Notable Cast: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Allison Brie, Adam Brody, Anthony Anderson, Rory Culkin, Erik Knudsen, Marley Shelton
Review: A new decade? New rules? New screams? Scream 4 begged the question “How do you keep a film franchise fresh, when the three previous films relied on breaking the same unspoken horror ‘rules’ put in place subconsciously over and over again?” Scream introduced the rules while trying to simultaneously bash them, Scream 2 tried to bend them, Scream 3 tried to break the already broken; so how could Craven/Williamson possibly break the already…tripley broken?! Still following? Congratulations, because even I’m a little lost. This franchise holds a special place in most horror fan’s hearts because even though the sequels can’t match the original, the Screams set the bar for self-aware horror movies. But with 11 years spanning between Scream 3 and the latest installment, would the material just seem dated and boring by now? We’ve seen the theme done to death by this point. Movies like Feast have proved to be equally adept attempts at throwing the unspoken horror rules out the window. It was going to take a lot to make breathe life into this old school franchise, but Scream 4 managed to pull a few tricks out of its sleeve, preventing this film from just beating a dead horse for the hell of it. Thankfully, the rules have changed. For the better.
If you’ve followed the Scream films, you’re already familiar with perpetual victim Sidney Prescott (Campbell), local law enforcement hero Dewey Riley (Arquette), and over achieving reporter Gale Weathers (Cox). To save time, I’ll just assume you do so I don’t have to explain the last three films. In the latest installment, Sidney comes home to Woodsboro to promote her self-help book “Out of Darkness” and meet up with old friends. But hey, it wouldn’t be a true visit home without a copycat killer mimicking the Ghostface pattern of old, right? Yet again, Sidney and the gang have to protect themselves against more Stab (the fake movie in Scream) mirrored killings, but this time while protecting family along the way. Sidney’s cousin Jill (Roberts) was contacted by the killer, along with many of her current high school friends. Like a plague wiping across Woodsboro High, everyone again is at risk to be next on the slashing block. But in the same respect, everyone is also a suspect. Who can you trust when the new generation refuses to play by the rules? Sidney is hell-bent on finding out, just wanting to put her gory past behind her. She’s survived three Screams already, think she can defy the odds and last one more?
And like in any good horror movie, with the obligatory cast shot, it’s time to play: “Who’s going to make it until the end of the movie!”
I’ve never been as bi-polar while watching a film before. My feelings for this movie swayed from sheer boredom at times to horror movie bliss at others, eventually fully winning me over. Kevin Williamson (original penman of all the Scream films) wrote a script with such a strong opening and closing, that a large portion of the middle chunk struggles to keep us as intrigued on the present, failing at keeping us from focusing on where Scream 4 can possibly end. Scream 4 is undoubtably better than either of the other sequel attempts, as it gets back to the roots of the original Scream. Bringing technology and time into the mix, it gave Williamson the chance to reinvent the rules of the franchise, instead of building on what was already established. It paved the road for some much-needed creativity in the films in the way of plot. Also, I noticed an upgrade in the gore category, with some splattered intestines and bloody walls instead of just stabs. The new film seemed a little more brutal, probably spiking off the fact that these effects are expected in horror now thanks to such titles as Saw and Hostel. But time was also key, because Scream 4 takes stabs and pays respect to pretty much every horror film in existence. Williamson’s opinions on remakes, reboots, and the lack of genre creativity are riddled throughout the script. Cheap shots are taken at recycled sequels like the Saw franchise, while respects are paid to films like Peeping Tom (credited with starting the entire slasher craze) many viewers would not even know about. The long and short of it, these guys know their horror, and understand the current state of the horror genre. Scream 4 was just as much a mockery of current horror as it was a sequel to an already famous franchise. Craven and Williamson understand the audience that is watching their Scream movies over and over again, and tailored the material directly to them. If you’re a horror buff going into this movie, you won’t make it a minute without getting some kind of film nerd reference thrown at you. And if not, Scream 4 is like a crash course in Horror History 101. Pay attention kiddies.
It also speaks volumes that Craven was able to reassemble the same original cast from so many years back, showing obvious commitment to the creator/franchise. After so much time, the veteran actors simply could have walked on the idea, ready to move on (although let’s be honest, not much going on in many of these guys careers right now). But the fact that everyone returned speaks volumes to the kind of prestige the Scream franchise holds. The rest of the cast is rounded out by many up and coming or already established young female talents with the likes of Roberts, Panettiere, Paquin, Bell, Teegarden, Hale, and Robertson, which shows the desire for so many to get their name into this franchise. Most horror films today are populated with unknowns looking to make their mark, but factors like this are a testament to how the Scream films have held up over the years. Everyone wants to be the next Drew Barrymore, who if you remember back to the original Scream had a short-lived opening scene that garnered a ton of hype.
Scream 4 was a worthy addition to an already famous franchise. Craven and Williamson manage not to run the franchise itself into the ground, even though they brought back so many elements of the first three movies. Bigger, better, faster, stronger: Scream 4 was like the first three films on steroids. It’s not to say Scream 4 is without its flaws, but I can look over them thanks to the overpowering strengths. Genre nuts are going to love this. Scream fans are going to die for this. I couldn’t have asked for much more in a Scream follow up myself, and the franchise can now rest easy with a quality ending. There are lingering concerns for the future though after Scream 4 was met with high horror praise (not critically though). It was written to be the start of a new trilogy, but I’m not sold that the formula can keep working, especially after Scream 4’s ending. That would be pushing so much luck, I wouldn’t dare even want to think of it. You’ve done your work Ghostface, just please quit while you’re ahead.
Final Rating: 7.5 stabs out of 10
Scream 4 also proves no matter what you do to Hayden Panettiere, she’s still a total smoke show.