Scream 4 (Dimension Films, R)

Everyone else could just get stabbed, and it wouldn’t (and didn’t) make any difference to me.




I wish I were only writing a capsule review and not a full review for Scream 4; if I were it would be as follows: No fun, not scary. But since this is a full-length review, I guess I’ll do my best to explain why, despite the fact that the reasons are pretty much what you surely think they are.

Let me start by saying that I wanted to like Scream 4. I liked the first two Scream movies, and, while the third one sucked, the fourth one brings back original writer/mastermind Kevin Williamson. He penned the first two but skipped out on number three, which logically implies that this was the reason why it sucked. And even in the first few minutes of Scream 4, despite the fact that they’re not very good (and overloaded with arguments about how modern torture porn movies suck; it’s all a little too defensive for my taste), the formula feels new and fresh again after all these years. I was all ready for a good horror/comedy, only to soon find out that it isn’t fun and it isn’t scary, as stated before.

While our original three heroes, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) return here, Scream 4 is less their story than it is Jill Roberts’ (Emma Roberts) and her friends’. Jill is Sidney’s cousin and she and her friends are younger and fresher and hotter and make better horror movie cannon fodder than the old timers, so might as well shift the focus onto them, right? The catalyst, though, is that Sidney returns to Woodsboro, the town in which the original killings occurred, for the first time in years on a book signing—and wherever Sidney goes, ghostfaced, knife-wielding serial killers seem to follow. Since Sidney is older and doesn’t know enough locals for Ghostface to kill while she watches anymore, he goes after Jill’s clique of ridiculously good-looking high school girls and stereotypical-looking film nerds.

Where Scream 4 falls short is that on the whole you just don’t care what happens to anyone; none of the characters are terribly likeable this time around, except for Jill, whom Emma Roberts does a good job with. Everyone else could just get stabbed, and it wouldn’t (and didn’t) make any difference to me. Besides, the previously funny running commentary about the nature and structure of horror movies feels both tired and tacked on here—they basically just say that all of the rules are thrown out the window, and occasionally remind you of that, but never really subvert the genre the way the first two films successfully did. Meanwhile, the guy doing Ghostface’s supposedly threatening phone voice sucks, character motivations are more dubious than usual (and they’re usually terribly dubious), and Gale and Dewey are considerably less likeable than I remember them being (though Sidney holds up okay).

I’m sure that if Scream 4 does well, which it might (the advance hype seems pretty high), we’ll get a Scream 5, and to be honest, I kind of welcome it. It feels like time for another solid entry in the Scream franchise—too bad they missed their opportunity for it here. | Pete Timmermann


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