When rumours of a fourth instalment in the Scream horror franchise first came about, Wes Craven reportedly scoffed ‘I won’t do another Scream film unless the script is as good as the original’. Cue an eleven year sojourn and the fruits of Kevin Williamson’s labour has yielded a ‘Scream-ake’ worthy of the 1996 box office hit.
Scream 4 sees Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returning to her hometown of Woodsboro, having recounted her ordeals in an award-winning book. On the night of her arrival however, it appears someone is intent on imposing their own twist on the infamous murders. Staying with her cousin, Jill (Emma Roberts), Sidney soon realises that the new Ghostface killer has plans to alienate her from her friends and family before coming after her. In a struggle to survive, whilst also trying to identify the killer with the help of her previous companions, Sidney is forced to use the lessons she has learnt from surviving Screams 1-3 – namely, trust no-one.
The main cast, having successfully survived, play out their roles as convincingly as ever with Campbell giving a very real sense of a victim who has realised that her survival has come at a cost – her only close relationships being those of her friends from the previous trilogy. Dewey (David Arquette) and Gail Riley (Courtney Cox) ably support, with Cox believably portraying the housewife who has sacrificed her prime-time career for life in the small town of Woodsboro with her Sheriff husband.
The new generation of students are the focus of the story, mirroring the original class of ’96. Within this group Emma Roberts shines, portraying the innocent victim with a tormented soul. Hayden Panettiere also fills out a strong performance and the balance of each character’s good-versus-evil leaves the final twists and turns all too open to predict.
Although some of the cameo appearances are quite lightweight, notably Marley Shelton as Deputy Judy Hicks and Alison Brie as Sidney’s publicist, the general cast more than capably bring the feature home. It is Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson, however, who have yet again excelled themselves as ambassadors of modern day horror.
One of the main reasons Scream gained iconic status was that it was more than a sassy slasher flick, it was a commentary on the conventions of the genre and the predictability that had become rife. Ironically it went on to spawn a spin-off genre and substandard copies that focused on human killers rather than the supernatural likes of Michael Myers and Freddie Krueger. By playing on these regurgitated conventions, Craven provides all the expected scenarios before avoiding having Ghostface appear at predictable intervals and finishes with a wholly unpredictable twist-filled finale.
Even though there are some cheesy one-liners, Scream 4 delivers a classy and well thought-out sequel, brilliantly crafted by Craven and Williamson and executed by a familiar cast which is well supported by the new generation.
Best scene: The opening scene, playing on all the plots of Screams 1-3 before going explicitly against them, sets Craven’s stall out for the rest of the film.
Best performance: Emma Roberts – More character depth than Loch Ness.
Best Ghostface line: ‘Hang up on me, I’ll cut through your neck until I reach bone.’
Best killing: Suffice it to say a knife through the skull will leave a massive headache.
Watch this if you liked: Scream