out of Five
Running time: 110
As fourquels go, Scream 4 is pretty decent, with strong performances, a knowing script and a superb final act, though it drags for long stretches in the middle and is never actually all that scary.
What's it all about?
Directed by Wes Craven and written by Scream writer Kevin Williamson, Scream 4 (or SCRE4M, as the posters would have it) opens with Ghostface once again killing the teenagers of Westboro in a rather brilliant cameo-heavy sequence. The reason for Ghostface's reappearance quickly becomes apparent, when Sidney Prescott (Neve
Campbell) returns to her home town on the last leg of her self-help book tour, where she quickly meets up with now-married fellow survivors Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox).
As well as coming after Sidney, Ghostface also seems to be targeting her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), so Jill holes up in a local house along with her best friend Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), stalkerish ex-boyfriend Trevor (Nico Tortorella) and two handily horror-film obsessed classmates (Rory Culkin and Erik Knudsen). Dewey, Gale and Sidney race to discover Ghostface's identity but as the body count piles up, it soon becomes clear that in the fourquel, no-one is safe ...
The performances are excellent, particularly new-gen scream queens Panettiere and Roberts, while there's strong comic support from Anthony Anderson and Adam Brody as a pair of dopey cops. In addition, Marley Shelton turns in an enjoyably weird performance as Dewey's devoted assistant deputy and Mad Men's Alison Brie is very amusing as Sidney's opportunistic publicist.
Williamson's knowing, witty script piles meta-reference upon meta-reference (even having a character make comments about Dewey/Arquette and Gale/Cox's marriage) and, like the previous movies, film-savvy characters endlessly dissect every moment in terms of the rules of horror movies and how the stakes have to be upped with serial sequels, reboots and the like.
The problem is that for all the talk of the stakes being upped, the stakes aren't actually upped that much at all: the death scenes lack imagination, while the pacing of the film drags considerably in the middle section when the characters are all in different places, and it's never really all that scary or suspenseful. That said, the film does eventually pick up and the third act is both entertaining and clever, while also working in a neat line of relevant social commentary.
Sharply written and superbly acted, Scream 4 is an enjoyable fourquel that won't disappoint fans of the franchise, though it's never quite as scary as it should have been.