While a decade has passed since Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) survived the third round of attacks from the Ghostface Killer, she comes back for more in Scream 4, which premiered April 15. Prescott returns to her hometown to promote her new book, reuniting her with fellow survivors Dewey (David Arquette), Gale (Courtney Cox) and rookie, teenage cousin Jill (Emma Roberts). The release of Scream 3 in 2000 was said to be the final chapter to the horror trilogy launched in 1996.
When first introduced, director Wes Craven teamed with writer Kevin Williamson on a film project that did not just introduce the world to a new iconic slasher personality, but fully changed the horror genre. It was the interaction between the horror genre and the concept of storytelling that created a number of memorable set pieces as well as twists in the original trilogy. There is no doubt that Scream 2 and 3 failed to live up to the bar set by the first. The question on everyone’s mind is if Scream 4 is just another disappointment.
The answer is no.
Scream 4 is a better film than prior Scream sequels. It offers plenty of scares and suspense, as well as light-hearted comedy about the state of the genre. There are many plot-holes and a number of bland performances, but overall the actors and filmmakers deliver an enticing and alluring performance. The characters are stereotyped and add a level of polish that is not often seen in the genre, allowing for some actual surprises along the way. Even the least suspecting residents are portrayed to obtain a bit of menace, keeping audiences on their toes.
However, Scream 4 not only delivers surprises, but it also shows the audience something threatening and it fulfills the desire for tension. While it might sound obvious on paper, no horror film has ever taken the trick as literal as Scream 4. For horror fans that are less interested in all the meta-film commentary, Scream 4 also offers the most kills of the series. The violence sequences in the film are not only more frequent than prior installments but also larger in scope. Several of the Woodsboro victims are dispatched in creative but still brutal ways.
From the opening scenes it is obvious that the past decade of horror has definitely dated the franchise. Everything is bigger, the gore is stronger, and the killers are more brutal and sadistic. Instead of simply hunting past victims, the killer is now forcing the characters to watch others being murdered. Speaking of the core cast of returning characters, all three are superb. Campbell’s Sidney is now a less vulnerable character than fans remember from the first few films; Sidney has now come to terms with her past, and faced her demons. Dewy and Gale continue to be the heart of the film, delivering one-liners and playing off of each other’s performances seamlessly.
As for the new fans of the series, Craven has outdone himself with casting and delivers a more entertaining slew of characters than we have gotten in slasher films lately. The standouts are Rory Culkin’s (Mean Creek) Charlie, and Erik Knudson’s Robbie.
The two add a definite bit of humor to the film and feel much like a replacement for Lillard and Kennedy’s Stuart and Randy from the first installment. Emma Roberts plays Jill very well, and even though her character might be a bit less likable than the others, she keeps up to Campbell’s.
As for Hayden Panettiere, it is predictable that her character will become a crowd favorite, as she not only plays herself off as the sex symbol of the film, but also throws out her own share of one-liners that are sure to have the more ‘hardened’ genre fans smiling.
From a screenplay standpoint, Scream 4 is a nearly flawless work for Kevin Williamson. Everything is tight, although the screenplay trips up slightly toward the film’s third act, no one can hold the small imperfections against it.
Craven returns to form at the helm, delivering what is his best film in years, and subsequently the best sequel in the franchise to date. There are plenty of jumps to be had, and the scares are at a maximum, although some of the best ones were given away in the trailers.
Overall, the premise of the film sets forth the new generation of the Scream movies with constant supporting roles and the twisted unexpected ending, which also conveys the desire of fame.
Scream 4 is remarkable; it may lose its originality at times, but with the thrills one may just
find it worth the money.