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Scream 4
Genre Horror

Love or hate them – horror movies have become ingrained in popular culture to the point that spine-tingling one-liners like “Hi, I’m Chucky, wanna play?”, “Heeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!”,  “I see dead people.”,  “It’s alive! It’s alive!” and “They’re heee-re.” have become jokes. How else do you explain another Scream sequel?

Wes Craven, one of horror’s luminaries, has been there and done that with a collection of classic ’80s horrors to make your blood curdle. Ever heard of The Last House on the Left, A Nightmare on Elm Street or The Hills Have Eyes? All of the originals, his. The writer-director has continued to make audiences shriek well into the ’90s with the ever-popular Scream series, a tongue-in-cheek slasher that pokes fun at the genre, while dishing up the thrills.

Scream 4 continues the Wes Craven legacy, despite his last film – a dismal box office outing and generic horror release, My Soul to Take. The fourth Scream follows 10 years later, in which Sidney Prescott (Campbell) returns home to promote her new book, detailing her blood-spattered past and story of survival. The local legend is met by a sick reunion of sorts, in which the town’s folk are celebrating her fateful day as if it were Halloween – making it a perfect time for the Ghostface Killer to return.

The first Scream movie was a fresh, fun and thrilling slasher that invented its own sub-genre with enough references to satisfy horror movie buffs, good-looking teenagers and bloody thrills to wow disenchanted horror moviegoers. The series delivered more of the same in Scream 2 and then more of the same in Scream 3.

The more-of-the-same formula worked for parts 2 and 3, which, although less competent – never really overcame the crisp novelty of the original.  Scream 4 has taken the easy road with, you guessed it… more-of-the-same, although it’s a welcome return for most moviegoers who, until now, have had to endure a series of flimsy Scary Movie spoofs.

Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette and voice artist Roger Jackson all return for Scream 4. It just wouldn’t be Scream without the original survivors in Sidney Prescott, Gail Weathers, Dewey Riley or even the Ghostface Killer. It’s a 50/50 – where you could easily criticize Wes Craven for simply recycling the franchise or praise him for sticking to his guns.

The same town, the same story, the same characters… the only thing that ever really changes is the killer. This is where Scream 4 has gone wrong. Part of the fun in watching the series is trying to figure out who’s killing who, followed by a Ten Little Indians moment when someone isn’t quite dead or has to feign innocence to the police by going all Psycho on themselves.

*Possible Spoiler Alert* Scream 4 fails quite miserably in the killer casting department. Yes – we never would have guessed… but let’s just say we’ve got plenty of reason. The killer just isn’t convincing enough and their motivation is so feeble and unimaginative that you’ve got to wonder why they even decided to reboot the series? Come on, Wes… throw a friggin’ dagger in the works, give a regular the mask!

It is Scream’s dedication to formula that gives each film momentum while keeping it stagnant. The predictability may be a reassurance for jaded slasher fans, but a reboot calls for something different, and casting Heather Graham as Drew Barrymore in Stab doesn’t exactly set the screen alight. Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere and Marley Shelton may add some eye candy, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough to break the film’s feeling of familiarity and mediocrity.

Scream 4 is just what you were expecting… and you can’t really give it too much grief for being competent. The production values are good, the film geeks add a nice touch, there’s plenty of blood and the performances are consistent for the most part. All in all it’s nothing special, a dull surprise… one that’s entertaining enough to sit through and forgettable enough to blend into your hazy collection of classic Scream moments.

Scream 4′s not essential viewing, despite your need to complete the series by seeing the reboot. It may be slightly fresher than simply watching Scream again, but we’d suggest you take your own Ghostface Killer mask and black cape to spice things up for you and the people sitting next to you in the cinema.

The bottom line: Okay.


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