I feel I was justified in my worry that Wes Craven might not bring his A game into SCREAM 4 (or SCRE4M) after the abysmal MY SOUL TO TAKE. I took solace in the fact that the fourth entry into the SCREAM franchise was mercifully not post converted into 3D. Mr. Craven may still not have brought his A game this time, but it was obvious more time and attention was put into SCREAM 4 than the bastard child of SCREAM and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET leftovers that was MY SOUL TO TAKE. Ghostface is back with a vengeance and I found SCREAM 4 to be a pretty triumphant return of the modern horror icon.
Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has returned back to her hometown of Woodsboro where she, Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) all survived a vicious murder spree. Sidney is promoting her new book about overcoming being a victim, Dewey and Gale are now married and are enduring some marital issues and with the anniversary of the murders now upon them a new killer has sprouted with the return of Sidney. The three old faces must now band together with a slew of new faces, including Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts), Sidney’s niece and Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), Jill’s best friend. With a new decade the killer(s) have an all new set of rules and expectations and motivations to work with.
From the get go the franchise’s obsession with self awareness is as evident as ever. The opening drags on and on but is so funny and unexpected that it was hard not to love even as weird as it was. The characters continue to point out genre clichés and what’s expected or unexpected and either turning it into a joke or taking advantage of the very cliché that was set up. Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson seem intent on beating all of these aspects over your head over and over and over and over and over. The self awareness is as obnoxious and repetitive as it is hilarious and refreshing.
I was extremely caught off guard by the level of violence in SCREAM 4. It is easily the bloodiest and brutally violent of the series. I was very impressed by the kills and the willingness to linger on the aftermath of the stab wounds with blood spurting out of people’s head, neck and other body parts ripe for stabbing. Not only are the kills awesome, but there is a hefty body count to go along with it and it starts the second the Dimension title card is on screen. Kudos for creating a setting in which I didn’t feel like anyone was safe including the three mainstays from the previous films.
As for the characters; none of the actors were exceptional, but horror movies get my love for entirely different reasons than more traditional award season movies. None of the performances were “bad,” but one in particular goes from low key to over-the-top by the end. The two movie nerds, Robbie and Charlie were great but they don’t hold a candle to Randy (Jaime Kennedy) from the first two films. There are a ton of characters that get screen time and if I have to give a shout out to Hayden Panettiere; she really surprised me because before this all I could associate her with was the annoying invincible high school cheerleader in Heroes. Panettiere gave the best of all the performances and was pretty funny as well.
SCREAM 4 dedicates itself to cranking up the insanity and expanding on the original idea, especially in today’s cinema that’s obsessed with remakes and reboots. The characters are constantly debating and predicting the events of the movie based on rules that remakes are trying to one up the originals and so on. The best line of the film actually refers to the first rule of remakes and that’s “don’t f*ck with the original.” SCREAM 4 is heavily rooted in reliving moments from the first and recreating elements from it which is why the theme of reboots and remakes are perfect fodder for this sequel.
Now to what most everyone will be waiting for, the ending. It’s no spoiler if you’re familiar with the SCREAM franchise that there is always a killer reveal at the end. This time around is no different and while it’s not the worst reveal in the franchise’s history it’s nowhere near the best. It’s already hard to live up to Billy and Stu from the first film so it’s not quite fair to expect that, but the reveal is both disappointing at first then grew on me since the ending does go on for quite some time. I wrestled with it for a while and rested on how I think that the choice is quite fitting and a lot crafted a lot more carefully than I originally gave it credit for. It does mimic the original SCREAM in certain aspects but becomes a lot more insane the longer it drags out.
Hearing the familiar voice of Ghostface terrorizing victims over the phone on the big screen once again literally have me goosebumps. Minus SCREAM 3 the franchise has always had a special place in my heart and SCREAM 4 fits in the space nicely. As most sequels go it is far from perfect, but the horror genre in general needs more movies on this level and the fact that it is a sequel is all that more impressive. SCREAM 4 is a sequel that the series enthusiasts deserved. Craven has unleashed Ghostface to theaters across the country for crowds to bask in the bloodshed, all for our entertainment.