Funny, playful and gory by turns, Scream 4 is surprisingly good fun, but no more, please.
Opening with a devious prologue Scream 4 demonstrates confidence and a wry sense of humour. There’s no reinvention of the horror wheel to announce a glorious new age of slasher cinema, but Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson give it a bloody good go.
Eleven years have passed since the potty denouement of Scream 3 and heroine Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) now makes a comfortable living writing self-help guides. When she returns on a book tour to hometown Woodsboro (the scene of the original crimes) mobile phones start ringing, Ghostface soon appears and, right on cue, fresh victims are sliced and diced.
From the get-go there’s a strong sense of déjà vu. While not strictly a remake direct links with Scream are plentiful and some characters near clones of previous participants. Of the new faces Hayden Panetierre as 'gore geek' Kirby Reed is the best addition, putting in a strutting and, at times, suitably shady performance. Emma Roberts also makes the most of her role as Sid’s cousin Jill.
As for the former teen victim herself, she now possesses a maternal Ellen Ripley-like stoicism in the face of mayhem and gets the best quip – and laugh – of the whole film. "Rule number one of remakes. Don’t fuck with the original." It’s a sweet line given the scene in which it occurs.
Another commendable aspect is the return of proper edge-of-the-seat frights and liberal doses of gore. Craven orchestrates the thrills and chills like the old horror pro he is and in general captures the iconic slasher spirit.
Homage, in-jokes and references are part and parcel of its genetic make up. The most obscure, perhaps even unintentional, is a corpse’s death pose recalling the infamous mutilation of Jack the Ripper victim Mary Kelly.
Just who is running amok and why will keep viewers guessing all the way to the formulaic third act reveal. Yet there’s a surprisingly downbeat assessment of our saturated media-savvy culture and society which might seem a little po-faced and reactionary at first, but recalls the political and social subtext of Craven’s 1972 debut The Last House on the Left.
Rumours of fights and endless re-writes during the production do not bode well.
Funny, playful and gory by turns, Scream 4 is surprisingly good fun.
Better than its anaemic predecessor in every single way, but no more, please.