Scream 4 Directed by: Wes Craven Cast: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: R Release Date: April 15, 2011
PLOT: After years of solitude Sidney Prescott (Campbell) returns to Woodsboro, where she, as well as a new generation of victims, are stalked by the ruthless Ghostface Killer.
WHO'S IT FOR? This one is for slasher fans, obviously. Fans of the original franchise might enjoy the return of some of the characters, but Scream 4 is definitely Craven's attempt to bring in a new audience. Die-hards and new fans of horror will both get something out of this movie, even if it is for different reasons.
EXPECTATIONS: A mix of trepidation and excitement. Craven's latest works have been less than inspiring (My Soul to Take still gives me nightmares, just not for the reasons Craven probably intended) but at the same time, I can't help but have a little blind faith. Remember when Craven did the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, distanced himself from the franchise, then came back with the awesome Wes Craven's New Nightmare? He's got a history of bringing himself back from the ropes, and that's what I was hoping he'd do with this one.
ACTORS: Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott: Sidney has always been a difficult character for me. Even as a fan of the first three movies (okay, I'm a little meh on the third, but you get the point) I was wondering if time would be kind to her. Thankfully, Williamson does the character justice. The whiny Sidney who simply watched people drop dead around her in the first films is no more. Sidney has a strength and resourcefulness that was somewhat lacking in the earlier films. There are several scenes where the movie embraces this, giving her some ass-kicking scenes that are a welcome change of pace, but her character isn't so different that she's unrecognizable. She's still got the same doe-eyed, small town girl charm, but with an extra kick. Score: 8
Emma Roberts as Jill Roberts: The only problem with the movie is that it's never sure of who it wants to be its leading lady. Sidney is obviously a fan favorite, but Roberts does well to step into the role. Sometimes they try and paint her as a little too innocent or sweet, so it comes off as artificial and insincere, but then she flashes that disarming smile and you forget why you weren't buying it in the first place. It's a shame the movie doesn't know how to handle the character better because she could offer a unique perspective, but she never quite reaches it. Unfortunately, Roberts either doesn't have the strength or the material to create the lasting character that Campbell did with the first movie.The way I see it, Jill exists within the world of the movie and that's fine, but I'm not sure she's got much of a shelf life after the movie, like Sidney has. Score: 6
Courtney Cox as Gale Weathers-Riley: Remember how I was talking about how Sidney had evolved? Well, Gale is married now... and she hyphenated her name... but those are about the only differences. The movie even addresses this with some clever one-liners and a faux mid-life crisis plotline for Cox, but Scream 4 abandons most dramatics with this character about halfway through. She just comes off as exploitative (yup, she's still ridin' that one trick pony) and desperate at the same time. Cox is capable in the role and if you liked her in the other movies, you'll be sure to enjoy more of the same this time around, but what few changes were made to the character seem to weaken her a little. Still, she provides that much-needed sense of humor that keeps audiences entertained when Ghostface isn't knifing someone. Score: 7
David Arquette as Dewey Riley: I wonder if anybody ever taught David Arquette to act without using only his eyebrows. I mean, I never really thought about it, but I guess they are kinda crucial to convey emotion, but eyebrows alone do not an actor make. The trademark goofy, affable Deputy that was the butt of so many jokes in the first three films has finally made Sheriff and although he's gained a new job title and a couple extra bucks, it evidently came at the expense of his humor. Arquette tries to sell serious so hard that there are a couple scenes that I think he might pull a muscle trying to "act." Still, Williamson writes in a few lines (at Dewey's expense, of course) for some solid laughs, but there's never any real investment in the character. Score: 5
TALKING: Williamson has all of the fun in this movie. I'm sure filming was a blast and all, but the weight is carried by the script. Scream 4 does the whole meta, self-referential thing like it's nobody's business. While this could easily make for a cheesy movie-going experience, it knows how to play it. The characters have believable dialogue (I mean, considering the unbelievable circumstances they find themselves in) that we've come to expect from the characters we know. There are a few struggles with the voice of the newer teen characters, but nothing enough to really take you out of the moment. My only other issue with the dialogue is that sometimes the movie thinks too little of the audience watching and tends to over-explain things, particularly in the film's end, but for the most part, there's a solid flow to the writing and plenty of tongue in cheek humor for fans of the whole meta thing. Score: 7
SIGHTS: Craven found the perfect idyllic small-town populated with McMansions to set his movie in... but who are we kidding? That's not what this movie's about. By "sights", I'm sure most people are asking about the blood and body count. In that sense Scream 4 delivers. There's a record number of kills for the Scream franchise with this one, which audiences have come to expect, no doubt. The murders themselves are a little disappointing considering we don't usually get much more inventive than a knife to the chest, but it's not just about the kills. Sure, it has fun with its buckets of red corn syrup, but it's not just about the blood here. Scream 4 has more fun with the buildup of violence, rather than the actual bloodshed itself. There are a couple of great sight gags and some fun "gotcha" scares that are sure to please to go along with the bloodbath, but it's this nice combination of playful humor and horrifying violence that makes Scream 4 such a fun time. Score: 7
SOUNDS: There are a couple of solid songs here and there, but the sounds of the movie are never the real stars. Aside from some shockingly relevant lyrics (the first song on the soundtrack is "Something to Die For" by The Sounds, enough said) the rest of the movie is populated by your standard horror score. Marco Beltrami does his best to differentiate himself from the countless other horror instrumental pieces, but the fact of the matter is, if I'm noticing the score at all, it's usually taking me out of the movie. There are a couple of instances where the music seems to lead the scene when you just want to fully embrace the tension or humor of the moment, and for that, Scream 4 suffers at moments. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: Usually if you say the opening scene is the best of a movie, it's an insult, but not when it comes to the Scream franchise. Much like the original film, Craven has a lot of fun with playing with the audience in the opening moments and it makes for the perfect amount of tension and humor.
ENDING: The ending is where the movie falters. There's solid pop psychology logic behind the choice of killers, but it ends up being over-explained and dragged out. By the time the credits began to roll, I had already packed my bag and was ready to leave ten minutes earlier.
QUESTIONS: There are always questions of logistics in horror movies. How did this person get all the way over there in, like 10 seconds? Scream 4 isn't without these minor problems, but the pure spectacle of the whole thing makes most of my questions easy to dismiss.
REWATCHABILITY:Absolutely. I won't pretend that it's an Oscar winner, but Scream 4 knows what it is and has fun with it, which could make for some fun repeat viewings.
Scream 4 is Wes Craven's latest venture into the horror genre. Granted, he's a big name in the industry, but after such disasters as My Soul to Take, I'll admit that I was nervous about a return to form. With Scream 4, Craven proves that he's still got it.
However, as dynamic a director as he is, I don't want to give Craven too much credit. What really shines in the movie is Kevin WIlliamson's script. It's hard to say what it is about the script that has such charm but, even as a fan of the originals, it felt like Williamson had finally gotten it right with this one. The Scream franchise has always existed as an awkward yet enjoyable blend of humor and horror, and with Scream 4 Williamson strikes a balance that hasn't been since the original.
As for the new faces of the cast and the new "rules", Williamson and company do an impressive job of breathing life back into the franchise. After the trainwreck of Scream 3 it seemed like everything had already been done, but Scream 4 is clearly rejuvenated by its fresh-faced cast.
Still, who are we kidding? It's not just about the writing or the direction or even the cast. It's about the kills. Hell, half the enjoyment of the new cast is to see the bloodbath that ensues right after they're introduced. Scream 4 certainly ups the ante with its new characters while relying on classic conventions to kill them off. While the weapon of choice remains the same and even some of the kills seem vaguely familiar, Scream 4 does an impressive job of getting you caught up in the tension and terror of the moment while giving you breathing time to laugh at some of the humor.
In the end, it's difficult to say whether my love of the sub-genre and the franchise colors my feelings on Scream 4. On the one hand, I'm a little bias because I can't get enough of these slasher movies. However, going into the movie, it was my love of these types of horror movies that had me so nervous for what Scream 4 would bring to the table. Needless to say, I was impressed with the movie. It brought some of the things that I loved from the originals, but without relying on them. The characters were familiar, but none were really the same. At its best, it's a fine entry into the filmographies of Craven, Williamson, and most of the cast. At its very worst, Scream 4 is a fun time at the movies, particularly for horror fans.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10