Directed by Wes Craven
Written by Kevin Williamson
In 1996 Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson took the horror genre and completely deconstructed it, creating the meta classic slasher film Scream. Now 15 years have passed, two sequels have been spawned, and Scream 4 has hit theaters, promising original slasher action to a whole new generation equipped with all new technology, most notably social networking, which is brought up early in the film, yet never really utilized as promised.
What worked so brilliantly in the original Scream film was that it was completely self aware. The characters in the film had knowledge of horror films and the unwritten rules of the genre. What was so fresh was that the characters knew the killers were recreating a horror movie. Their reality was the movie the audience was watching, and as such it followed all the rules. And as the series went on, the rules got thinner and thinner.
So now with Scream 4 director Wes Craven goes even further, featuring a film within a film within a film. It sounds confusing, but quickly we are transported back to Woodsboro, home of the original bloodbath in 1996. This time the hero, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), is back in town promoting her new book. So when a new string of murders begins upon her return, Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and his wife Gale (Courtney Cox) join the fray and try to run down the murderer before anyone else gets it.
Like the three films before it, Scream 4 is a good thriller film full of blood, gore, and glorious self awareness and deconstruction. Craven and Williamson, however, seem to revel almost too much in their genius of 15 years previous, creating a film that is much more over the top and cheesy than any of the other films in the series. The film features the same tricks that worked before: great suspense and tension aided by nifty camerawork as well as a chilly music score.
What does set Scream 4 apart from the previous 3 in the series is its story. The previous 3 films all had an original plot with original new characters in addition to the three main stars (Campbell, Cox, Arquette). But this time the audience is handed a remake of sorts, or as the characters in the film called it, a “screamake”, which, by rule, must up the ante on the original to set it apart. This time Sidney’s younger cousin (Emma Roberts) and her friends (Hayden Panetierre, Rory Culkin) replace Sidney and her high school friends from the first film. You have the best friend, the ex-boyfriend, and even the movie buff. As always, Craven gives ample reason for the audience to suspect just about any of the characters, Sidney included.
Where the film falls short is in its presentation of the characters. It comes off much more cartoonish than the others in the series and as such the stakes of the film feel lessened. The film also seems to drag, being prolonged by further twists. But Scream 4 does enough to make it a unique, worthy entry into the famous horror series. Like the other films, it is a fun joyride. It is a puzzle for the audience and the tension is built and sustained throughout the film, even if it is a tad bit too meta for its own good.