Scream 4 (2011)
Release Date: April 15th, 2011 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Wes Craven Actors: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Alison Brie, Aimee Teegarden, Shenae Grimes
he original three “Scream” films never presented a very stable blend of humor and horror. Yes, they contained both elements equally, but oftentimes the laughs came from the stupidity of the characters rather than clever writing. And the scares were forced, predictable, and imposed upon forgettable victims. While “Scream 4” might not make a fan out of someone not already on the bandwagon, it finally fixes many of the problems that plagued the first two sequels. Pretty girls still get menacing phone calls from raspy-voiced strangers, followed by brutal stabbings, but this time out the self-reflective comedy adopts a savvier approach by implementing both self-mockery and general horror movie parodies without sole reliance on grating gurus spouting spoilers or pointless speculation. Perhaps much of its strength lies in the platform and history created by its predecessors, but all the pieces seem to be better streamlined. “Scream 4” accomplishes what the previous films tried so desperately to create – a horror movie that knows when to laugh at itself.
Ten years have passed since the infamous “Woodsboro murders” and survivor Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to her hometown to promote her new self-help book. Her arrival also marks the anniversary of the original killings – and when two teenagers are found butchered in their home in a fashion mimicking the attacks from so long ago, it becomes clear the nightmare isn’t over. Once again Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) begin searching for clues to expose the murderer’s identity, but as the body count rises they come to the terrifying conclusion that the killer no longer plays by the conventional rules of horror films – or their sequels.
The purpose of a sequel, according to “Scream 4,” is to outdo its predecessors. And that’s not a particularly difficult task considering the previous entry in the series was one of the most tired and recycled of all horror films. The opening scene is superb, once again mocking slashers and itself, this time with whimsicality and flair. Where the second and third movies tended to poke fun at themselves more than the horror genre in general, this one is back on the right track of balancing mockery, homage, and genuine thrills. It’s a little more graphic, with the blood splatter more excessive and the violence more serious. But the laughs are still present, from the Facebook/Twitter/Webcam/iPhone Apps jokes to the “Inception”-like, movie-within-a-movie (to the third degree) gags, to the supporting cast of nubile, young, popular starlets who manage to keep all their clothes firmly in place.
“It’s not a fucking movie!” cries Sydney, terrorized by the gravelly-voiced stalker. “It will be,” he replies, stating the familiar cliché examined so often in the series. Similarly returning are the rules for horror movie sequels, which notably neglect the hackneyed themes of cars that won’t start, elevators that stop moving, and abandoned, dimly lit parking garages. Ghost Face is still clumsy, overly destructive, and can vanish in thin air, and Sydney, Dewey, and Gale are still too adept at fending off butcher knife attacks. Thankfully, plenty of newcomers don’t fare so well. Also, expectedly, are the red herrings, suspicious background characters with barefaced grounds for killing, and the revelation of the true murderer with completely secretive motives. Despite the repetition, anticipated, incredibly lengthy exposition, and multiple endings, “Scream 4” easily succeeds in being better than the last collaborative undertaking in the franchise, as well as being the best of the bunch.
– The Massie Twins