Genre: Suspense/Thriller Director: Wes Craven Cast: Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory
Culkin, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Adam
Brody, Marley Shelton, Erik Knudsen, Brian Cox, Simon Gruber,
Bianca Cutrona, Nico Tortorella, Alison Brie, Lucy Hale, Mary
McDonnell, Anthony Anderson RunTime: 1 hr 47 mins Released By: GV Rating: NC-16 (Violence and Coarse Language) Official Website:http://www.scream-4.com/
Opening Day: 15 April 2011
Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), now the author of
a self-help book, returns home to Woodsboro on the last stop
of her book tour. There she reconnects with Sheriff Dewey
(David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox), who are now married,
as well as her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her Aunt Kate
(Mary McDonnell). Unfortunately Sidney's appearance also brings
about the return of Ghostface, putting Sidney, Gale, and Dewey,
along with Jill, her friends, and the whole town of Woodsboro
Eleven years is a long time to wait for a sequel, but in the case of the “Scream” quadrology, the wait has proven to be more than worth it. The years since the slightly underwhelming “Scream 3” have given the original creators- director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson- fresh fodder for another distinctive entry in the franchise, and it shows amply right from the film’s diabolically funny beginning.
Besides being an intriguing whodunit, part of the fun of the “Scream” series was its self-referential cleverness, and “Scream 4” is no different. It begins with two teenage girls (Lucy Hale and Shenae Grimes) choosing which horror movie to watch for the night- among them “Saw 4”, which one of the girls mocks for having ‘no character development’- before receiving a phone call asking them about their favourite scary movie and promising to slice them up before the end of the night.
But surprise, surprise- before this sequence ends, we learn that these girls are no more than mere fictive characters in “Stab 6”, the slasher series in the “Scream” universe based on the Woodsboro killings; and watched by another pair of girls (Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell) in “Stab 7” who discuss if the “Stab” series should be updated by way of Facebook or Twitter. And who’s watching “Stab 7”? Well, a third pair (Aimee Teegarden and Brittany Robertson), this time from the supposedly real world of Woodsboro, whose deaths mark the return of Ghostface.
Delivered with the right amount of shocks and giggles, these multiple false openings are just the start of a movie which shows both Williamson and Craven at the top of their game. Both are acutely aware of how quickly things have changed within the last decade, especially how social media and technology would have since changed the rules of the stalking game that they had once so cleverly turned on its head in the original “Scream” (remember that Drew Barrymore opening?).
And so amidst countless other slasher sequels that have come along since the last “Scream”, Williamson and Craven ensure that each one of the killings here remain as sharp, fresh and thrilling as ever in this era of iPhones, caller IDs, weblogs and live streaming. Indeed, two of the most suspenseful moments in the film are thanks to the latter- first, when our favourite goofily charming sheriff Dewey watches a live feed of Ghostface appearing right behind his wife Gale; and second, when one of a pair of high school nerds (Rory Culkin and Erik Knudsen) gets his strapped-on camera turned 180-degrees to film what’s behind him.
These last two characters are part of a new group of young nubile teens which Williamson introduces as fresh blood to spill, including Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her two BFFs, Olivia (Marielle Jaffe) and Kirby (Hayden Panettiere)- of course, no “Scream” is complete with the original survivors, Dewey, Gale and Sidney Prescott who returns to Woodsboro to promote her new self-help book a decade after the last Ghostface murders. Each one of the new characters is a suspect until they get killed, and let us reassure you that the final reveal at the end of Williamson’s teasing packs a wallop by not only taking the “Scream” series in a whole new direction (moving away from the connections to Sidney’s mother which formed the backbone of the first three movies), but also by doing so in an intelligently vicious manner.
Nevertheless, the challenge of balancing screen time between the new and the old characters means that there are less opportunities for the previous generation of “Scream” fans to catch up with Dewey, Gale and even Sidney, whose roles are much less defined than in the earlier films. Still, what the film lacks in character, Craven makes up for it with a much tighter and brisker pace filled with plenty of tense and frightening moments- his d.p. since “Scream 2” Peter Deming once again using well-crafted shots to generate suspense. Though his latest films have been lacklustre, “Scream 4” shows a rejuvenated Craven that recalls the best of the horror master’s career.
Craven’s reboot of the “Scream” trilogy would not be possible without Williamson, whose meta humour cuts just as keenly as Craven’s deftly-executed kills. One can imagine Williamson speaking through the two high school horror film geeks in the film as they go on about the rules of remakes and reboots, and Williamson’s self-awareness of the genre’s makings ultimately makes this smarter and more incisive than the average slasher flick.
The first rule of remakes? “Never f**k with the original,” says one of the characters in the film. Nicely said, superbly done.
(As devilishly funny and viciously thrilling as the very first “Scream”, this fourth chapter proves that horror reboots can be as good as the original)
Review by Gabriel Chong