Film Shots: Scream 4 and The Trip

Scream 4: 2/5

If there’s been a ten-year gap since the last installment in your franchise, you might as well pack it in. After a decade, the film landscape can change dramatically. What was once fresh and insightful is now dated. That is the challenge facing Scream 4 as it makes a concerted effort to catch up to the genre it abandoned years ago. Where the original Scream slaughtered horror conventions and clichés, Scream 4’s plot revolves around the newly formed landscape of horror. More specifically, the dilution of originality and horror in favor of shitty remakes and gore porn.  With the introduction of a new teenage cast to be decimated by Ghostface, as well as the appearance of the franchise’s stalwarts (Neve Campbell is criminally underutilized as Sidney),  Scream 4 delivers kills at a bloody, rapid pace and dialogue that is beyond self-aware. The problem is the film is annoying.

Where the original Scream’s wit was sharp and concise, Scream 4 is running in place. It can’t wait to tell you everything about the evolution of horror films. From the lack of empathy for under developed characters to the increase in blood splattering, the characters know everything they need to know. God forbid they actually use this knowledge. Not only do these characters act in ways that completely counteract their horror intelligence, they die in a manner that would outmatch the level of blood found rushing out of the elevator in The Shining. Oddly enough, Scream 4 becomes the films it snickers at. Worst of all, it feels tired and over worked. I applaud its attempts at being a creature that lives beyond the frame, but its observations and meta jokes lose potency when the punch lines fall back on itself. Outside of the film’s winks, it falters to provide any sense of scares or mood that would warrant its ultimate existence. Jump scares and leery eyed teens are the name of the game. Not even a surprisingly manic ending can save a tepid film that’s smug enough to think its own farts are worth smelling.

The Trip: 4/5

Michael Winterbottom’s film, The Trip, is an excellent comedy. What the trailer doesn’t indicate is that it’s a surprisingly moving tale about a man’s desperate attempts to validate his life after he’s squandered half of it.  At the center of the tale is Steve Coogan. Yes, Steve Coogan plays Steve Coogan, albeit an exaggerated version of himself. After being dumped by his American girlfriend and signing on to do restaurant reviews for The Observer, which was accepted under the pretense his girlfriend was going to accompany him, Coogan finds that his trip has been downsized to a lone adventure. Suddenly, a mid-life crisis is knocking at his door.  Not interested in canceling his obligation and further seeking his ex-girlfriend’s attention, Coogan searches for a friend to accompany him on his food tour. He can’t find anyone and must settle on a distant acquaintance in Rob Brydon. To no one’s surprise, Brydon is also playing an exaggerated form of himself. If we were to go for a food analogy, Coogan was looking for a dish of pasta primavera. He got Spaghettios instead.  There is a grating difference between the two. While Coogan is toiling restlessly in his own skin and dissipating career, Brydon is happily dedicated to his family and comedic routine. The latter is largely entrenched in celebrity impersonations, much to the chagrin of Coogan.

For a week, Coogan and Brydon move up and down the English countryside in an attempt to dine at all of the finest restaurants. Thus you have moments that are primarily confined to a dinner table and a car. These settings don’t shout “riveting”, but the performances and improvising abilities between Coogan and Brydon are hard to resist. Their fluid banter and attempts at justifying each of their comedic attributes are filled with playful venom. Sometimes their jokes for one another are vicious, while others are complimentary. It’s a unique balance that is struck between two people who are closer to strangers than they are friends. Hidden behind the rapport is a level of sadness and envy emanating from Coogan.  He is constantly chasing greatness and girls, while Brydon’s success is rooted in the simple pleasures of life. Coogan does a terrific job of amplifying the somber tone behind his jovial barbs. Will The Trip leave a lasting impression in your life? Probably not, but it’s an entertaining and engrossing way to spend two hours.


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