The gang’s all back together with some fresh blood for the fourth installment of the Scream franchise. So vets David Arquette, Courtney Cox, and Neve Campbell have Anthony Anderson, Alison Brie, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin, Marielle Jaffe, Erik Knudson, Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Marley Shelton and Nico Tortorella in the mix in the slasher/whodunnit franchise that helped bring horror back to the big screen. In the intervening years, there’s been entire ways of horror films, so the movie has to comment on that as well. Did they succeed? Find out more below…

The Players:

  • Director: Wes Craven
  • Writer: Kevin Williamson (uncredited on the film, but definitely involved: Erhen Kruger)
  • Stars: Anthony Anderson, David Arquette, Alison Brie, Adam Brody, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Rory Culkin, Marielle Jaffe, Erik Knudson, Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Marley Shelton and Nico Tortorella

The Plot:

Sidney Prescott (Campbell) heads back home to start her book tour just as a new wave of killings happen that involve someone pulling the same phone and stabbing stunts as before. This reinvigorates Gail Weathers (Cox), who’s been married to Sheriff Dewey (Arquette) and hasn’t been able to figure out what to write next. Sidney stays with her Aunt (Mary McDonald) and Niece Jill (Roberts), and it turns out it’s Jill and her classmates who are to be the next victims of the Ghostface Killer.

The Good:

  • The Film is aware of its current place: Ten years have past since the last Scream film, and there’s been all those remakes and J-Horror and Torture Porn horror films. The film does have fun acknowledging their presence and how they’ve changed horror films.
  • The Familiarity: Though it’s been ten years, it is nice to see these familiar faces and how they’ve changed, and when the film focuses on its well established leads it’s enjoyable as a reunion tour sort of film.
  • The Ending: No spoilers, but what the film builds to is probably the best part about it, as it does have something to say about horror and the modern world.
  • Alison Brie: As a TV star of both “Mad Men” and “Community”, Brie’s character gets to say the word “fuck” an awful lot, and for someone who usually plays naive and chipper, it’s nice to hear her cuss like a sailor.

The Mixed:

  • The Violence: Though there’s some problems with this, Wes Craven is not one to shy away from necessary brutality, and a number of the kills have a visceral impact. Knife violence tends to facilitate that. But then one of the death scenes is protracted to the point of both inevitability and banality (there’s no English on the ball, it’s straight down the middle), and one death is punctuated by a terrible joke.
  • The Opening: The film sets up some mechanics that allow for a playful jab at the film’s ongoing tradition of a pre-credit murder, and some of it hits and some of it misses. But it also goes on to the point that when the point is finally reached it creates (what seems to be) an unintentional schism. By that point it’s hard to care about the violence on screen.

The Bad:

  • Character Development: It’s hard not to be curious if the collapse of Cox and Arquette’s marriage made it too difficult to play with their character’s relationship, or if it would be too distracting for the audience. Regardless, none of the returning cast members have anything left to do or prove. The closest the film comes is to give Gail a sense of renewed purpose when there’s a new set of killers, but the older characters feel grafted on to another script. The new characters come across as red meat or red herrings. Since it’s hard to care about most of them because we know it’s a Scream movie, by the end it’s only the murder mystery that keeps the story moving.
  • Doing It For the Money: And to that there seems to be little reason to have a new entry, or if there was one it wasn’t compelling in regards to the old cast members. Craven seems to find his point and purpose in talking about the modern world, but it reminds of a number of four films (like Alien: Resurrection, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or Lethal Weapon 4) that may be as good or slightly better than the last film (which often ended on a sour note for some), but come across as reunion tours where the only point is to see characters you like doing it again.
  • Cell Phones: Seriously, you made the joke in the last two movies that people have caller ID. With the way the world, cell phones and the internet has progressed that the film uses phones as it does over the course of the movie is flat-out insulting.

Overall:

There is a perfunctory quality to the film, but it was self-evident for a fourth film coming out ten years after the fact. If you accept going in that this is more mercenary than artistic, there’s fun to be had in the constant name checking of other franchises, and the developments of horror over that decade, even if the film has some slow spots. While there are interesting characters in the first three movies, this feels washed out in comparison. Ultimately the first film didn’t need sequels, and where all three have their pluses and minuses, none deserve to be put in the same class as the first film. That’s just as true about this movie as the others.

Rating: 6/10

Scream 4 hits theaters April 15.

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