*** WARNING THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS ***
Eleven years after the confusing mess that was Scream 3, Wes Craven’s latest attempt to breathe life into the series suffers from the opposite problem, that of being overly familiar, and predictable, in fact in places it is desperately trying to be so much like the original movies it makes for quite a surreal experience, and makes you wonder just why they bothered.
The heroine of the Scream trilogy Sidney Prescott (Never Campbell) returns to her home town of Woodsboro as she is promoting her best -selling book based on the original killings and her experiences, around the same time old Ghost face returns and starts knocking off local teens, and maybe more importantly focuses its sights on Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) drawing Sidney back into the danger zone once again.
This is not a terrible film, let us clear that up to start off with, it could have been far worse, it is just depressing how devoid of new ideas it is, and how at times it doesn’t even seem to be trying to be scary, funny or add anything new that was not said in the first three Scream films.
The opening scene which you don’t realise at the time is actually the closing of Stab six, is followed by another scene of two girls debating the merits of the modern day horror film which then leads to another stabbing, but it turns out it is not a real killing (if you see what I mean) because it is actually the start of Stab seven, and so then we go into the start of Scream 4, and eventually get the first proper killing, so this twist on the film within a film within a film does add to the suspense and provides quite a novel twist, the trouble is they don’t really build on that. So what we get is a bunch of bland looking cardboard cut out characters played with little or no conviction by what seem to be a host of Beverly Hills 90210 cast offs. The language consists of references to torture porn, facebook and people being punked, which instead of being really biting and cleverly woven into the plot are just shoehorned in and are instantly forgettable the second after they have been used. Add to this the fact that many of the same jokes and set pieces from Scream one and two are carted out then you begin to wonder if it is a new chapter you are watching or just a bad cover version.
Another problem is that in the first two Scream films Woodsboro had been established as this quite creepy, middle of nowhere small American town, where all is not what as it seems. Here the filmmakers have lost that edge to the place, as what we see is a brightly lit town with lots of smelly faces, the atmosphere is lost. Out of the returning cast only Courtney Cox as Gale Weathers made that much of an impression, it seems that this was the part she was truly born to play. Campbell who was so excellent in the original series just sleep walks though this, just basically giving an “I am bored and just here to collect the cheque” type performance, she does the physical stuff pretty well, but that is about all. Arquette I can take or leave at this stage, as the deputy Dewey character he once had a bumbling charm, but now just seems to be going though the motions. The most promising of the new characters is Sidney’s superficial publicist Rebecca Walters played with sharp wit and great comic timing by Alison Brie of Mad Men fame, sadly this firecracker in waiting is eliminated before she can reach her prime.
There are a few good set piece scares like you would expect from a master like Wes Craven such as the chilling parking lot scene, and towards the end we get an interesting idea of the killer as a celebrity as well as the part played by the modern media. Now at this stage with Sidney’s life hanging in the balance it struck me as the perfect ending to the film, something to really challenge the audience and make for a thought provoking cliff hanger, except it didn’t end there, and instead we get an over drawn out, anticlimactic finish with far less impact.