Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin, Erik Knudsen
Scream 4 is one of those intriguing films that execute a great number of maneuvers with perfection, but stumbles during a myriad of other attempts. While I can get behind plenty of elements the film offers, I can’t honestly say Scream 4 is the true “cat’s meow”. It’s not consistent enough to be labeled a great movie, but hey, it’s a hell of a lot more entertaining than Scream 3.
The picture starts off with a strong dose of parody, and a quick string of cameos that franchise fans will not only appreciate, but anticipate (it’s kind of become a staple, you know?). The setup is rather well-played, as a public appearance to promote her new self-help book brings Sidney Prescott back to Woodsboro where she reunites with fellow franchise familiars Dewey Riley and Gale Weathers (who’s now done the inevitable and tied the knot with Dewey). Of course, along with Sidney comes our latest rendition of Ghostface, who is for some reason or another, hell-bent on executing of our three focal figures along with an assortment of generally stale teens who don’t elicit much of any emotional response from viewers.
The first act is entertaining while self-aware but the second act really stretches to amuse, feels strangely pretentious, and paints damn near every last supporting character as the red herring. There’s some quality mystery put together early by the franchise’s faithful scribe Kevin Williamson, but by the time we’re really working to solve the puzzle of logical Ghostface contenders, just about every single new character introduced has already been hacked to pieces, and our antagonists are almost absurdly evident. It’s a big ding on the pic, and it is indeed extremely noticeable. But it’s not the only major hiccup to be discovered. Another mishap in Wes Craven’s bid to re-launch the franchise by putting together what he once referred to as a “new trilogy” is the fact that he refuses to pass the torch. Spoiler alert here guys, but neither Craven nor Williamson are willing to kill any member of the holy horror trinity. If Craven and Williamson wanted to take this one in a new direction, it may have been wise to finally give Sid, Dewey or Gale a proper send off. Doesn’t happen. As much as I love all three of those characters, someone, if not all of them, needed to go for the idea of a new trilogy to really pan out. Four installments in and we’re just playing the same game over and over again, attempting to deliver just a bit more wit with each offering. In order to truly pass the Scream torch, I think we needed a more significant twist than an overreliance on the usage of the world-wide-web. The internet isn’t exactly new, guys.
Unfortunately the inclusion of tech heavy talk and hipster slang (that, in my opinion could have actually been effective if delivered in a more passive tone) feels more forced than natural. It’s so uncomfortable it actually feels as though we’re taking dialogue in the direction of a parody mocking a parody; a point that’s further evidenced by the strange dearth of impacting atmosphere. The picture feels a bit convoluted, as though it spends most of its time struggling to find an actual identity, and I think it’s just hard to be scary when you’re looking for yourself. The fact is, the flick feels like it’s stuck somewhere between 1996 and 2011. Watching Scream 4 almost feels kind of like watching a rerun that you can remember, but not too vividly.
Now, with all that said, there are some awesome strength’s to Craven’s fourth franchise installment that are well worthy of acclaim. As a big Scream fan, it was great to see that the MPAA hadn’t completely had their way with the picture. I’m sure they oversaw plenty of trims, but there’s still enough blood and intestines – and a pair of murders that really resonate long after the final credits roll – to keep the edgier viewers satisfied. I’m not as quick as most critics to call it the bloodiest of the series – as I found the finale of the first film to be excessively gruesome (I loved it, for the record), and as stomach turning as any scene you’ll see in Scream 4 – but it’s damn nasty all the same, and if you’re a fan of the sticky stuff, you’ll find this one is adequate at revolting.
The final act, I want to note, is also surprisingly well assembled, and almost manages to erase the immediate memory of the pacing and atmospheric problems that arise predominantly during the second act. The big reveal isn’t as jarring as the actual final showdown (kick ass death scene!) itself, but the action is sleek, and there’s plenty to mull over as the story approaches climax. Kudos go out to Wes Craven who utilizes experience and loads of genre prowess to close on one of the film’s higher notes. Scream 4 cannot rival Scream, make no mistake, but it is leaps and bounds better than the third flick and on par with the second.