Wes Craven is to horror what McDonalds is to fast food: you know exactly what they do as soon as you hear the name. A Nightmare on Elm Street, Last House on The Left, The Hills Have Eyes and of course, the Scream franchise all spilled from his deranged mind. Unfortunately, so did the majority of many sequels and remakes that followed; Elm Street has no less than eight sequels (including the disappointing horror icon mashup Freddy vs. Jason) and both The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes have been the victim of modern day massacres. Now, he returns to what is arguably his cleverest creation and revives ‘Ghostface’ once more,whilst annoyingly attempting to remind us at every opportunity just how ‘culturally relevant’ the whole franchise is.
Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), rather naively I must say, returns to her hometown of Woodsboro following the 10 year anniversary of the famous Woodsboro Murders, to promote her new self help book. Here, Sidney’s younger cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) attends Sidneys notorious old high school and the towns sheriff is none other than Dewey Riley (David Arquette) who is now married to reporter turned memoir writer Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox). But that pesky ol’ Ghostface returns to spoil the festivities for Sidney, brutally slaughtering anyone and everyone that she gets close to. The trio must band together and overcome past memories to solve the mystery of who is behind the mask this time?
Anyone who’s seen the first Scream knows what it really was about: sure, there was a serial killer taking out the ditzy teenagers, but more importantly it poked fun at the slasher horror genre with sharp one liners and clever references to films that made horrors what they are today. Scream 2 focused on ‘sequels’ and Scream 3 just.. exists. The latest installment (also referred to as Scre4m, which when said as its written makes absolutely no sense at all) lampoons ‘reboots’, or at least tries to. From the opening scenes, it gets far too up itself with self-referencing, and doesn’t let up throughout. Ultimately, the constant assault on the viewer about older films in the franchise compromises any scares or humour that could arise: screenwriter Kevin Williamson becomes obsessed with his own knowledge of the series. Mainly portrayed through the fictional “Stab” films that are a prominent part of the narrative, almost everything has something to do with the original Scream from the character traits to the deaths. It wouldn’t bother me if it was a little more intelligent in its approach, but it’s about as subtle as a foghorn.
Whilst it’s good to see the original cast back together, Scream 4 seems is more of an excuse to do it, rather than a continuation of a beloved franchise; it’s like a group of old friends doing something they did years ago which was fun at the time, but just doesn’t have the same effect when returned to. Neve Campbell looks like your average “soccer mom”, making her a little unbelievable as the headstrong female. Whilst the years haven’t been kind to Cox, she manages to capture the persona of her original character from the first. Arquette reprises his usual, confused face self and makes us wonder how people manage to stay alive on a normal day with him as the pinnacle of local law enforcement. Relative newcomer Emma Roberts gives a mixed performance; for the most part, she’s passable but on occasion her acting goes into a “like, totally, OMG!” phase. For a horror, the cast contains a more well known cast than usually expected: Hayden Panettiere of Heroes fame and Rory Culkin (the little boy from Signs and Macaulay’s brother) make up an impressive supporting cast. There’s even cameos from Anna “True Blood” Paquin and Kristen “Veronica Mars” Bell.
Simply put, Scream 4 is scraping a barrel that hasn’t had any water in it for years. Lacking humour and scares, it’s missing the two vital ingredients that made the first so delicious.
New Decade, New Rules? More like Same sh*t, different decade.