Scream 4 ***

Running time: 111 mins  Certificate: 15

Synopsis: Sidney (Campbell) returns to Woodsboro on the anniversary of the first batch of murders.  Now a successful writer, Sidney is back in town for a book signing, but it isn’t long before somebody dons the Ghostface outfit and starts their own killing spree.  Dewey (Arquette) has somehow become sheriff of Woodsboro, while his wife Gail (Cox) struggles with small-town life and writer’s block.  There’s a new batch of disposable teens in town too, including Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), and film geek Charlie (Rory Culkin).  


The best late night showing I ever went to was a raucous screening of ‘Scream 2’ back in 1998, so I have a strong feeling of nostalgia towards this franchise.  The horror genre has moved on since then, or rather it has regressed, becoming more gore-fixated and less interesting.  These days the Scream movies seem rather quaint in comparison to torture porn movies like ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel,’ which linger over every gaping open wound.  At least Ghostface made his point quickly; usually with a knife.  


Producers Dimension Films have been pushing for a fourth instalment for a while.  You get the feeling Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob made a lot of threatening phone calls to get all the main players back for ‘Scream 4,’ so unlike most belated sequels it does feel like a follow up to the earlier films.  Wes Craven once again directs; original screenwriter Kevin Williamson returns after skipping ‘Scream 3,’ composer Marco Beltrami’s music is vital to the franchise so it’s great to have him back, and Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox all reprise their respective roles.  


Sadly ‘Scream 4’ feels tired and closer to the lacklustre ‘Scream 3’ than the excellent first two films.  There were rumours of a troubled production schedule and the film certainly seems to have suffered.  There are moments during the third act that seem to hint towards a darker finale, but I’m guessing the filmmakers were prevented from carrying out their intentions by the money men.  It would have been a killer ending had they chosen to go down this path, but there are still hints of what might have been.


There’s plenty for fans to enjoy though.  Ghostface is still voiced by the irreplaceable Roger Jackson, and Craven’s direction still manages to wrong foot the audience at crucial moments.  You know the shock is coming, but not when.  It’s all in the editing, which is as sharp as the knife Ghostface wields.  The Meta commentary on the genre and the pop culture references are often funny, especially when they involve ‘Stab,’ the film within a film series based on the Woodsboro murders.  Having the once privacy obsessed Sidney sell out and turn her troubled life into a misery memoir is a nice touch.  If only Craven and Williamson had been free to wreak the kind of smart, funny, and playfully malevolent havoc both are capable of.  


Reviewed by Kevin Sturton

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