Directed by: Wes Craven
Premise: Picking up about a decade after the previous film, Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) the survivor of the series, returns to Woodsbro to promote a memoir and murders start up again.
What Works: The Scream series has been about the relationship between art, specifically slasher films, and daily life. In the first film that was more of a gimmick than a philosophical exploration but as the story went on in the second and third pictures, this relationship became more complex. Taken as a whole, the first three Scream films have an overarching structure to them that traces the complex relationship of life and art from the viewer’s living room to the Hollywood back lot. Scream 4 continues this theme and manages to do it justice. This new chapter has a terrific opening that sets up new themes, such as the recent trend of horror remakes and sequels, the proliferation digital technology and social media, and the rise of celebrity culture. As a continuation of the story, Scream 4 also manages to do a few interesting things with its returning cast. The performances by David Arquette and Courtney Cox are the best in the picture. The two characters have settled into married life and by catching up with them at this later date, Scream 4 is able to work with characters who are more mature and have some history to them, which is unique in contemporary filmmaking and especially in youth-dominated horror films.
What Doesn’t: Scream 4 is rather light on scares or cleverness. The horror elements of Scream 4, namely the stalking and killing, are all very familiar. The story of the first Scream was plotted very tightly and the murder mystery was compelling; those elements have gradually eroded away with each sequel and the latest film continues the trend. Also, the new Scream is lacking in its send up of pop culture. The film does not take advantage of the decade-worth of horror films that have been released since part three and the film’s address of celebrity culture is not as interesting because it has been done before and done better in horror movies such as Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon as well as comedies like Edtv.
Bottom Line: Scream 4 is a satisfying but ultimately average horror film. It manages a few thrills and some of the acerbic social commentary of the previous films but it does not shake up the genre or the audience the way the original did.
Episode: #336 (April 24, 2011)