Directed by the wicked wizard of self referential horror himself, Wes Craven, and written by Kevin Williamson the original author of the first two films, Scream 4 (or Scre4m as its so stylistically misspelt on all the posters) is back 11 years after the last instalment for a whole new generation to enjoy.
It is the fifteenth anniversary of the Woodsboro massacre, and as the general population of the small town try to forget the past and move on, someone has once again donned the Ghostface mask and brutally butchered two high school girls to make sure that no one will ever forget.
Trying to turn her horrific experience into a positive example of empowerment, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has also come back to her home town to promote her new book about surviving her three run-ins with death. However as Ghostface starts stalking and calling her and her family, including her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), Sidney soon realises the events of her tormented teens are being repeated all over again.
With the body count rising, the town descending into panic and the high school population using the psychopathic killers rampage as an excuse to host a drunken Stab movie marathon, it is left to the people with the most experience with the killings to stop them. Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and his wife Gale Weathers-Riley (Courteney Cox) are back, trying to find out who is committing the attacks and why.
What does the new Ghostface want with Sidney’s cousin and her friends? And why do the killings seem so familiar to everyone? Most important of all is the question ‘if this is a reboot of the murders, can the original characters survive?’ as with a new generation comes new rules, and as we all know these days anything can happen in horror.
The original Scream came out in 1996 and blew away everything that had happened before. Craven had toyed with the ideas of self reference and meta movie making in the underrated Nightmare on Elm Street 7 or A New Nightmare as it was known: two years earlier where the original actors from the first film playing themselves are haunted by Freddy’s evil sprit. But it wasn’t till Scream that his ideas caught on and entered the mainstream.
Scream’s success was thanks to a combination of Craven’s excellent direction and encyclopaedic knowledge of horror coupled with Kevin Williamson’s clever, funny and truly terrifying script all of which when blended with a brilliant cast, an iconic killer costume and possibly one of the best openings scenes in horror history; Drew Barrymore gets a phone call that no one could forget, making the movie a box office smash and rewriting how slasher movies where made from that point on.
But a decade after Scream 3’s conclusion, horror has moved on and with overseas movies making massive impacts and home grown horror heading more towards the explicit exploitative realms of torture porn. Could the duo that reinvented and revitalised the genre still make a movie that will scare and speak to the media obsessed and savvy modern audience?
The answer is a resounding, triumphant ‘yes’ because Scream 4 is brilliant. Giving the audience everything it has come to expect from the franchise and much more, the film balances jumps, scares, gore, humour, in-jokes and a heavy dose of intelligence added to a twenty-first century awareness’s with the same self referential stylisation that made the original trilogy so original.
The acting trio of Campbell, Cox and Arquette are excellent, fitting back into their roles as if they had never left them. And the familiar faces make you feel back in the world of Woodsboro and Ghostface. The new additions are equally good including Julia Roberts niece Emma Roberts, Heroes’ Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin, from Mean Creek and Signs, as the horror film nerd with a passion for the Stab films.
Entertaining, frightening with a great script that manages to include an intellectual edge and some satirical social comment without it overly affecting the bloody mayhem or the gripping story, Scream 4 is a brilliant addition to the Scream franchise.
If the rumours are true and this is the start of a new trilogy, then lets hope we don’t have to wait so long for episodes 5 and 6.