REVIEW: “SCREAM 4” (2011)
Starring Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette
Directed by Wes Craven
Written by Kevin Williamson
They say you can never go home again and that maxim is especially true for Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell). A decade after the events of the last film, Sidney, the primary survivor of the first three Scream films, returns to her hometown of Woodsboro to wrap up the tour for her best-selling survivor memoir Out of Darkness and spend time with her aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell) and teenage niece Jill (Emma Roberts). But the Ghostface Killer is back and determined to kill everyone Sidney loves.
Director Wes Craven and returning screenwriter Kevin Williamson (whose script was finessed by Scream 3 writer Ehren Kruger) know they have a tough job. For better or worse, the Scream films defined ‘90s horror with its self-awareness of horror conceits (some might call them clichés). But it’s 2011, and while horror has moved on since 2000’s Scream 3, the filmmakers have perhaps wisely stuck to their knives, relying on the elements which helped make the series a success in the first place: snarky humour, self-reference, beautiful young actors, and bloody kills.
And Scream 4 benefits from that old-school approach. The cast regulars acquit themselves well, with Campbell playing Sidney as older but wiser, eager to move on with her life. Meanwhile, married couple David Arquette and Courtney Cox – who separated shortly after production – have fun in their defining roles as, respectively, goofball Sheriff Dewey and former reporter (and Dewey’s wife of a decade) Gail. Their marriage is straining because of her ambition and his lack thereof. Meta indeed.
And the new cast members are less interchangeable than in most Hollywood horror shows, with former Heroes star Hayden Panettiere a stand-out as the tough Kirby and Emma Roberts proving herself adept at playing scared as Jill.
Which is not to say Scream 4 doesn’t suffer from the law of diminishing returns. It gets a little too self-conscious at times, throwing in references to Saw and virtually every other horror film ever made. There’s also far too much discussion of the new rules of horror. (Of course the new Ghostface is recording his crimes for posterity.) And the killer’s reasoning for his or her crimes comes off as pretty specious. Really? That’s why you did it? Hmm.
But gorehounds may rejoice: Scream 4 isn’t afraid to draw blood. We sometimes forget that nasty murder didn’t start with Hostel. Craven (and the ratings board, thankfully) isn’t afraid to both puncture and spill guts, with this instalment featuring some of the nastiest kills of the series. Whether or not that’s enough for filmgoers to remember this “tarnished brand” (there’s a lot of talk about old school versus new school) remains to be seen, but if the series’ latest (and perhaps not final) entry doesn’t provoke screams, it will likely generate laughs, gasps and box office.