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Scream 4 (2011)

Scream 4 (2011)Starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Britt Robertson, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin, Nico Tortorella, Mary McDonnell, Alison Brie, Anthony Anderson, Aimee Teegarden, Marielle Jaffe, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Shenae Grimes, and Lucy Hale.

Directed by Wes Craven


Like death and taxes, Scream 4 was always inevitable. Wes Craven’s self-referential, horror-reviving slasher “trilogy” raked in so much dough that it’s a shock Dimension Films waited over ten years before running back to their golden goose. Thankfully, the return of not only Craven but original screenwriter Kevin Williamson and the surviving cast elevates this one beyond the typical cash-in sequel. And while Scream 4 doesn’t re-invent the wheel, it’s far more entertaining than anything Craven has done since … well, Scream 2.

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has seen some shit. Thanks to the whorishness of her mother, several psychopathic Ghostface killers have murdered more people than Charles Bronson in what is undoubtedly the most elaborate web of revenge ever concocted. Over a decade later, Sid is enjoying her celebrity status with a popular tell-all book about surviving three consecutive bloodbaths, and the last stop of her book tour is her hometown of Woodsboro, where the murders in the first film took place. But no sooner does she reconnect with fellow survivors Dewey (Arquette) and Gale (Cox) than a whole new string of copycat murders pop up among the new generation of high schoolers. The motive: to “remake” the killings that put this backwoods town on the map.

Taking center stage (instead of the glorified cameo she had in Scream 3), Campbell makes a welcome return to her character and manages to re-invent the “final girl” slasher heroine as a tough-as-nails survivor who is more inclined to run at the killer than away from him. The supporting cast of fresh-faced Woodsboro High teenagers (who actually LOOK like teenagers for once) all handle their own and largely manage to avoid the annoying CW hipster types we’ve come to expect in these kind of films.

Scream 4 (2011)Every single actor gets at least one great moment, but the disappointment is that the chemistry among Campbell, Arquette and Cox – arguably the heart of this franchise – is seriously lacking this go-around. It doesn’t help that Dewey and Gale have been scaled back to the roles they had in the original, which means they mostly play second fiddle to the new cast.

In a way, this installment offers a very depressing commentary on horror since the last decade is only known for endless recycling and sequels. From its subversive opening sequence, it’s obvious that Kevin Williamson has all the ammunition he needs to lampoon the horror genre all over again – including the self-referential flicks he popularized – and he does it well. Despite the production’s well reported problems and numerous re-writes, Williamson’s voice is all over this film, and Scream 4 finds far more clever ways of poking fun of itself than any of those unfunny Scary Movie spoofs. The drawback is that this time the humor works better and sometimes against the suspense of the picture.

Keeping up with the times, Scream 4 is also the darkest of the series with kills that are prolonged and far more brutal (when you think about what Craven had to cut from the original Scream to satisfy the MPAA back in 1996, it all feels pretty absurd since the bloodiest scenes in the first film don’t even match the tamest moments here). And while I loathe the remake trend and am glad to see Craven and Williamson disembowel it, this also comes as a double-edged sword (and a little odd, considering Craven himself has been largely behind the trend). The remake motif means that everything in Scream 4 hearkens back to the first movie so it’s constantly living in its shadow of the original. As a result, the film doesn’t feel particularly fresh … just late to the party.

That’s not to say that Craven and company do a bad job, but the limitations of the slasher genre definitely show. There are only so many ways Ghostface can call someone up before popping in for the kill, and no matter how many meta jokes and obscure movie references they throw in, there’s still that sense we’re running the gauntlet yet again.

All these flaws aside, there’s plenty to like about Craven’s return to Woodsboro. At the very least, it’s a far better series capper than the limp Scream 3 and further keeps the franchise out of direct-to-video hell. I have no doubt that Scream will eventually top the fictional Stab franchise with its amount of sequels, but there’s really not much left to say after this one. As it stands, Scream 4 works far better as a satirical black comedy than it does when it strives for actual horror.

3 out of 5

Discuss Scream 4 in the comments section below!

Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

  • kiddcapone

    I thought it was fucking terrible. Everyone died in almost the exact same way. The ending gives new definiton to the word improbable. So lacking in any type of realism what-so-ever. New decade, same shit. It’s a big budget movie that plays by the rules of low budget cheese. Shots fired in the hospital and NO ONE comes running…haha.

    • LSD Zombie

      Well, his signature weapon is a hunting knife. This isn’t Jason we’re talking about. As for realism, you do remember 2 of the 4 killers from both Scream 1&2 coming back to life from what should have been fatal wounds?

      • kiddcapone

        Every killer usually has a signature weapon, that doesn’t mean it’s used 100% of the time. By the time the 15th person in a row got stabbed, I was bored out of my mind.

        I’m not even talking about the coming back to life bullshit. The whole hospital ending was painfully written. No doctors or nurses around. Gunshots and no one seems to notice. She ripped off monitors and no alarms sound. She somehow “knew” what room Sydney is in.

        It may sound like nitpicking, but I’m so sick of Wes Craven and his lazy storytelling. And let’s not forget the same garbage he pulled in My Soul to Take: The killer is 6 feet tall in costume, then when the identity is revealed, they are short fucks. Same thing here. Neither killer was even close to how big Ghostface was while running around.

  • nonserviam03

    Is it just me or did the main killer act really terribly until it was revealed that they were the killer? Once that was revealed, they were awesome.

  • Cinemascribe

    I was surprisingly entertained, never bored, frequently creeped out (the entire sequence involving Stab-A-Thon – from Gale noticing the problem with the cameras to the confrontation in the barn loft – was particularly well staged) and I’m really glad that I took the time to see this in the theatre opening weekend. ‘Tis a shame Scream 4 didn’t fare better at the box office, but if this flick serves as the conclusion to the series, at least it ends on a high note.

    I’ll give it four out of five knives.

    __________________________________
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  • Terminal

    Boring, stale, lame, and lacking in the balls necessary to be called a true reboot, “Scream 4″ fails on all levels as entertainment and a competent restart to a series.

    Two out of five knives.
    ———-
    “We are bad guys. That means we’ve got more to do other than bullying companies. It’s fun to lead a bad man’s life.”

  • LeBay

    I loved it! Haven’t had this much fun with a horror film in a while.

    What makes these movies fun are the mystery aspects and we rarely get good big screen mysteries anymore. This one was really solid. Even some of the questions I had about Ghostface’s behavior during some of the earlier scenes made sense when it was all over.

    Wes Craven has a wonderful knack for directing these slick, fun projects. Funny how it takes another Scream film to remind us what a great genre craftsman he can be when paired with the right script.

    It couldn’t have been easy to write Scre4m. Overall, I was incredibly impressed by the final product.

  • Uncle Creepy

    Decent opening, solid ending, but the hour in the middle? Redundant, tired, and lacking any sort of fun for me. Some of the dialogue was painful.

    Still though, over all they brought things home in the last act and for that I give it its due.

    Odd side note: The image we used above is from a scene not in the final cut. Why even release that still?

  • The Buz

    Had a blast with it. My expectations were fairly low, so maybe that had something to do with it, but hell man I had a real fun time with it.

    Really thought it could have used more Red Right Hand, but hey can’t have everything. Also loved Kirby in the flick. Thought she worked well as kind of the female Randy.

    Oh and it was great to see Gale get back to being Gale. Just wish she had avoided the plastic surgery.

  • Masked Slasher

    I loved it. I’d go 4 out of 5. A few minor things here and there, but I was more than pleased with Scream 4.

    I’m going back tomorrow.

  • Katsumi

    Seen this last night at midnight hoping to go again once the crowds die down a bit, I have to say I think this is an exselent (Sp) Review.

    I enjoyed the movie and can agree some of the humor did take away from the movie a little but it wasn’t to bad, I was mostly happy I walked out of the movie happy instead of disapointed like I was worried I would, some of the movie was a bit predictable but not to much and it kept me guessing for a while

  • LifeMi

    SCREAM 4 is a good movie; it’s flawed for sure, but it works on a whole. I agree with the review that some of the humor takes away from the suspense, but I would give the film 3.5 out of 5. Certainly better than SCREAM 3, that is for damn sure

  • MouthForWar

    This is the first positive thing I’ve seen so far for this movie.

    • dougevil

      Yes.

      ….

      …Aside from the other positive things said. I haven’t seen it yet, but I have yet to hear this get trashed. Most of what I have heard is “friendly” at worst.

      Careful engaging in hyperbole.

    • Messiahman

      So in other words, you’ve skipped reading the multitude of positive reviews on the other major horror websites and have purposely avoided the 62% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, most of which is made up of positive reviews from respectable critics.

      Perhaps you should rephrase your post to read “This is the first positive thing I’ve seen so far for this movie because I’ve remained willfully ignorant and haven’t read anything else about it whatsoever.”

      • MouthForWar

        This is the first positive thing I’ve seen so far for this movie because I’ve remained willfully ignorant and haven’t read anything else about it whatsoever.

  • Masked Slasher

    EXCELLENT review! Very well-done, although I think I will probably like it more than you.

    Glad to hear this pokes fun at remakes, and manages some good slasher carnage. Can’t wait for the Thursday midnight.

  • nonserviam03

    Ahhhhhhh this makes me smile.

  • LSD Zombie

    Phew! I feared we were in for a real shit-fest again.