Synopsis: Sidney Prescott, now the author of a self-help book, returns home to Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. There she reconnects with Sheriff Dewey and Gale, who are now married, as well as her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her Aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell). Unfortunately Sidneyâs appearance also brings about the return of Ghostface, putting Sidney, Gale, and Dewey, along with Jill, her friends, and the whole town of Woodsboro in danger.
Release Date: April 15, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Why make a new Scream movie after a ten year hiatus? Well, why not? The original Scream movies established a pattern of self-conscious construction: the original, the sequel, and the remake. Scream 4 makes us aware, via character commentary, that it’s the franchise reboot. Luckily, the new installment is completely aware of its own triviality and instead of a desperate attempt to launch a new spat of Scream movies, the film seems more interested in revisiting the bloody, goofy, and darkly satirical spirit of Wes Craven’s iconic Ghostface killer.
The plot is thin and simple and mostly an excuse to get the old gang back together while introducing a cadre of new teenage fodder (as victims and possible killers). Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), perpetual victim and professional Final Girl, returns to her hometown of Woodsboro to promote a self-help book detailing her struggles with, well, being a perpetual victim and professional Final Girl. She reconnects with Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), the former reporter and current fiction writer who is know married to Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette). The town has been in a state of hibernation since Sidney left and Gale, predictably, is thrilled when she gets back to town and the Ghostface murders start up again. Dewey, who is still incredibly incompetent at his job, is predictably less excited to be back in the media spotlight as the sheriff of a small town plagued by a serial murderer. In town, Sidney is staying with her niece Jill, played by Emma Roberts. Jill’s friends make up the rest of the “new” cast, a group of high schoolers who’ve grown up with the legend of Ghostface and the indestructible Sidney Prescott. They include Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), beautiful/popular girl and closet film geek, Jill’s stalkerish ex-beau Trevor (Nico Tortorella), and the president and vice president of the high school’s cinema club, Robbie (Erik Knudsen) and Charlie (Rory Culkin).
Robbie is a cinephile who views his entire high school experience via a head-mounted camera that broadcasts a live web stream. He and Charlie host the annual “Stabathon,” a marathon of the Stab films (the Scream franchise’s movie-within-a-movie). The two kids aid Gale and Dewey in their investigation of the new murders by suggesting that the killer has been “directing” the crimes and his next step will be to film the murders and upload them to the internet. No longer is Ghostface satisfied with fictional films about his killings: he needs to disseminate his “art” himself.
Director Wes Craven is interested in the idea of exposing the experience of watching a movie, which is not a very new concept but it is well represented here. Not only does he use footage from Robbie’s camera and the various surveillance cameras Gale sets up, he inscribes the idea of viewing screens in commonplace spaces. Throughout the entire film, characters are looking out of windows, through sliding glass doors, and in rear view mirrors. The idea of experiencing a murder (sometimes even one’s own murder) via mediated panes is underlined by the proliferation of cell phones in the film. Practically every character uses a cell phone, either to speak with the killer, or with each other. In the first Scream‘s opening scene, Drew Barrymore was famously terrorized by a call from Ghostface (“What’s your favorite scary movie?”). In Scream 4, the characters’ constant connectivity means they’re vulnerable to danger at any moment, in any place. The teenagers live lives of constant accessibility, streaming every minute of their experience on digital media–a new age of mobile horror.
The young characters believe that “knowing the rules” of the slasher flick will save them from inevitable victimhood, as if they could outsmart the killer brandishing technology and filmic tropes. The original trio, veteran survivalists of sequels and remakes, however, know better.
Early on in Scream 4, Ghostface, in his signature gravely voice growls, “This is a horror movie, not a comedy!” Don’t believe him. The Scream franchise has always blended scares with laughs, and in this combination arrived at a characteristically self-aware tone. Scream 4 knows exactly what it is and what it’s trying to do, and so do the characters in the film and so does the audience. With three past films to build on, countless imitations, and a whole world of horror movies since 2000’s Scream 3, the new film has a lot of material from which to cull targets for satire.
The film’s “meta” humor is executed (haha) most astutely in the pre-credit sequence. In a series of breathlessly paced reversals, series writer Kevin Williamson establishes a reality, then subverts it, sets up another world and then dashes that one. Each sequence has its own lead characters, its own set-up and punchlines, gruesome kills and ironic, self-aware commentary. Williamson’s scripting is quick, sharp and very funny. All the jokes–that the Saw franchise sucks, that horror movie tropes are so cliched, and even that in-movie, meta-commentary is itself passe–only work if you’re willing to accept the Scream franchise on its own self-parodying terms. The movie wants you to have a good time, and you can if you let it. Yes, it’s all about commentating on its own commentary. Yes, the characters still behave in colossally stupid ways (Don’t go outside, you idiot! Ghostface will kill you!), but Williamson and director Wes Craven engage cliched behavior because they know that’s what an audience of Scream fans want. Go to a late night screening, buy your popcorn, get goofy and yell at the characters on screen. Let yourself get scared, laugh, have fun. The movie wants you to enjoy its silliness.
(For Scream, let’s call this the “gore factor”) When the original Scream was released, it reinvigorated the slasher genre. The purity of that idea–a crazed maniac with a knife–is alive and slicing in the new film. No single kill is particularly astonishing in its ingenuity, and it doesn’t have to be. No Rube Goldberg deathtraps required. The blade-wielding madman is an intimate enemy. He gets up close to the victim: the body is penetrated and the blood flows. In that respect, Scream 4 delivers. Victims are slashed, stabbed, cut and gutted–in the stomach, in the neck, in the heart, in the head. These are primordial wounds, and cause the viewer to gasp, cringe, and in some cases, laugh and cheer.
The gore is relatively realistic (no geysers of gushing red stuff), but the deaths are usually no great loss. This is a horror flick that assumes a certain participation from its audience. If you’re here to feel genuine pain at the loss of nubile, young teens and hapless beat cops, don’t even bother showing up. Their deaths are quick and bloody, usually prefaced by an ironic punchline from the victim. In keeping with the Comedy Factor, most of the soon-to-be deceased are fully aware of their involvement in a horror movie (it’s that meta), thus preparing some witty last words and maybe a few dramatic gasps of breath before they expire.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Wes Craven
- Producer(s): Kevin Williamson
- Screenwriter(s): Anna Paquin (Rachel)Kristen Bell (Chloe)Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott)
- Story: David Arquette (Dewey Riley)
- Cast: Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers-Riley)Emma Roberts (Jill Roberts)Hayden Panettierre (Kirby Reed) Rory Culkin (Charlie Walker)Adam Brody (Detective Hoss)Peter McNullyPeter DemingAdam Stockhausen
- Cinematographer: Marco Beltrami
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA