Film Review – Scream 4

Scream 4 (MA)

Directed by: Wes Craven

Starring: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere

Four stars

Review by: Julian Wright

 

It takes balls to resurrect a decade old franchise whose last installment was considered the least of the series, has been parodied to the nth degree and virtually been left in the dust of several gore fuelled horror series’ that have popped up in its absence. On the  surface it appears to be a hollow attempt to cash in on Hollywood’s recent deep-rooted obsession to reboot and remake its entire back catalogue of films.

But in the hands of cheeky creator and horror film buff Kevin Williamson, those set backs were exactly what was needed to be able to return with this kick ass reboot … or sequel … or remake. He purposefully waited until the horror genre had once again morphed so he had something new to comment on. All those classic horror film titles his movie geek characters rattled off on the original Scream have now all been remade for a new generation. On top of that, there are sadistic torture porn films like Hostel and the seven Saw films.

But Scream established 15 years ago that copying its predecessors is not its style. So if you can’t beat them or join them, you must talk about them and poke fun at them. And therein lies more devilishly fun thrills with plenty of witty humour to fill in the gaps between the slashing and hacking.

Full-time Ghostface target Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to Woodsboro, her home town, to promote her self-help book Out of Darkness which she wrote to exorcise her demons and graduate from victim status. It is the last stop on her book tour and happens to coincide with the anniversary of the original Woodsboro bloodbath that Sidney miraculously survived. For her publicist Rebecca (Alison Brie), it is the opportunity to drum up media attention and boost book sales.

Sidney’s visit also allows for a reunion with fellow survivors Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and former journalist Gale (Courtney Cox) who are now not so happily married. But before the three can catch up over coffee and cake, the bodies of two high school girls are found and the call is traced to a phone that is found in Sidney’s rental car. A new murder mystery is kick-started.

Sidney’s teenage cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her friends Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and Olivia (Marielle Jaffey) receive threatening phone calls from Ghostface, implying they are the new targets in this new decade’s bloodbath that follows new rules. Bored and frustrated Gale uses this opportunity to burst back into action and conducts her own investigation into the murders. She enlists the help of Woodsboro High School’s cinema club co-founders Charlie (Rory Culkin) and Robbie (Erik Knudsen) who know a thing or two about these new rules that the horror genre abides by now.

Writer Williamson and director Wes Craven keep the proceedings reasonably fresh by not only referencing new technology that Ghostface can now use to stalk his victims, but tinkering with the formula of the franchise. The popular opening kill/s gets a makeover, Ghostface’s attacks seem more vicious and several sequences are drawn out extra long but then of course, in true Scream fashion, are mocked by its characters.

Possibly the film’s biggest flaw is trying to juggle so many characters. With the conscious decision to keep the original core cast while introducing a new generation of victims-slash-survivors-slash-red herrings (wait! I haven’t even mentioned the three cops given considerable screen time, Jill’s shady ex-boyfriend or her Mum), it feels like Williamson and Craven are following the entire population of this small town. There are plenty of disposable cast members but so few we care about.While it doesn’t blunt the thrill of the ride, it does prevent us from coming away fully satisfied.

The most important thing is that you rarely have any idea where this movie is heading, and pinpointing the killer/s before all is revealed is virtually impossible – which is why we fell in love with this franchise in the first place. Recapturing the gleefully horrific spirit is such a joy to behold. This is one sequel-slash-remake-slash-reboot that should be welcomed.

 

 

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One Response to “Film Review – Scream 4”

  1. Surprisingly awesome for a series that seemed like it was wearing a bit thin towards the end there. The film is more suspenseful than it is actually scary, but being a fan of the whole series (even the 3rd), I had a great time with this film. Good review, check out mine when you can!

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