Thursday Fright Night

Scre4m ★★★
(USA, 111 min)
Dir: Wes Craven; Writ: Kevin Wiliamson
Starring: Neve Campbell, Emma Roberts, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Hayden Panettiere.

Insidious ★★★½
(USA, 103 min)
Dir: James Wan; Writ: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye.
Neve Campbell returns in Scre4m
The power was out here yesterday from about noon, so after dinner I decided wait out the blackout by going to the movies. I figured I’d make use of the dark and stormy-ish night and finally see Scream 4 (aka Scre4m). I was a bit hesitant to see Scre4m because when I marked essays earlier this year, forty-out-of-fifty of them were on the slasher genre. At least thirty of these discussed the ‘final girl’ motif in Halloween and used the original Scream as a point of comparison. Now being well versed in Carol Clover’s concept of the final girl, (the ‘final girl’ is basically the last girl standing after all her promiscuous friends have been picked off one by one. She is also the only female character who can confront ‘the monster’) I think that this is the first time I really appreciated the Scream franchise. 

Watch out Gale!
After discussing conventions and clichés of slasher films with students, I was pleased to see how often these things appeared during the film. (Who knew that Mad Men’s Trudy Campbell was going to die from the minute she opened her mouth?) I also enjoyed how this Scream was actually like a parody of its own parody of the slasher genre. As one character says, “How meta can you get?” Moreover, for a franchise that’s on its fourth instalment, Scre4m manages to avoid feeling tired because it’s so self-referential – kind of like those gags in Family Guy that drag on forever with a knowing wink that says, “We’re doing this again just because we can.” The ending might be eye-rollingly preposterous, but Scre4m is blood-soaked entertainment and a fun reunion for Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and especially Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers. I also loved the opening scene with Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell – hilarious!

I got home from Scre4m and discovered that the lights were still out. My one-track mind conjured up the idea that if I’m going to sit in the dark by myself, I may as well go to another movie! To avoid embarrassment, I drove to a different theatre and decided to see whichever movie started next. That was Insidious, which I’d been meaning to see on a recommendation from my brother.
Rose Byrne in Insidious
I’m not much of a horror fan (I don’t know why I saw two of them in one night), but I really liked Insidious. It's done very well. The movie is 103 minutes, but I think I spent the first ninety of them looking at the floor. Insidious stars Rose Byrne as a mother who has night terrors after her many years of working for the devil Patty Hewes who begins to see all sorts of creepy things after her soon meets with an unfortunate accident. I won’t say much else about the film: I knew absolutely nothing about it going in, and it’s probably better that way.
Leigh Whannell and Lin Shaye (she's great) in Insidious
The first three acts are scary as hell and offer thrills the good old-fashioned way by using creepy noises, lingering shots, low-key lighting, and demonic children. It’s also quite light on the gore, which is surprising given that it’s directed by Saw’s James Wan.  (I assume Scre4m used up the entire supply of red corn syrup in Hollywood.) I think the last act was marred because the Coliseum is showing the film as a digital projection, so all the special effects look extremely fake and cartoonish: The ending is more effects-heavy than the rest of the film and that’s not a bad thing, but make sure you see the film in a venue that doesn’t make it look like Candyland.

After Insidious, I drove home to find all the lights on. Thank goodness, because the only thing playing at that hour was Fast 5.