Check out the article on the first three movies right here.
And so it arrives, with Wes Craven back in the director’s seat and Kevin Williamson back as the wordsmith, Scream 4 also benefits from a returning cast who we have grown to love throughout the first three movies. Can it ever satisfy the expectations of the horror fans who have been eagerly awaiting its arrival? Before I get to the main body of this review let me tell you right now that yes, yes it bloody can.
From the very beginning of Scream 4 we’re thrown into territory so meta that it looks like it could be in serious danger of eating its own tail, becoming the 21st century slasher Oroboros. Thankfully, whenever this seems likely it pulls back just enough to play on more solid ground and maintain that superb mix of playfulness and tradition that the franchise has often been so good with. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to Woodsboro to promote her new self-help book and it’s not long before someone is getting all knife-happy once again and those pesky phone calls start happening. Dewey (David Arquette) is now the sheriff and Gale (Courtney Cox) is now his wife, struggling to deal with her lost fame and the fact that she now lives the small-town life with her small-town man. Sidney’s cousin, Jill (Emma Roberts), is one of the new batch of potential victims, alongside her friends and, of course, a couple of major horror movie fans (played by Erik Knudsen and Rory Culkin) who try to keep people up to date with the new rules.
In many ways this is as much a remake as it is a reinvigoration of a movie series that took a bit of a dip in its previous instalment. Some scenes deliberately mirror those from the first film, especially, and there are plenty of callbacks and references to please those who have enjoyed their journey with Ghostface (the use of the old “Stab” footage is especially enjoyable) and a lot of the dialogue within the film specifically alludes to remakes as opposed to any reboots. There’s still plenty of wiggle room, however, because this is a killer trying to remake a real-life version of “Stab” as opposed to the “real” events that inspired that film.
Neve Campbell could play the role of Sidney Prescott in her sleep by now and, as much as I love her, it feels like she does at times. I think this is more due to the focus being moved to the newer generation of potential victims/killers rather than the lovely Miss Campbell’s own aptitude but it’s a shame that our heroine is left at the sidelines for many of the better moments. David Arquette is just as good as ever in the role of Dewey, not as goofy as he used to be but just as sweet (e.g. the moment when he quotes Sidney’s book to her = perfect character summary right there). Courtney Cox is still as sharp as she always was, despite her character starting from a point of enforced restraint. We know that as the story breaks she’ll be pushing to get right in the thick of things. As for the newer cast members and the supporting actors, all of them do pretty well. It’s weird to see Anthony Anderson in a Scream film after his appearance in a couple of Scary Movie outings but his scenes with Adam Brody provide some fun moments. Marley Shelton as Deputy Judy Hicks is almost a female version of the Deputy Dewey we first met in Scream. Marielle Jaffe is a bit of a non-event but Hayden Panettiere is great, Nico Tortorella acts in a constantly suspicious manner, Alison Brie is fun to watch and there’s even a small role for the wonderful Mary McDonnell.
Craven directs on top form, moving the camera around in ways that bring the open doorways and possible “weak spots” to your attention while always playing games with expectations.
And Kevin Williamson’s script? Despite talk of some work done by Ehren Krueger, this feels like Williamson’s work for almost every smartass line of dialogue. And not just a script from a man wanting a decent payday.
Just as Scream managed to list the rules of the genre and still have fun with them all, Scream 4 manages to address all of the inevitable criticisms and skew them to its own advantage.
Perhaps stretching things a little too far with an ending that goes on a little too long, that’s far from the worst thing that this outing could have been guilty of. Craven has returned to revitalise the franchise that revitalised his own career over ten years ago and, with faith in Williamson’s script, he’s provided fans with something that will not disappoint.
DIRECTOR: WES CRAVEN
STARS: NEVE CAMPBELL, DAVID ARQUETTE, COURTNEY COX, EMMA ROBERTS, HAYDEN PANETTIERE
RUNTIME: 111 MINS APPROX