By R. David
Published April 15, 2011
The first “Scream”, way back in 1996, was the only one worth a damn. I remember seeing it on opening weekend (upon which it made a measly 6 million bucks), before word of mouth spread and it became a pop culture phenomenon, and was so tickled by the way it turned the horror genre and all its conventions on its ear. It was a winking nod to horror film fans who were bored by horror movies. Then came two sequels that tried to play the same game and in the process fell victim to the very tired conventions they were trying to satirize.
Released after a probably-wise eleven-year hiatus, “Scream 4″ is the first “Scream” sequel that feels like a true extension of the original, rather than one that constantly tries to one-up it and loses all of its wit and originality in the bargain. After over a decade of peace and quite, the Ghostface killings begin again in the sleepy town of Woodsboro, just as Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is returning home for the last stop on her tour for her hit self-help book. She reconnects with Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette), now-retired reporter Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox), as well as her high-schooler niece (Emma Roberts) who, along with her close-knit group of friends, becomes Ghostface’s latest potential victim. Like its predecessors, “Scream 4″ is an exercise in irony and “meta”. I will admit the movie’s constant self-referencing is overdone, and the film adheres so closely to lineage of the original that if it weren’t for bringing back many of the original characters, “Scream 4″ would be described more as a reboot than a sequel. But then again, that fine line of distinction is something the characters in “Scream 4″ also reference, so perhaps the definitional duality is intentional on the part of the filmmakers. Occasionally the film overplays its hand with some too-jokey lines and kills (at least two moments would be more at home in “Scary Movie” – another franchise where the first film was the only fearless and original one of the bunch – than in any horror film, even one that straddles comedy lines as the “Scream” films always have), but for the most part, “Scream 4″ is refreshingly back-to-basics.
Maybe its just because its been eleven years and I’m not as “Scream”-ed out as I was back in 2000 after the third film left such a bad taste in my mouth that it still hasn’t gone away (I was going to watch it again before seeing this new one, but couldn’t muster any interest in doing so). Everything here is scaled back to where it all began, and the only place it was ever any good.
3 stars out of 4