US Release Date: 04-15-2011
Directed by: Wes Craven
- Neve Campbell, as
- Sidney Prescott
- Courteney Cox, as
- Gale Weathers-Riley
- David Arquette, as
- Dewey Riley
- Hayden Panettiere, as
- Kirby Reed
- Emma Roberts, as
- Jill Roberts
- Marielle Jaffe, as
- Olivia Morris
- Marley Shelton, as
- Deputy Judy Hicks
- Mary McDonnell, as
- Kate Roberts
- Rory Culkin, as
- Charlie Walker
- Nico Tortorella, as
- Trevor Sheldon
- Anna Paquin, as
- Kristen Bell, as
- Roger Jackson, as
- The Voice
- Alison Brie, as
- Rebecca Walters
- Anthony Anderson, as
- Deputy Perkins
- Adam Brody as
- Detective Hoss
Neve Campbell returns as Sidney Prescott in Scream 4.
As Scream 2 told us, sequels are inferior by default, but that doesn't mean they still can't be entertaining. I'll admit I had my doubts about reviving this classic '90s horror franchise, especially after the final disappointing installment that was Scream 3. However, either the passage of time or the return of writer Kevin Williamson, has brought new life to the series and Scream 4, while not living up to the original, does provide a lot of entertainment and fun.
On the 15th anniversary of the Woodsboro murders, a new Ghostface killer is on the loose and Sidney Prescott has returned to her hometown to promote a self-help book that she's written. Former reporter Gale Weathers is now the bored wife of Woodsboro Sheriff Dewey Riley. When the killer strikes, killing teenagers after calling them on the phone, as per usual, it's up to the old trio to figure out who the killer is and stop him or them.
Along with the old crowd, there's also a new crop of teenagers for Ghostface to kill and for younger members of the audience to relate to. They're lead by Sidney's cousin Jill (played by Julia Roberts niece, Emma). Recognizable faces in the cast include Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin of the seemingly endless Culkin line.
The Scream movies are famous for their knowing, wink-wink, self-referential nature and that is still true with this one. In fact, the opening scene here may just be the epitome of that aspect as it shows a movie within a movie within a movie, with various girls in varying states of being scared and murdered, discussing and dissecting the horror genre. There are also several in-movie references to the previous Scream films that sharp-eyed fans will pick-up on.
It also has a lot of fun with horror cliches. One scene involving a woman alone in a parking garage in particular, both makes fun of and makes use of several standard horror movie devices. It's the kind of scene that will have you yelling at the screen things like, "Don't look under there!" or "Why is she getting out of the car, c'mon!"
While basically the plot is just a series of murders, because of the humor and the sharply written script, it still feels fresh, even when we've seen this sort of thing before. It helps that it never takes itself too seriously, a fault of too many horror films.
As a fan of the original, I was a little disappointed by the limited screentime of Gale and Dewey. Maybe it's because Courtney and David were going through a divorce during filming that they wanted to limit their time together, but there's definitely a lack of chemistry between them. In the earlier films, it was often their scenes that were a real highlight. I was more interested in Sidney, Dewey and Gale than in the newer cast members.
Apparently the idea with Scream 4 is that it's going to be the first in a new trilogy. I'm sure I'll go to see the new sequels, even if, despite how much I enjoyed this one, I go to see them with trepidation. It might be better if they just let this one fun throwback sequel stand on its own.
Ghostface attacks Mary McDonnell and Neve Campbell in Scre4m.
I too enjoyed Scream 4 although I have to admit I’ve never seen Scream 3 and it has been a dozen years or more since I watched either of the first 2 Screams. It therefore took me a while to get in the proper mind frame for this particular brand of camp/horror. The movie likewise takes a while to find solid footing. By the final 30 minutes both the movie and my mind set had found their groove.
In this day and age of texting and twittering, Ghostface’s threatening phone calls seem almost anachronistic. I’m glad they didn’t change his iconic Munch inspired mask. It has always been the most memorable thing about the character(s). In one nod to today’s technology (as well as being a convenient plot tool) there is a phone app that makes anyone sound just like Ghostface.
Like in the other Screams they do a good job of keeping the killers’ identity secret by throwing false hints towards innocent characters. The line between camp and horror is hit and miss though.
It hits the bull’s eye with great dialogue during the finale. At one point a younger character tells the 37-year-old Campbell’s Sidney, “Let’s face it. Your ingénue days are long gone.” Sidney gets even with this younger character a few minutes later by saying, “Don’t fuck with the original!” in the biggest cheer inducing moment of the movie.
The attempts at camp miss the mark however in the ineptitude of the Woodsboro Police Department. Led by Arquette’s bumbling Sheriff Riley, Scream 4 features some of the least professional law enforcing seen since the days of The Andy Griffith Show.
Other familiar faces include cameos by Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell and two-time Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell plays Sidney’s Aunt Kate. Although not given much to do she brings a bit of gravitas to her small part.
I’m not sure about Scream’s 5 and 6. Oh sure, Scre4m was entertaining enough, as well as being a bit nostalgia inducing (remember how much simpler things were way back in the 90s?), but I have no desire to visit the franchise again.
Where has the love gone?
In this age of gory video games and mindless horror movies, blood splatter and gruesome killings barely register on the shock meter. My seventeen year old was unfazed by anything he watched on screen. Of course, one of his favorite video games involves chain sawing aliens, so several knife stabs barely register.
What Scre4m does really well though is keep you guessing who the killer is. As Patrick wrote, they throw false hints towards almost every character. My son and I kept guessing back and forth who the killer was. It took me almost to the reveal scene to figure out who it was. Of course by then, most of the suspects had been killed off.
The fact that Cox's and Arquette's marriage was falling apart as they filmed this last summer in Michigan, does not help matters. I am not sure if their lack of chemistry, that Scott mentioned, is due to their personal issues or the script, but they never seem to gel as they once did. Dewey and Gale are having issues, while Dewey has a cute deputy that makes lemon bars for him that, according to Gale, "...taste like ass."
Although there is certainly plenty of fun to be had here, the film begs many questions. Why does no one have window screens? Why does Sidney stay in a house with all the curtains open? If your stalker likes to watch you from outside, you would think the curtains would all be closed. Why is Sidney left in her Aunt's house where anyone who wants to can find her? At least move her to a safe house. After all that has happened to her, why in the hell is she not packing? The girl attracts serial killers like Alex Rodriguez attracts famous blondes.
Photos © Copyright Dimension Films (2011)