Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette
When I heard Wes Craven was confirmed to make a Scream 4, I was actually excited and didn’t groan the way I usually do at the news of a sequel/remake/prequel etc. Scream was probably the highlight of Craven’s career – what better person to do a satire on slashers then the very director who helped propel the genre with classics such as The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare On Elm Street? I loved the first Scream, it was refreshingly clever, with quirky characters and lots of blood, breaking the rules and revamping a tired genre while introducing slashers to a whole new generation of horror buffs. Scream 2 I didn’t mind, but I always felt that Scream 3 was a missed opportunity to complete the series. Ironically, Scream 3 could not escape the trilogy curse – and fell flat on its face, failing to keep up the genre it fought so hard to keep alive.
But Scream 4 had promise – enough time had passed to believe that Craven and writer Kevin Williamson wanted to do justice to the series, and end on a high note. The original cast was back; even Courteney Cox and ex-husband David Arquette were willing to reunite.
The first minutes of Scream 4 brings us back to what we love about the series: the sequel-within-a-sequel-within a sequel sequence is clever, zipping through a host of appearances by the latest in pop pretty faces: Anna Paguin (True Blood), Kristen Bell (Heroes) and Shenae Grimes (90210) to name a few. Before you can say “scantily clad blond” the first victims have fallen, and Ghostface is back with a scream.
Our favourite heroine, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), returns to Woodsboro on the last leg of her book tour for Out of Darkness: a tale of how she survived the Ghostface murders. Her return brings out a copycat killer, and this time Ghostface goes after Sidney as well as her long lost family: her aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell looking pretty weathered since fighting cylons on Battlestar Gallactica) and cousin Jill (Emma Roberts, Hotel for Dogs). Sheriff Dwight ‘Dewey’ Riley (Arquette) is not-so-quick on the scene, but tries to hold it together, despite having to ward off the persistent inquiries of his wife, ex-reporter Gale Weathers (Cox). Together the old team hunt down and try to solve the new wave of Ghostface murders as the usual crop of victims are killed off in fantastically bloody ways.
An array of smart-ass Kevin Williamson characters add some more flavour to the mix. Hayden Panettiere is surprisingly good – Heroes alluded to her being a one-note actress but with an edgy new haircut and attitude, she made a pretty cool character out of Jill’s friend, Kirby Reed. Alison Brie (Mad Men, Community) is frickin’ hilarious as Sidney’s bitchy, over-the-top publicist. Rory Culkin and Canadian Erik Knudsen play film club students Charlie Walker and Robbie Mercer – the film geek role that originally belonged to Jamie Kennedy as Randy. Robbie films campus life live, streaming directly online via his helmet cam, and along with some other social media references sprinkled throughout, they attempt to make the film relevant – Ghostface App anyone? Out of all the characters however, I found Sidney kind of disappointing. Her character really lacked the strength of the previous installments and she seems neither that surprised nor too pissed off that Ghostface is after her again, and it feels as though Sidney is just going through the same old “fight-off-the-killer-in-the-cheap-costume” routine.
The film becomes a little disjointed in parts, succumbing to the very monster it mocks and unable to break out of its self aware mold. The narrative becomes lost amongst characters who try to explain their motives with all the rules and exceptions of sequels when really, there aren’t any, and no one seems to care anyway. The film zips along at a fun pace, with Ghostface popping up and killing with even more zeal and ferocity than ever before. When the killer is revealed in the end, it’s a bit far fetched but satisfying enough; it is a sequel after all. In the end, nothing will beat the first Scream, but this one definitely helps us forget about Scream 3.