After 11 years, Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson have returned to resurrect the Scream franchise and once again bring horror to the mainstream; proof of this just has to be seen by the rowdy teenage audience it seems to attract. With the original trilogy ending on a slightly dud note, Scream 4 changes the tone of the movie into one of more outright, daft comedy.
It’s the tenth anniversary since the last Woodsboro massacre when Sidney Prescott returns to her hometown ready to enter a fear-free world whilst promoting her new novel Out of Darkness. However, it was never going to run that smoothly. Along comes Ghostface to interrupt the proceedings with his trusty knife, once again wrecking havoc in the area. So begins the spree of killings and the search for the murderer behind the mask, with plenty of twists and red herrings along the way. If you’ve seen a Scream movie before, you should know the formula.
A fresh new cast has been added alongside the golden oldies consisting mostly of actors that should be familiar to the average TV watching teen, including Emma Roberts, Adam Brody and Hayden Panettiere. However, although the acting is not bad, there is barely any character development within the new cast, meaning that we don’t particularly care when they die. This lack of development or back-story also means that the eventual motive seems tacked on, whilst it could have been an interesting idea if developed further earlier on. However, I was genuinely not expecting the twists and revelations towards the end, even if they were slightly recycled from previous Scream films.
But you can’t update an old formula and make it relevant just be mentioning Facebook and iPhone apps. A new technological element concerning a digital fame is introduced, however it is never taken far enough to be relevant to the story. The film also tries to push boundaries by upping the gore content, so much so that my hemaphobic friend had to take an unexpected trip to the toilet during a particularly intestine-y scene (I’m not sure what he thought the film was about). However this also happens to be one of the cleverest deaths, employing windows effectively for a voyeuristic aspect.
While Scream has always had a witty, self-referential edge, Scream 4 takes it to the extreme. This is most clearly seen in the clever opening, which plays with the movie-within-a-movie Stab franchise. Whilst criticising the present state of horror by setting itself aside from movies involving ‘aliens or zombies or little Asian ghost girls’ it also slams the very post-modern metafiction that it is based on. The film is perhaps the funniest of the franchise; however, the merging of humour and horror means many of the deaths raise more laughs than screams. A certain scene with Emma Roberts flinging herself around a living room seemed much more like something out of Scary Movie and got more laughs than the rest of the movie. Scream 4 is also going to make a lot more sense if you’ve seen the rest of the movies, as it relies heavily on material from the previous films, even recreating scenarios such as the iconic patio opening of the first movie. While this is fun and nostalgic for Scream fans, the reliance on cliques and the rehashing of scenes from previous movies verges on feeling lazy rather than ironic.
Whilst Scream 4 swaps subtle wit for some more outright slapstick, it’s still an entertaining movie and a must for Scream fans to watch and reminisce about the golden days of the franchise. Just don’t go expecting anything too deep or thought-provoking.