Sidney returns to Woodsboro and assorted teens return to dying gorily in Scream 4, a remember-the-1990s sequel to the trilogy that ended in 2000.
After the traditional gruesome-murder-opening-sequence (meta-ed out to the third power), we return to Woodsboro, now the home of teens who have no memories of the earlier grisly murders and use the anniversary as an excuse to hold a Stabathon (the movies-within-a-movie based on the Woodsboro murders) and pull pranks, much to the dismay of Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette), husband of the former Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), now Gale Riley. Having run through the entirety of the Woodsboro murder stories as book fodder, she is left to write fiction books and is having some serious writer’s block. The same can not be said for Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the “star” of the murders all those years ago. She is now on a book tour for a memior about her horrible past and, wouldn’t you know it, the next stop on her tour is Woodsboro, just in time for the anniversary.
While in town, she’ll be staying with Kate (Mary McDonnell), her aunt, and Jill (Emma Roberts), her teenage cousin. Cue the victims. They include Jill’s many friends and acquaintances — Charlie (Rory Culkin), Trevor (Nico Tortorella), Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and Olivia (Marielle Jaffe). Two girls at the local high school are found dead and then others are murdered in horrible slashy ways. With each murder, the killer, using the same phone voice and “What’s your favorite scary movie” shtick and ghostface mask, gets closer to Sidney and more people are added to the suspect list.
Well, sometimes people are taken off the suspect list. Usually because they’ve just been stabbed in the chest.
I can’t tell if I actually sort of liked Scream 4 or if I simply had a nostalgia-dipped fondness for it. The story of the murders and its resolution is at best shrug-worthy and at worst stupid. I didn’t care one bit about most of the “new” characters — though Panettiere’s tough-girl Kirby is fun — and watching them be killed was mostly a non-event. But as usual, the smirky bits of commentary on horror movies and how they’ve changed — how, really, Scream changed them — are silly fun. Moments like the deputy named Anthony Perkins or comments about how Facebook is passé — a modern stalker would do it by Twitter — are cute if not actually clever.
I did find myself caring about the trio of originals — Campbell, Cox and Arquette. Or maybe “care” is too strong a word — I found myself willing to keep track of their story lines, might be a better way to put it.
None of this adds up to electrifying horror movie. Scream 4 isn’t for a single second scary. It gave away all its tricks a long time ago. But that doesn’t mean fans of the original movies can’t enjoy this for the kitschy reunion show it is. C+
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some teen drinking. Directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, Scream 4 is an hour and 43 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Dimension Films.