It’s been eleven years since Scream 3 and fifteen since the original film that boldly marked the horror genre and reinvented it. Since then the Scream sequels have diminished in quality and other horror films have tried and tried to “reinvent” the genre so that by returning with Scream 4.…there’s a whole new set of things to take on. On the whole, Scream 4 is a lot better than expected but tries far too hard to be hip with its young cast, ultimately squandering the original cast members and continuing to make stupid mistakes.
It’s the anniversary of the Woodsboro murders and survivor Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has returned to her hometown promoting an autobiography about her experiences. But of course, all is not right as the killer Ghostface returns to kill the town teenagers in the same way they were killed in the original films. With the help of, now married, Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courtney Cox), Sidney must solve the mystery and protect her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts).
Whether director Wes Craven can direct is irrelevant in this franchise because combined with writer Kevin Williamson they continue to craft entertaining installments to this franchise. Scream 4 doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel, although it tries to take on the new breed of horror film, it just entertains with pretty people being sliced and diced. The opening scene is worth the price of admission as it sets the tone for the film and includes a hilarious cameo from Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell. From there the writing is tight and it’s great to see the original trio of Gale, Dewey and Sidney return to this changed world of horror. The movie mocks itself and the horror genre in general with this installment including the idea that fame is achievable by anybody, the dangers of putting our lives on the internet and how the Scream movies have never endorsed nudity. It’s nice to see a film that admits its flaws and it makes the audience feel there’s reasoning behind everyone’s actions. Craven also comes into the new breed of horror by embracing the gore factor. Gorehounds will eat this movie up, but even with an added amount of blood and organs Craven never goes for the cheap shot or lingers on it, but does it quickly and moves on. The fact that the movie is R-rated helps as these films have always embraced the cursing and murder factor. It’s just nice to see a simple, R-rated slasher film with a good story behind it.
The cast, for the most part, slip easily into their characters. Campbell, Arquette and Cox don’t have a whole lot to do but they seamlessly return to the characters that are known to horror fans. Cox is particularly entertaining as Gale Riley, known only as a “former” reporter and the Sheriff’s wife. Gale struggles to; ironically, reinvent herself through writing fiction and hates being out of the loop. Her character gets a lot of added depth for this film and Cox relishes it. Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere are the true scene stealers of the movie as heroine Jill and movie buff Kirby respectively. Without spoiling anything you’ll be surprised at how well-done Roberts is with her acting and she definitely could have a lasting career if she makes the right choices. Panettiere fills in the Rose McGowan/Jamie Kennedy slots of the past films, and her movie buff character is smart and sassy, a rare combination in the horror world.
A few of the actors aren’t as engaging as the leads. There’s a brooding ex-boyfriend who merely stands in the corner and scowls while Marley Shelton’s role as Officer Judy is pointless, she merely repeats what others say, makes wide eyes, and seems to have the hots for Dewey. The main trio of returning stars are also fairly wasted, just going through the motions and have little character development to make way for the younger cast. The worst thing though is how hard the movie tries to be cool. There are three uses of the word “meta” in the movie, and by uses I mean the characters say “This is so meta!” At times the movie tries so hard to show off how ahead of the game they are that it’s laughably bad. Case in point is how all the characters say technology is embraced with the killer recording on webcam and the tech nerd Robbie (Erik Knudsen) video blogging his high school experience. That’s great but when the killer arrives NO ONE bothers to call 911, this is frustratingly compounded with characters saying “the land line is dead” and proceeding to whip out their cell phones! It would be okay if it was one instance, but the movie has characters juggling two and three phones with no fear! Tack on Dewey not knowing what the internet is and still being unable to shoot…..at all…..and you’ll hit your head a few times.
Scream 4 would be cool, if it didn’t show off how stupid it can be. The cast is solid and I enjoyed the twist the film took but with the rapid change to the horror genre the franchise is slowly becoming irrelevant. Scream 4 is better than it should be, but it could have been a couple notches better, which is sad.