Directed by: Wes Craven
Starring: Never Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette
Rebooting a franchise with a third sequel roughly 11 years after the poor reception of its predecessor is a pretty rare occurrence. Sure, remakes abound have almost irreparably tarnished the public’s stance on the contemporary horror film, yet with Scream 4, both Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson had the chance to rekindle what made the franchise so appealing from the get-go, using self-mockery spliced with equal parts gore and an always effective sense of humor in an attempt to breathe new life into an admittedly stale formula. Thankfully, the reimplementation of said elements has managed to transform this “fourquel” into something fans of the films have been waiting for, providing the notion of an 11-year hiatus isn’t as off-putting as some may think.
An ever-present sense of self-awareness has always been a huge part of the first two Scream films, using certain characters as a means of exposing all of the tried and true horror movie cliches for the supposed benefit of their closest friends. This characteristic has always carried with it an appreciable if humorous air of intelligence that’s given the earlier entries, excluding the third, a certain special something that’s allowed an otherwise straightforward slasher movie formula to shine where others simply can’t due to their apprehension toward straying from convention. Scream 4, once again, isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself, illustrating any and everything that’s gone horribly awry within the horror genre during a mostly ingenious opening scene, however this characteristic does grow tiresome as the film enters its latter act.
Intelligent as it is, and despite its best intentions in outlining a new set of “rules” for a new generation of teens coping with the return of Ghostface himself, Scream 4‘s self-referential wisecracks begin to outstay their welcome, considering it more or less assumes we as viewers lack the mental capacity to retain the information already bestowed upon us. This is mostly forgivable on the basis of the film’s constant ability to entertain, whether it’s through creative kills complete with gore galore or a glaring penchant for both intentional and unintentional jabs at hilarity.
Most of why Scream 4 still stands tall given its obvious shortcomings is because of the talents of a mostly able-bodied cast. Considering the almost absurd amount of talent on display, it’s nearly impossible to single out one performance in particular that carries the proverbial torch through to the film’s gratifying, hilariously (and intentionally) over-the-top conclusion. Try as she may, Neve Campbell doesn’t really improve upon the proceedings as much as she should, allowing her character Sydney to willingly take a back seat to the younger crowd that impresses throughout. Rory Culkin, Hayden Panettiere and, of course, Emma Roberts all spice things up considerably, putting on display their obvious talent regardless of the campy energy they sport here and there in an attempt to maintain the gleefully terrifying tone established during the film’s opening moments.
Considering I was always more a fan of the idea behind the Scream films than the actual films themselves, I walked away pleasantly surprised by what I’d just seen regardless of an ungodly time lapse between sequels. Aside from doing the unthinkable and establishing itself as an effective horror film in the year 2011, the franchise manages to put its age aside in favor of sporting a fantastic aura of intelligence and self-awareness that once again adds levity and appeal to the traditional slasher movie formula. Sure, Scream 4 is certainly not for everyone, especially those who are bound to overlook what it does right (casting choices included) yet it’s hard to deny that this fourth entry in the franchise isn’t the best one to date if not a close second to the film that started it all.