The main problem with horror franchises today is that they all seem to out stay their welcome, flogging a dead horse as it were. The Saw franchise is the prime example, I completely lost interest by the fourth one. What the horror genre needs is a good kick up the backside, putting the fun back into it whilst also delivering on the scares, the gore and the inventiveness that is needed for a decent horror flick. Wes Craven did just that with Scream in the 90’s. And now he’s doing it again with Scream 4, a horror sequel that, for once, feels refreshingly welcome, even a good ten years since the last installment.
This time around, Sidney (Neve Campbell) returns home to Woodsboro on the anniversary of the first massacre, whilst also promoting her new self-help book Out of the Darkness. But the past has a funny way of catching up with her, as a new Ghostface killer (once again voiced by the franchises’ underrated hero, Roger Jackson) is once again terrorising the folks of Woodsboro, this time targeting not just Sidney, but her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her fresh-faced teenaged friends, including the likes of Hayden Paniterre, Erik Kundsen and Rory Culkin. It’s up to Sidney, her cousin and her friends, and the returning faces of Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) to find out who the killer is before the bodies mount up. Which they inevitably do.
In terms of continuing the franchise, there is plenty here to warrant the return of Wes Craven’s Scream franchise. The modern face lift, not just on Courteney Cox, gives the film a wave of fresh air whilst essentially staying familiar thanks to the return of the three original cast members. The hilarious and brilliantly self-referential opening of the movie perfectly demonstrates how Scream has been bought into this new decade, through iPhones, new horror franchises and new clichés. The rest of the film follows very much in the same vein, Kevin Williamson’s script is incredibly witty and tense (if just a tad funded by the Apple corporation), he clearly knows that horror films really shouldn’t take themselves too seriously. And due to this, the movie is so much more fun. The killings are fairly rudimentary, but a lot of them remain quite tense, with the jokes acting as a release to the surprisingly gory death scenes. There are certain highlights amongst the murders, particularly during a ‘Stab-a-thon’, which has some fun references to the previous Scream movies scattered around. Other than that, most of the killings, although tense, do not really surprise. But film does manage to successfully keep you guessing who the killer really is right until the final act, when the rug is literally pulled from under your feet. The final act is brilliantly conceived and conducted, so no matter whether you think the killings are not that inspired, the revelation should change your view on the movie completely. It’s incredibly satisfying and really puts you on the edge of your seat, itching to know what the outcome will eventually be and whether justice will actually be done. I’m not going to give any of it away as it really is a fun and surprising twist that more than sits up there with the original trilogy. New decade, new rules indeed.
I’m glad the decision was made to make this a sequel, rather than a dreaded reboot or a remake, as it is great to see Neve Campbell back on the big screen in a much more kick-ass role then the last time. Her performance and her character has matured greatly and it’s highly enjoyable following Sidney on another murder mystery. Arquette and Cox are less refreshing, as they both seem quite tired in their roles, but it’s great to have the characters back and seeing how they have evolved as a married couple, awkwardly mirroring the real life situation of the stars marriage. The best additions to the cast are the fresh meat, particularly Emma Roberts, Hayden Paniterre and Rory Culkin. Roberts is really growing as an actress, showing much more range and bringing so much to a role that could’ve just been written off as a new teen heroine. She is definitely a separate personality to that of Campbell’s Sidney. Paniterre is incredibly witty and energetic, again proving she can do a lot then what we’ve seen from her in the past. Culkin, as well, brings in a new modern element, being part of the pair that establishes the new rules. The fresh cast link very well with the returning faces, therefore the film does not feel like it’s bringing in new characters for the sake of it, or having the old characters there just for the sake of respecting the original trilogy. They all have their parts to play in this twisty roller-coaster ride of a movie.
Wes Craven certainly is a master of horror, having done the original trilogy and kicked off the iconic Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, for better and for worse. But he certainly knows his craft, making even the most insignificant scene ominous and atmospheric. Him and Williamson both know how to have fun with the genre, yet know that scares and jumps are what the audience are after. And Craven definitely knows how the rack up the tension and keep your attention right until that stunning twist. The pacing never lets up, due to Craven’s expertise with the genre. I certainly think that this is the strongest of the Scream sequels (that really is saying something), if only due to the twist. But also due to the fact that it does feel like it’s the freshest installment with the most to offer to develop the franchise, yet also managing to adapt to a new horror teenage audience, whilst making sure the old fans will not be disappointed. And I think they have successfully done that, bringing the Scream franchise well and truly into the 21st Century, and they’re more than welcome to it. Here’s to a Scream 5!