Note: This review was originally published earlier this week.
The Scream series has always been a great, commercial representation for our love of cinema. They’re the rare movies that said, “If you are a fan of movies, this is for you” and actually found success. The problem with that, however, was as the films got more and more self-aware, character and storyline took more and more of a back seat. There in lies the problem with Scream 4. It tries so hard to be smarter, funnier, gorier and scarier than all of its predecessors that it often misses the mark. When it hits the mark, it hits it hard and in a near totally redeeming manner, but it’s impossible to totally redeem a lazy narrative structure that’s almost devoid of scares. Fans of the franchise will find plenty to enjoy, but others might find themselves frustrated.
Read more of this NON-SPOILER review after the jump.
It’s been about a decade since the end of Scream 3 and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is returning to Woodsboro for the first time in a long time. The newly minted author is doing so to attend a her book signing which, of course, just happens to coincide with the anniversary (doesn’t it always?) of the original killings. She’s reunited with Dewey (David Arquette) and Gail (Courteney Cox) as well as her last remaining family – her aunt (Mary McDonnell) and cousin Jill (Emma Roberts). Also back for the 10 year reunion is Ghostface. After the trademark pre-credits murder, a lot of time is spent resetting all of the pieces, explaining who is who and how they relate to each other. This is most certainly a reboot.
Once the characters are set, though, the film shoots off into the dark, moving from place to place and location to location for almost no reason. Characters simply ignore the fact that there’s a killer on the loose and do, say and go anywhere they please. It’s as if there’s no subtlety to anyone or anything in the entire movie. And because this is the fourth Scream, these actions all escalate very quickly. The kills are bigger, the movie references more obvious and the characters less believable. This results in a lot of really cool scenes, but when every action lacks tact, it makes being scary almost impossible. It’s as if screenwriter Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven were so obsessed with the whodunit aspect and gushing blood, they forgot this was a horror movie and supposed to be scary.
The actual point of Scream 4 isn’t to scare us, though. It’s not even to find out who the killer is. The real point of the movie is to show how technology has changed the way we live, communicate and watch movies. There are references to Twitter, everyone has an iPhone, uses apps, texts, streams video, all of that good stuff. Plus there’s a lengthy discussion about how reboots totally change the rules. That’s true to an extent, and actually quite enticing but, like the technology theme, it’s never fully developed or explored. The ideas are sort of peppered on top; said and not shown.
Being as it had to breath life into a franchise that had been dormant for over decade, Scream 4 is an incredibly valiant effort. The whole series was born to flip a genre on its head and this film certainly succeeds in both reinventing the franchise and introducing a slew of new ideas to the already well-known story. It just should have concentrated more on that instead of all its excess. The excess is undoubtedly fun, especially if you’ve enjoyed the other films in the franchise, but it doesn’t quite cover up all of the problems.
/Film Rating: 6.5/10