- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © Dimension Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
elcome to the old school, better than the new school. Some might scoff at the resurrection of yet another franchise, but “Scream 4” couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s clever, funny, and has characters you actually give a damn about (as opposed to, say, the characters in the “Saw” movies, which were just hunks of meat). It’s not perfect, but it’s good, scary fun, a fourth installment that any franchise would be proud to call its own.
Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to her hometown of Woodsboro to promote her book about overcoming the events that took place in the first three “Scream” movies. As luck would have it, old Ghostface reappears at the exact same time, and he has targeted the friends of Sidney’s distant cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) as his next victims. Dewey Riley (David Arquette), who’s now the sheriff, tries his best to keep Sidney safe, while his wife, former reporter Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox), sees the new killings as an opportunity to overcome her severe case of writer’s block and get back in the game.
Technology has advanced exponentially since the first “Scream” debuted in 1996, so screenwriter Kevin Williamson was wise to acknowledge these changes up front, since the old rules of calling someone anonymously no longer apply. Texting, Facebook stalkers, mobile apps, webcams, they’re all here, and Williamson uses them wisely. He also does not miss the opportunity to rant – through his characters, of course – about the “Saw” series and its lack of character development. (He has a point.) Best of all, the finale is a stinging, overdue indictment of the faux celebrity/fame whore aspect of pop culture. Actually, there is one thing about “Scream 4” that’s even better: the killings are efficient, not flashy. No elaborate setups – just knives in vital organs, and buckets of blood. They do wallow in one cliché that needs to die, though; knives do not make a ‘shing!’ sound when someone lifts one in the air.
The movie is not without its flaws, though. Williamson protests a little too much about his script’s self-awareness, and dishes out enough red herrings to fill a fish market. (Seriously, did everyone really need to be a suspect?) One victim suffers a stab wound that would have made his (ridiculous) final words impossible, and Williamson leans heavily on the ‘no parents in horror movies’ device in order to account for half of the deaths. It’s well acted, though, with Roberts and Hayden Panettiere shining the brightest as new victim Jill and her saucy friend Kirby. And the opening scene is a nifty, star-studded take on the original. Don’t let anyone spoil it for you.
What’s most refreshing about “Scream 4” is that it doesn’t lend itself to a sequel. There will surely be one, but there is no obvious next step. They were more concerned that they got this one right, and they’ll worry about future installments later. Hallelujah.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
It's the rarest of things these days, but Weinstein actually put bonus features (yes, plural) on a DVD, and good ones, too. There are several deleted and extended scenes, one of which addresses our complaint about absentee parents. There is a fun making-of featurette, an even more fun gag reel (all horror movies should have gag reels), and a highly entertaining audio commentary with Wes Craven, Emma Roberts and Hayden Panetierre. It didn't make much during its theatrical run, but with any luck, its luck will change as it his video.