The franchise goes back to school.
|Image: Dimension Films|
The eleven years since the disappointing Scream 3 have not seen a lot of directing highlights for Craven, with the exception of the entertaining but disposable Red Eye and a warm-hearted segment of Paris, Je T’aime. So, with some inevitable lingering scepticism, it was fairly easy to get excited about another Scream movie, especially with Craven, Kevin Williamson (writer of Scream and Scream 2), Campbell, Arquette and Cox all returning.
It’s fifteen years since the original Woodsboro murders, and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is returning home for the first time to promote her new book and see her family and fellow surviviors, Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and Gale Weathers-Riley (Courtney Cox). Unfortunately, someone has donned the Ghostface mask again and has targeted Sid’s teenage cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her friends.
What’s special about Scream is its ability to scare audiences while making them laugh. The franchise is responsible for changing the landscape of horror movies. No longer did teen victims wander cluelessly to their demise. They were full of wry quips and film references. Williamson and Craven bring the sense of humour and self-awareness to Scream 4 and effortlessly stand head and shoulders above their imitators. After a none-more-meta opening that almost goes on too long we’re back on familiar ground.
It’s the young cast that are the focus here, with Sidney, Dewey and Gale pushed slightly to the side to make way for the teens. They are essentially similar to the teens from the first instalment, but the film is well aware of that. Roberts (It’s Kind of a Funny Story) is the Sid-alike Jill, Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) is the sassy best friend Kirby, who knows her horror movies, and Rory Culkin and Erik Knudsen are the movie geeks Charlie and Robbie. There’s even a creepy ex for Jill, Trevor (Nico Tortorella), whose name leads to one of the best jokes in the film. They’re all solid, with Roberts and Panettiere the standouts, and just as prone to wandering outside to check a strange noise. Meanwhile the cast is packed with enough familiar and capable actors (Marley Shelton, Alison Brie, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, and Mary McDonnell) that it’s sufficiently difficult to spot who the killer is, or who’ll be next.
It’s not without its problems. Excellent “made you jump!” scares aside, Scream 4 is not especially scary. There’s also a distinct lack of real character development, and it would have been nice to spend a bit more time with our returning heroes. Williamson was reportedly replaced during filming by Scream 3 writer Ehren Kruger, which is almost certainly the reason for a choppy and slightly muddled third act that attempts to cover its tracks with a lot of dialogue. However, it is often very funny. There are some big laughs, plenty of digs at the genre, the preceding movies, and the film itself, some funny cameos, and some surprisingly gory deaths for the cast.
Scream 4 is an entertaining and clever horror film that knows exactly where it stands. It’s well-performed, well-shot, and well-written. It could have been a little scarier, but on the basis of this, a fifth Scream film would not be unwelcome.
It’s nice to a see a horror film that brings the fun, and it’s great to see the gang back together. Given that Scream is 5/5, Scream 2 is 4/5, and Scream 3 is 2/5, we give this: