Review: Scream 4
PLOT: Returning to Woodsboro to launch her new self-help book, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), once again finds herself the target of the Ghostface Killer. With the killer now stalking her niece Jill (Emma Roberts), and her group of friends, including horror fans Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), Robbie (Erik Knudsen), and Charlie (Rory Culkin), Sidney must once again team up with her old cohorts, Dewey (David Arquette), and Gale (Courteney Cox) to discover the identity of this new Ghostface before Jill and all of her friends are killed.
REVIEW: I was really excited to see SCREAM 4. Time has a way of making a once mediocre franchise sparkle like a diamond, and I must admit to getting swept up in the hype surrounding this new installment. But a funny thing happened to me once I found myself watching the familiar Dimension logo pop up on screen, with the ever-present ring of a phone in the background. Immediately, I was reminded of how stale this franchise seemed by the time the much-reviled SCREAM 3 hit movie-screens.
And what about SCREAM 2, generally thought to be the best of the sequels? Before the screening, I spoke to Arrow about the franchise, and told him how much I remembered liking Part 2. He quickly zapped me back to earth when he assured me that, no, it’s not actually a good movie, and I realized that of the series, only Part 1 was actually a good film.
Does SCREAM 4 revitalize the franchise, and feel as fresh as the first film did back in 1996? Yes and no. Yes in that, SCREAM 4 is by far the best SCREAM sequel we’ve ever gotten, but no, it doesn’t feel particularly fresh or inspired. The first film was a bit of a one-off, in that it was a clever genre deconstruction, that really couldn’t be duplicated without coming off as derivative as many of the films that followed the initial slasher wave in the eighties.
But, SCREAM 4 does benefit from the fact that horror has been in bad shape since the third SCREAM hit theaters. A sharply directed, bloody, R-rated slasher flick with a good cast can’t help but look mighty slick next to the increasingly poor films in the SAW-franchise, or some of the wimpy PG-13 horror remakes we’ve seen lately. Too bad the script by Kevin Williamson (and probably a half-a-dozen other “additional” writers) isn’t so hot.
Whatever SCREAM 4 is, it’s a good comeback from Wes Craven, whose MY SOUL TO TAKE and CURSED (which I never thought was THAT bad) were universally reviled by horror fans, leading many to say he’s lost his touch. He’s back in full form here, although the “too clever for its own good” opening teaser (which milks one lame joke to death) had me fearing that this would be a train-wreck.
Once we get back Sidney, played by the appealing as always Neve Campbell (who seemingly hasn’t aged in the last ten years), and the still likable Dewey/Gale couple played by Arquette and Cox , who are now a married couple on the verge of a split, the film takes a major upturn. I even really liked the new group of kids Ghostface terrorizes, with Hayden Panettiere being a major highlight, as the cool, horror-movie loving gal, that sadly, wasn’t around when I was in high school.
My only issue with these new kids is that they seem awfully oblivious to the fact that they’re being picked-off one by one by a killer, although I suppose that was also a problem with the first one.
For the first ninety-minutes or so, SCREAM 4 is a pretty damn fun slasher film, and I was enjoying more than any SCREAM film since the first. Sadly, the film goes badly off the rails in the last twenty minutes. For one thing, I had an inkling early in the film who the killer was, but I hoped I was wrong, as it would have been a dumb twist. Alas, I was right, and the twist is ludicrous, and the final stretch hinges on a performance that just didn’t deliver. This last part of the film is almost unbearably bad, and by the time the credits rolled, I was totally turned off what had, for the most part, but a fun ride.
That said, the majority of SCREAM 4 is quite good, so I can’t just give this a straight slam. Regardless of how badly it goes in the home-stretch, it’s still worth seeing. Heck, I wouldn’t even be opposed to seeing a SCREAM 5. BUT, if it happens, the script has got to be a whole lot better.