot to me to have variety in the books we read, sometimes our school library doesn't have the best selection. I really appreciated your help. Getting new books for my school is a privilege. We don't have the most money. Thank you very much!


March 30th, 2011

Dear Audrey,

Thanks for the generous and thoughtful donation of money to our prodject. My english class really appreciates your help because of you we have multiple choices of books to read from rather than the small selection we had before. My reading has advanced from constantly reading new books, my knowledge and perseptions of things have broadened. You are a very respective, bold individual. Thanks for your curtacy.


Dear Audrey,

Thank you very much for donating money for the betterment of our education. A lot of kids didn't have the opportunity to read and buy books. We got a lot of books for our classroom and we have got a really great reading program going for us. We read at least half an hour a day in class and even more at home. I've already read over fifteen books this year. It's been a great school year and we really appreciate the donations.


Dear Audrey, thank you for giving us the books there were a few books I like but some of them were boring but it was still a good thing to give us because before this I really never read books before we got all of these so I say thank you.

Sincerely, Austin

Dear Audrey,

Thank you for donating money to buy books for our english class. Mr. C was so happy to get the books for our class. I read waiting for normal and I really enjoied that book. I enjoied how in that book the girl over came alot of problems by herself. I havent had a chance to read any other books but im sure that I would enjoy them.


And now my turn: thank you, Audrey, for what you've done for these kids. Thank you for inspiring them to read and for giving them the opportunity to engage in a dying art form. And thank you to all of you students for showing your gratitude, and to the teacher or teachers whom inspired and prompted their students to express appreciation.

My heart is very touched by all of this!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

passage of the day

"What Smoky liked about his girls' growing up was that, though they moved away from him, they did so (it seemed to him) less from any distaste or boredom than simply to accommodate a growth in their own lives: when they were kids, their lives and concerns -- Tacey's rabbits and music, Lily's bird-nests and boy-friends, Lucy's bewilderments -- could all fit within the compass of his life, which was then replete; and then as they grew up and out, they no longer fit, they needed room, their concerns multiplied, lovers and then children had to be fitted in, he could no longer contain them unless he expanded too, and so he did, and so his own life got larger as theirs did, and he felt them to be no further from him than ever, and he liked that. What he didn't like about their growing up was the same thing: that it forced him to grow, to enlarge, sometimes beyond what he felt the character he had come over the years to be encased in could stand."

--From Little, Big by John Crowley

Friday, April 08, 2011

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream 4 Next Friday....

Thursday, April 07, 2011


A week ago today, I was driving to work and saw movement to my right, in my peripheral vision. I was in Northeast Portland, the Alameda neighborhood to be exact -- beautiful homes, well-kept gardens, and white picket fences. You get the picture. So I glanced down the side street and saw what I thought was a dog dashing across someone's front lawn onto the sidewalk. But then I noticed the unique arch of the back and the smooth, prancing gait: it was a coyote. I just saw it for a second -- my car zoomed forward down the block -- but I was struck by the strangeness, the raw beauty, of the moment. I mean, I know Portland has coyotes roaming the city; they even make it onto the news sometimes. But to actually see one, and so unexpectedly, was quite a treat. I'd considered turning around, retracing my steps, so I could catch another look. But the oddly graceful creature had probably already disappeared from plain sight again. I also considered calling the authorities: what if the coyote went after someone's chicken coop or cat or dog? But I resisted these urges and made my way to work.

Moments like that really crack something open -- we get to see a sliver of other worlds, the way nature and suburbia collide, creating a collage. We can tend to our gardens, slap that extra coat of paint on our pickets, sweep our sidewalks and fix our porch lights and clean our roofs. But nature continually fights back and lets us know she's in it for the long haul. Weeds burst up through soil. Tree roots crack through sidewalks. Birds build nests in our gutters, and raccoons take shelter in our attics, and ants and mice scurry on our counters and in our cupboards. For those of you who know me, you're aware I'm always searching for meaning in everything, almost to a fault. But I couldn't help but take my role as witness as anything but a good omen, a blessing, something to shake up my routine and expectations. Seeing the coyote rattled me in the best of ways that morning, and that comforting feeling has stayed with me this past week.

Nature, after all, is reaching her pinnacle here in Portland; the amazing pink, yellow, white, red blossoms are taking over tree branches and crowding over streets and cascading down into soft beds on all the sidewalks. This is the time of year when I go on my long walks, and collect stray petals, and tuck them in my pockets.

Nature: she's a keeper.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

passage of the day

"It wasn't until Auberon was past seven years old that his Lilac went away, though long before that he stopped mentioning her existence to anyone. When he was grown up he would sometimes wonder if most children who have imaginary friends have them for longer than they admit. After a child has stopped insisting that a place be set for his friend at dinner, that people not sit in chairs his friend is sitting in, does he usually go on having some intercourse with him? And does the usual imaginary friend fade only slowly, lingering on more and more spectrally as the real world becomes realer, or is it usually the case that on one specific day he disappears, never to be seen again -- as Lilac did? The people he questioned said they remembered nothing about it at all. But Auberon thought they might still be harboring the old small ghosts, perhaps ashamed. Why after all should he alone remember so vividly?"

- from Little, Big by John Crowley