Successfully reboots the self-aware franchise, but is that due to having almost ten years to think it up?
Welcome back to Woodsboro on the anniversary of the real-life murders that inspired the Stab movie series! Just back into town is Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) with a new book about rising above being a victim, but faster than you can ask “What’s your favorite scary movie?” a new murderer wearing the infamous “Ghostface” mask begins killing his way through the high school population. Dewey Riley (David Arquette) is now the sheriff charged with solving the new case while his wife of ten years, Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), sees it as an opportunity to write a new book herself. What does this new Ghostface want and how many bodies will it take to achieve it?
The creators of the original Scream trilogy have been busy. Director Wes Craven recently released the interestingly conceptualized but poorly executed My Soul to Keep while writer Kevin Williamson has been cranking out “The Vampire Diaries” for the CW network. Whether it was the collaboration, the time between films, or just the seed of the right idea, Scream 4 does what Scream 3 failed to do: further the franchise while keeping it fresh (like any good horror sequel should.) The killings are brutal, the body count significant, and the resolution satisfying. The opening scene is fun for fans while a bit bizarre for newcomers, but the ending does stretch on for a bit playing up to fans old and (hopefully) new. Too bad the new victims weren’t as interesting as the familiar returning characters, but someone has to die, right?
Speaking of the new kids, Hayden Panettiere (fresh off of “Heroes”) easily stands out from the group with a butch look and loads of confidence that make her seem unlikely to be a victim (and being a closet horror fan never hurts.) Many characters (including Mary McDonnell) barely have any screen time at all; some appear just long enough to say “I know Sydney Prescott!” just before suffering a horrible death. Fortunately, the central themes stem from a society obsessed with their fifteen minutes of fame in the YouTube generation, celebrities who’ve had fame grabbing for it again, or claiming fame by riding the coattails of others. Could the narcissism inherit to the acting community in a film full of fame-seeking characters be yet another intended level of meta (“a concept which is an abstraction from another concept,” for anyone about to look it up.)
Scream 4 accomplishes everything a sequel is supposed to as well as everything a reboot is supposed to, far better than, say, the Superman Returns reboot. Part of that credit must goes toward the fact that good horror films from the mainstream studios are getting to be scarce. Whether Ghostface (along with any of the film’s survivors) will return is, as always, in the hands of viewers willing to pony up for tickets. If not, however, this is certainly a better conclusion than where the previous installment left off.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)