It’s been a decade since the Ghostface Killer was last seen hacking up co-eds. For some, it’s been a long decade without him. For others, if he was never seen again it would have been too soon. Whatever group you fall into, the famed slasher is back in Scream 4, and the results will probably exceed your expectations.
The first Scream was a romp, balancing a whodunit? with the suspense of a good horror-thriller. It did this while successfully lampooning the very genre it fell into, yet it didn’t plunge into absurdity – a near impossible feat.
Scream 2 attempted the same, shifting its slashing satire to horror sequels, with mixed results.
Scream 3, well, the less said about that the better. I guess it mocked trilogies? I dunno. But whatever it did, it did poorly.
However, a good idea is a good idea, no matter how badly butchered it becomes in the hands of studios looking for a quick buck. Sometimes all it needs is time to fall out of public consciousness, then it’s fresh again and people remember why it was good to begin with. Scream 4 embodies this very idea.
The film picks up ten years after the Ghostface Killer was running amok and slashing up teenagers like it was going out of style (actually, after years of awful horror movies, at the time it was). Survivor Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to her hometown on a book tour, having taken her life back by telling her story to the world.
The movies know what they are, and know that they’re satirizing themselves with every word uttered.
She runs into old faces in now-sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and his wife Gale Weathers-Riley (Courteney Cox), who’s working as an author herself. She also meets the next generation of victims, led by her cousin Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts) and many other fresh faces that you know are going to get it at some point.
The beauty of the Scream franchise, even at its worst points, has always been its self-awareness. The movies know what they are, and know that they’re satirizing themselves with every word uttered. Characters discuss horror clichés, what to expect from a killer based on past films, and how the killer will recreate things or take them to the next level.
With slasher films, sequels, and trilogies all targeted before, reboots are next on the list. Several pieces of dialogue take the time to get tongue-in-cheek digs at the never-ending stream of reboots, all while being quite obviously aware that this very film could qualify as a reboot itself.
The story is the same as those that came before: Ghostface calls people, toys with them, then hacks them up. However, the script is the best since the original, and the message is deeper than how many buckets of the red stuff you need to make a film “scary”. That’s refreshing, as modern horror has become losing body parts in outlandish machinery with lots of screaming. I grew up on horror and suspense, and seeing what they’ve devolved into is depressing. Scream 4 is definitely more than that, and as a result I enjoyed it a great deal.
My only real qualm was with the ending, which could have gone another way and been excellent, though I understand and even accept why it ended the way it did – especially after Sidney delivers a line in the closing seconds to cement the message of the previous 100 minutes.
Overall, if you like a smart script and don’t mind a high body count Scream 4 is one you can’t miss.
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