Review – Scream 4
– by Jacqueline Ronson
Scream 4 is all about playing with your expectations. All the anticipated elements of a Scream flick are here: good-looking young people who are hassled by threatening phone calls and are subsequently butchered, self-referential jokes about horror cliches, and a surprise twist-within-a-surprise-twist ending. Perhaps what is most surprising, though, is that while staying remarkably true to the spirit of the Scream franchise, Scream 4 manages still to be unexpected, smart and funny.
Over a decade after the last series of mass killings in the otherwise sleepy town of Woodsboro, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to promote her new book, Out Of Darkness, about her refusal to accept the role of victim. As soon as she gets there it becomes clear that a new killer is on the loose. The latest of incarnation of Ghostface is targeting local teens, including Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), and appears to be following the pattern of the original murders.
The past three killing sprees surrounding Sidney are a matter of town legend in Woodsboro. In fact, a film series called Stab was made based on the murders, and the local teens try to out-geek each other with their knowledge of the films and of the actual events. Now that a killer is striking once again, the question becomes for the audience, the filmmakers and the characters themselves, how do you update the mass-murder script while still keeping people guessing? If, as the film suggests, the unexpected is the new cliche, what’s the new unexpected?
In addition to the rampant meta-humour, the characters of Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and his wife Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) make the movie. Dewey has graduated from his former role as deputy into a somewhat bumbling small town sheriff, trying to balance his duty to the law with his duty to his wife, all while fighting off the advances of the new deputy, Judy (Marley Shelton). Gale is a former journalist turned struggling fiction writer, bored with her marriage and small town living, who jumps at the chance to relive the excitement of hunting down a serial killer on the loose. The couple works sometimes together, often against each other, always to hilarious effect.
Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson pay due respect to Scream history while still presenting something fresh and new. The old characters fit with the new generation cast quite seamlessly, and the in-jokes are mostly explained within the film, so you don’t have to be a Scream geek to get it. Just like the killer in the film, Scream 4 lives up to the challenge of bringing a tired storyline back from the dead.