The original Scream was a relevation for horror fans, and a pretty darn funny one at that. The two sequels that followed were okay, in my memory a complete blur, most probably because they were basically variations of the first film.
Hard to believe, but Scream 4 comes 11 years after the third film, which to me suggests ‘reboot’ or a ‘homage’ as opposed to genuine sequel. The core cast from the first three films are still alive and kicking — Neve Campbell returns as Sidney Prescott, and Courteney Cox and David Arquette return as Gale Weathers and Dewey Riley, respectively (now married, though in real life they are separated — must have been awkward). The fresh blood comes from the up-and-coming Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere, but there are also plenty of cameos, from Anna Paquin to Kristen Bell.
I must admit, given that this film was directed by the great Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson (who penned the screenplays of the first two in the series), I expected a lot more. The premise could not have been less uninspiring — Sidney Prescott returns to Woodsbro years after her brutal encounters as a part of her book tour. Of course, the ‘Ghostface’ killer returns and starts killing people all over the place, and there seems to be a pattern that matches the original killings. Who could it be? What horror film conventions will be adhered to or broken this time?
On the bright side, Scream 4 does contain some clever moments and witty remarks — the ‘film-in-a-film’ idea is not a novel one but I enjoyed the way it kick started the film, and the whole social networking/instant feed concept was intelligently mixed into the plot to give it a contemporary flavour. But on the whole, Scream 4 felt like absolutely nothing new. The people are older but that’s about it. If you’ve seen any of the first three films you’ll probably get a good dose of deja vu, except this time the jokes are more stale and the frights are less scary. The sharp edge of the original has dulled over time.
In fact, it would be a stretch to call Scream 4 a true horror film — it’s more comedy than anything else, except it’s not that funny; even as a parody it’s not particularly effective. It was like an old dog desperately trying to perform old tricks — very good tricks, but unfortunately we’ve seen it all before.
2 stars out of 5