Scream 4

The WES CRAVEN directed SCREAM 4 gets off to a rocky (Is this a SCREAM or SCARY MOVIE sequel?) start with a parade of patience pushing film-within-film parodies concerning personality free white girls left alone in personality free white houses. The joke aims to poke fun at the redundancy of sequels but comes across more as the pot texting the kettle to call it black. Let’s just say DREW BARRYMORE’s savage demise in the first flick needn’t ever sweat about being dethroned as the strongest opening in the series. Happily though, once the marshmallow fluff commencement scene is scraped from SCREAM 4’s windshield the movie plows forward and starts getting down to business and that business centers on characters with plenty of mileage on them in a setting we’ve been kept away from far too long, the town of Woodsboro.

Series survivor and “celebrity victim” Sidney Prescott (NEVE CAMPBELL) is back in her hometown on a book tour supporting her well received self-help tome “Out of the Darkness”. Dutiful Dewey (DAVID ARQUETTE) has graduated to town sheriff and his once tigress wife Gale (COURTNEY COX) currently climbs the walls of her suburban cage declawed and uninspired. The audience and the denizens of Woodsboro are well aware that Sidney’s homecoming can only mean one thing, that a new batch of grisly murders are about to ensue. It’s notable that Sidney has mellowed to the point of accepting her lot in life. The reality is that no amount of ass-kicking will ever transform Prescott into a warrior/ hero. It’s common knowledge that she’s a cursed figure, an “Angel of death” who is followed by a wave of blood wherever she goes. She can attempt to write herself “out of the darkness,” but it’s only a matter of time before KEVIN WILLIAMS or worse, EHREN KRUGER writes her back in.

SCREAM 4 overloads its plate with zeitgeist gruel. Besides forcing the usual useless reductive “rules” down our throats, it blasts the current plethora of horror remakes, notes the rise of facebook and twitter and finishes things off with a somewhat biting critique of the ever-blurring line between unearned notoriety and legitimate fame. All of that is well and good, if not particularly fresh. Perhaps the movie itself is trapped in the same schema as once-was character Gale, desperately trying to convince itself of its own relevancy and meanwhile needlessly overlooking its own obvious natural charms. The movie battles with itself, tossing about terms like “meta” and “self aware” while struggling to find a balance between the then and the now. It wants to come to terms with its own age, to find meaning in its characters’ struggles, to define the difference between “old” and “mature,” but someone keeps forcing it to make stale celebrity jokes. (The idea that someone might sacrifice their last moments on Earth to utter an out of place punch line I’m assuming came from the aforementioned KRUGER who contributed a script “polishing”. I’ve decided to indiscriminately scapegoat the guy for everything that smacks of hack in the film.)

More shocking than the truly surprising killer reveal in SCREAM 4 is the fact that I loved it regardless of it faults and I don’t mind saying it’s my favorite since the first. It’s not exactly terrifying but it is suspenseful and goddamn it, I love sequels…especially slasher sequels. You can just carve that on my tombstone so there’s no mistake. Sequels offer us a chance to observe characters as they change and grow and the decade plus fermenting period between SCREAMs 3 and 4 allow a type of novel ripening not witnessed since HALLOWEEN H20 (also penned by KEVIN WILLIAMS). If you ask me, age compliments the trio of SCREAM regulars well. Sidney has stopped wincing and rubbing her neck, Dewey has shed his mascot persona and Gale has grown into and certainly earned her trademark crankiness. Sid’s annoying “specialness” is addressed (and then some) as is Gale’s inability to garner appreciation for her invaluable contribution to the saga. SCREAM 4 picks up all the trash that SCREAM 3 impolitely left on the picnic table and that alone makes me a happy camper. Indeed, when we finally uncover the person or persons responsible for the new batch of knife slaughter they dump a bowl of crazy on the floor that easily rivals that which graced the first installment.

Being a bitter hater, the one thing I was not looking forward to (besides enduring a freshening-up on the always spurious “rules”) was getting to know the new younger generation cast. Call it Cousin Oliver Syndrome but I’m always a bit skeptical when youngins are trotted out and expected to be welcomed into the fold without question. Imagine my surprise when EMMA ROBERTS as Sid’s young cousin turned out to be one highly memorable and multilayered slasher “good girl” and HEROESHAYDEN PANNETTIERE, with her raspy voice and Peter Pan hair cut, nearly walked away with the entire film. As messy as some of the generational collisions are executed, these two stand outs (particularly plucky PANNETTIERE) really add a nice dose of effervescent energy to counteract the grounded, near melancholia of the adult players. Faring far less well is MARY MCDONNELL taking over for a “Count me out!” LAUREN GRAHAM in the uncoveted role of “Mom who gets stabbed after bringing in groceries.” (Please tell me she has a deleted scene somewhere that explains why she exists.)

So, SCREAM 4, is a crazy stew of missed opportunities, sometimes trite dialogue and random pointless characters that also miraculously yields a powerfully enthralling villain reveal, some genuine intestine enhanced bloodshed, several good jolty scares and a rare chance to visit with characters that have gotten even more interesting with age and even a few snappy new ones. It may have two left feet under its robe at points but at least there’s nothing as alarmingly embarrassing as certain moments in Parts 2 and 3. (Unless of course you count the clunky BRUCE WILLIS joke.) Most importantly, it does finally offer up one golden glorious “rule” that can actually be put to good use… “Don’t fuck with the original.” There’s a better movie begging to break free for sure and I don’t blame LAUREN GRAHAM for jumping on the first bus out of town, but I’m certainly happy I got to spend some time in Woodsboro again.

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Meep Parker
11 years ago


It’s one of those movies that works hard enough to get you to like it, despite it’s obvious flaws.

Poor Mary McDonnell. Her role was surely cut to shreds… I mean, I can’t imagine her showing up for a couple of days work so she can get the chance to work in beautiful, illustrious Michigan!

11 years ago

I loved the movie. I´m not ashamed to say it´s my favourite sequel of the series.

And yes the “Bruce Willis” joke fell flat on it´s face (pun intended) what a stupid way to end otherwise great death scene.

This is propably the best horror sequel I´ve seen in a long time.

11 years ago

I gotta be the odd duck here and disagree, as I found the sequel to be pointless and dull. Everything that you pointed out liking Unk, I thought was faulty. I didn’t think Dewey had enough to do, Gale was neutered (yeah, I get she’s domesticated. But c’mon! She should’a flipped the bitch switch more often like in previous installments), Hayden I found to be an absolutely awful actress, and the writing was atrocious (thank you for pointing out the Bruce Willis line!).

I guess my main problem though is with the motivation behind the killer. One moment they’re lambasting the fact that nobody reads anymore, so you have to use video cameras to film the murders (a novel idea that pretty much goes nowhere), and the next they’re pining for a book deal after the fact. Wha..? Same with the killer themself. It was the Mrs. Voorhees/Friday the 13th syndrome… a shock because there was really no reason to suspect this person to begin with. In the original 3, everyone was a suspect, and everyone showed they had the potential to be the killer. Not in this one. The killer had no arc to show they even had that murderous intent within. It’s like when the writers got to the ending, they threw a dart at all the names of the characters and whichever it hit became the killer. I found it to be a cop-out.

While I’ve never been a HUGE fan of the series, I did enjoy ’em enough that I was hoping for something new here, not just a rehash of the first two films. I get that’s the point, but still like you pointed out, there was more that could’ve been done with the story (like off the top of my head? Have Sydney think the killer is back because of her, but actually is after Dewey or Gale. Mix it up a bit because we’ve been going after Sydney for 3 films prior. How unlucky can one chick be?).

Then again, it’s been, what? 10 years since the last installment? Maybe I just became a bitter old man during that time. But I should’a spent my cash on seeing Insidious again instead.

11 years ago

Glad to hear you like Hayden. I pretty much fell in love with her the very second she showed up, and found myself giggling like a schoolgirl (er, boy! Don’t let the hair fool you guys too! ) every time she spoke, just because I ever so love seeing a chick anywhere near as nerdy as me. She just kept being really charming to me.

I actually DID figure out who the killer was halfway through the movie, though it was less of a “Well, it has to be , because…” and more of a “Oh man, wouldn’t it fit perfectly well if…” thing. But maybe that’s just me.

I gotta say, I still miss Randy oh, so much though. The two new “film geeks” didn’t do it very well for me most of the time, or at least, there was just something missing. At least we got a couple of bros never more than two feet away from eachother.

11 years ago

I see that it is realy worth seeing!!! Got to visit cinema ; )

Joanna Boese
11 years ago

Yeah, I liked Kirby, too. 🙂

But this film struck me as one of those films where they present the evidence as to who’s behind it, although you don’t realize what it is until the last half hour. (See also “Perfect Blue”, “Mulholland Drive”, “Red Riding Hood”.) But IMO, those movies are take it or leave it. I didn’t really think there should’ve been another sequel, as there are lots of films out there that deserve them that aren’t getting them, but at least it’s not as “WHY?!” as that third “Big Momma’s House”.