10 years on from Scream 3 and we find ourselves back in Woodsboro once more, and on the 15th anniversary of the first movie’s climax no less, well isn’t that all terribly convenient.
Since Drew Barrymore first anwered that phone Scream has been the smartest, slickest slasher around. Snappy dialogue, reverent parody and deconstruction of the genre have been its hallmarks. For the most part Scream 4 holds true to the values laid out in our “favourite scary movie”.
The fourth installment in the series (and first part of a proposed new trilogy) starts off with a marvellous little poke at itself and the recent trend in horror over the past few years. Like its predecessors, it’s all very knowing and as self-referential as we’ve come to expect from the franchise. Unfortunately, past the opening sequence, this self-awareness quickly becomes tired and overdone. Just because you talk about being meta does not make it so.
The returning characters (Sidney, Gail and Dewey) are a welcome sight and it’s interesting to see how each of their lives has continued out of the shadow of a Ghostface killer. Sidney is now a published author, Dewey is Sheriff of Woodsboro and Gail is relegated to being a bored housewife. This leaves room for a new generation of teen slaughter-fodder to take the stage. Among them we find Sidney’s cousin, two proto-Randys, a horror fanatic and a dead-ringer (see what we did there) for Billy Loomis. All of whom make up most of our suspect pool.
Unfortunately too much of the movie is spent either paying homage to the rest of the franchise or deconstructing modern horror to worry about developing their plot and characters. Some of the reason for this may be that if more time had been devoted to the plot, the killer would have been apparent quite early on. The fact that we as an audience don’t spend a lot of time with the characters means the denouement will blindside most viewers. While we can’t complain about that, the effect is achieved more through withholding information than clever concealment. That being said, the film’s climax is extremely satisfying and the payoff should have audiences on the edge of their seats.
Overall, the film is less a slasher than it is a commentary about the horror genre, and while it is that clever awareness that we look for from a Scream movie, it should not detract from the good old-fashioned slashy whodunit the audience crave(n)s. <- Pun
Smart and funny, but it won’t change your world. Recommended for people who like their horror old-school and shy away from the voyeuristic ick of torture porn.