A Scream 4 review must be held under certain rules. Much as the Scream series has told us about the orderly fashion of horror movies — specifically slasher films — critiquing Scream 4 must be quantified every step of the way.
Scream 4 begins much as the first three Scream films commenced. Audiences can expect a female, or more, alone in a house when a fateful phone rings. “What’s your favorite scary movie?” the voice asks. And, we’re off.
In 1996, horror master director Wes Craven gave birth to a franchise from the mind of Kevin Williamson (Dawson’s Creek, The Vampire Dairies). Scream turned the horror genre on its head. Craven and his stellar cast flipped the horror film every which way in order to serve as a celebration of its intricacies. Scream 4 establishes early that, yes, there are rules to the horror moviemaking effort.
With each successive franchise, Craven and his cast, including Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette and a host of Hollywood who’s-who such as Liev Schreiber and Drew Barrymore, managed to further serve as an effective study of the sequel (Scream 2) and the trilogy (Scream 3) with varying levels of success depending on who you talk to.
So, how do Craven, Cox, Arquette and Campbell bring back the Ghostface fear?
It’s been a decade since Scream 3 hit theaters, and Scream 4 treats its plotline as such. Arquette’s Dewey and Cox’s Gale are married, living the small town dream. Campbell comes to town to close out her book tour as a local girl done good story with an army of press along the way. Then, trouble rears its head again in the form of a killer donning an iconic mask who proceeds to kill local teenagers.
Arquette and his police force scramble to live up to their reputation nationally as the ones who catch the killers. Herein lies where the rules are told to the audience for a fourth film. It might as well be thought of as a reboot. The thing about a reboot is there are no rules.
What gives Scream 4 its most powerful charge is the young cast that joins the Scream fab four. Hayden Panettiere leads the pack as the character most likely to give Ghostface chills of fear. Her turn should be career catapulting. Emma Roberts is the central character in the new blood cast. The It’s Kind of a Funny Story actress shows her made-for-blockbuster movie star potential, and Kieran Culkin (Signs) is almost unrecognizable as a high school movie buff. And Lucy Hale, what can be said? Actually, nothing because her role is so pivotal in the movie!
Scream 4 is for Scream fans. Those that appreciate the series will enjoy the experience. It’s not the best of the series, but it is up there. Credit that to expectations perhaps. Nothing can compare to the first time we were asked, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” It’s not entirely predictable and yet Scream 4 can drift into its own folly. But the famous saying is true: If the performers are having fun, so too will the audience.
The Scream 4 experience is a worthy successor to the series. Even the most jilted moviegoer has to give it to Craven and his team that until the end, we have no idea who the killer is or even could be. And in the end, isn’t that what you want from a horror-slasher movie?
Scream 4 review
Out of five stars…
Scream 4 TV spot: Reveal
Thanks to the Weinstein Company!