Directed by: Wes Craven
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Wes Craven is horror royalty. The Cleveland native has directed such classics as Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes and the Nightmare on Elm Street series to name but a few films in his massive contribution to horror cinema. Around 1996 Craven endeavoured to recreate a genre that had fallen into pitiful, mindless sequels and poor rip offs; the slasher movie. Teaming up with script writer Kevin Williamson, Craven set out to make Scream, a slasher flick for the modern age, MTV horror filled with buxom, beautiful teen girls who inevitably ran right into their killers hands, in a ditsy, ever so obvious way. That was the point of Scream though. The slasher movie had been so over done in the ’70s that there was little place it could go, unless it went completely back on itself. Thus, Scream became a parody of the slasher flick, mimicking and also mocking all the slasher movies that went before it, blindly obeying the ‘rules’ of the genre in a ‘whodunit’ format.
Scream produced a successful first three movies before being shelved, presumably for good. But in true slasher flick fashion; there’s always room for another sequel in there somewhere. Scream 4 is much like its predecessors, it’s been ten years since Sydney Prescott [Neve Campbell] left Woodsboro, her home, and also the location of a series of grisly murders Prescott survived through in the previous films. Conveniently, Sydney decides to return to promote her new book about what she went through in Woodsboro right at the anniversary of said horror. Sydney stays with her aunt and younger cousin while in town and it’s not long before the murders begin again. As in previous outings, it’s up to the usual suspects of David Arquette, Courtney Cox and, of course, Neve Campbell to stop the killing spree.
The Scream movies were essentially made to poke fun at a format that had become so obvious and see through it had fallen into the realms of the ridiculous. And it succeeded too, its self aware, mocking in the mirror style is entertaining, funny and offers a new slant on the horror movie. However, the fact that they made four of these films seems self defeating. The tag line for Scream 4 reads “New Decade, New Rules”, but there is nothing new about this film. The exact same structure follows from start to finish as it does in every one of the series, all the audience is left wondering is who the killer might be, the rest of the plot simply follows suit with its predecessors. The Scooby Doo style crime stopping antics of Arquette, Cox and Campbell just seems over the top and ridiculous, a cartoonish parody. Hayden Panettiere, who plays Kirby Reed, seems to be the only one not completely intent on over acting, and is a small saving grace. The supporting cast is poor, dialogue is over delivered and seems forced. Rory Culkin who plays Charlie Walker in a nerdy double act with Robbie Mercer [Erik Knudsen] isn’t terrible but when the time comes for high drama he also seems to slump into garish over expression.
Scream 4’s problem is that it seems to have become a parody of a parody. Over the top and senseless, self aware but also eager to replicate the illogical idiocy of other slasher films. At times the humour offers relief but sadly doesn’t detract from the unfulfilling plot. Neve Campbell, who has remained below the radar in recent years is solid in her recreation of Sydney Prescott, but perhaps should not look to re-launch her career on the back of this film. It has been suggested that this would be the first in another three Scream movies, depending on reaction. If Craven and Williamson are to go ahead with a further two they should massively reconsider exactly how they approach their beloved parody series, because the joke just isn’t funny enough any more.