Writer: Kevin Williamson
Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Alison Brie, Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody
Studio: Dimension Films
Like most people in their late twenties reading this review, the SCREAM franchise was a staple of my teen angst years. The first film was filled with terrifying goodness, which opened the floodgates of copycat scripts and features (most notably URBAN LEGEND and I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER) for years to come. What was so enthralling about the SCREAM films was watching director Wes Craven try new things, poke fun at his past mistakes, and create admirable cinematic horror.
Eleven years later, we’re given a much anticipated follow-up, SCREAM 4 (known mostly as SCRE4M) which, I’m very sad to report, is lazy, hollow, and a disappointing attempt at rebooting the popular franchise.
The SCREAM series is entirely built on trying to kill Sidney Prescott; within it, a desire to end Sidney Prescott’s life is normal, but now it’s been eleven years since that last happened. Sid (Neve Campbell) has come out of hiding and is on a book tour, signing autographs and reading snippets from her self-help book. She returns to her hometown of Woodsboro, where the chaos and murders first took place on said tour, and it just so happens that she has returned on the 15th anniversary of when the murders first took place.
Almost everyone makes it clear they do not want to be around Sid, because, well, it’s like “being on Top Chef with Jeffrey Dahmer.” So many surrounding her who she loved and trusted have fallen victim to Ghostface’s love of both horror trivia and the knife. Unfortunately for Sid, who has seemingly lived without fear for eleven years, her return has resurrected Ghostface, who once again will try his (or her) hand at putting her six feet under. There’s a lot more things I could and want to discuss with the synopsis, but being a huge SCREAM fan, I will stop there, as surprises and cameos are only fun when you’re not expecting them.
Screenwriter and creator Kevin Williamson (who wrote the first two SCREAMs) has returned (with unspecified touchups by SCREAM 3 writer, Ehren Kruger), director Wes Craven has returned, and the survivors from the original three (Sid, Dewey Riley, and Gale Weathers) have all returned - so where does this film go wrong? The first thing SCRE4M gives us is violence. SCRE4M is extremely violent. Some of the kills are great and will be remembered quite clearly within this franchise. The problem here is that so many victims get knifed so fast, and the thing that made the previous SCREAMs so much fun - the “whodunit” - is quickly, pardon me, killed off.
In SCRE4M, seven STAB features have been made, horror reboots are the butt of almost all the jokes, and everything is still meta. Since time has passed, Ghostface is now using new social technology and networking, such as iPhone apps and Facebook, to confuse and get his victims. We’re told via the poster “New Decade. New Rules.” Our new killer appears much angrier, and as the president and vice-president of Woodsboro High’s Cinema Club go over the new rules, the first and most applied is this: the kills are way more extreme. Some could argue the violence distracts from everything else in the film, but in order to follow this rule, the violence is a necessity.
Everybody is still a suspect and everybody is still a victim, but narrowing down our Ghostface has become easier than ever. Maybe it was me going crazy over trying to guess who the killer (or killers) was this time around, but I didn’t have much problem once the more questionable victims were taking out of the equation early in the film. One last nitpick to add about original players returning - SCREAM 1, 2, and 3 composer Marco Beltrami is back. Now, I’m no Allison Loring, but I can tell when captivating music that once literally put me on the edge of my seat has been gutted. SCRE4M’s music is just…bad and goofy.
Like the previous SCREAMS, all of our victims are put through the wringer. Everyone knows the original rules to succesfully surviving a horror film, but nobody pays any mind to them when in suspicious situations. This, I like - it separates reality from fiction and asks the question, “what would you really do when put in said situation?
The SCREAM series is notorious for being silly, all while still being scary - Craven and his team of writers knew how to mesh and separate the scares with the silly. SCRE4M just slices the scares in half, dumping out comedy as its guts. Maybe this is the intention from Craven and Williamson, I’m not to say, but I don’t like it. Not one bit. SCREAM 1, 2, and 3 were a fun journey - SCRE4M has lost that edge.