It’s a sign just how bad that the 90s were for horror that the Scream films are considered by many to be among the best horror films that the decade had to offer. When they first came out I was right in the target demographic for the films and I, along with my friends, loved going to see them in packed cinemas so we could laugh and jump along with the rest, and groan when the killer was revealed. If there is one thing I have learned over the past couple of weeks, it’s that nostalgia can be a bitch. I was wary of this film and approached with caution.
Scream 4 picks up some twelve years or so after Scream 3. We find whiney Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has now become a self help author and is on a tour to promote her latest book. The tour takes her to her hometown of Woodsboro where she again meets up with dopey Dewey (David Arquette) now a sheriff and his wife and former reporter Gail (Courtney Cox) who is suffering from writers block. Whilst on the tour Sidney stays with her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her auntie. It’s not long before Sidney’s presence back in the town brings out a killer who wears the ghostface mask and speaks on the phone like a sex pest. Sidney is worried about her family and Gail sees the chance to get back into reporting. The new batch of teenagers are picked off one by one all whilst commenting meta style on endless sequels, reboots and remakes.
A lot has happened since the first Scream was a surprise sleeper hit back in '97. Horror has come a long way. We have had the zombie resuscitation, torture porn, the hardcore un-ironic slasher and of course remakes galore. Looking back at the previous entries in the Scream series, the films seem positively quaint compared to what has happened since. The worst thing I can say about the previous films is that the commentary on the horror genre seemed a little smug, but the films themselves were great entertainment. For a little while writer Kevin Williamson became a household name between Scream and Dawson’s Creek, even though we all knew that no teenagers ever talked the way he wrote them. Surprisingly Williamson is apparently horrified at what Dimension films did with his script for Scream 4 and says that it doesn’t represent what he wrote initially, (an uncredited re-write was performed by Ehren Kruger). I have a feeling that this made by committee approach is probably the reason that Scream 4 isn’t quite as good as the first whilst being better than the second and third. The commentary on horror is here, the endless Saw sequels get a dig as do remakes and reboots. The script also finds the time to take in things like the nature of modern celebrity, blogging and social networking. The problem is all of the meta commentary feels very tacked on. It doesn’t feel organic as it should as part of the fabric of the film. Each time a character started talking and talking about the rules of a ‘rebootquel’ I rolled my eyes (apparently the only way to escape death now in a horror film is to be gay). What cut it in the 90s just isn’t good enough anymore I suppose. The irony here seems contrived as if it’s reaching desperately to be clever but not quite getting it. It’s like that friend everyone has who is super intelligent and could win instantly in a slanging match if he could actually articulate his thoughts into coherent speech.
Wes Craven seems to know he has a lot to live up to in terms of the way horror has gone recently so Scream 4 is packed with bloody violent death. It’s definitely the bloodiest of the four and this was quite surprising as previous entries have been quite tame. The film moves along at a rollicking good pace and there isn’t much time between slayings where smug teens can get all meta on the film. As with the previous films, there are red herrings galore and part of the fun is trying to guess who the killer actually is. All through the film I was certain it was one character, it just seemed too obvious though and then the rug is well and truly pulled for a reveal you won’t see coming that happens to be quite clever and relevant in this modern age.
Scream 4 is fun and entertaining it just doesn’t do anything new. The tagline reads ‘New Decade, New Rules’ but the small print reads ‘same old, same old’.
Scream 4 is out now on DVD/Blu-ray