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Release Date(s)2011 (October 4, 2011)
Studio(s)Dimension/The Weinstein Company (Anchor Bay)
Confession time, Oktoberfesters: I’ve never been a huge fan of the Scream franchise. The first one was a clever, entertaining twist on the slasher formula. But as the series became increasingly self-referential, it seemed to start disappearing up its own backside. And while Ghost Face is a great mask design, he doesn’t have a lot of personality. Each entry in the series is as much a whodunit as it is a horror movie, leading up to the big Scooby-Doo reveal of who’s wearing the mask this time.
So imagine my surprise to discover that Scream 4 (or Scre4m if you prefer but please don’t) actually isn’t half bad. Admittedly, things get off to a rocky start. Returning screenwriter Kevin Williamson works overtime in the first fifteen minutes trying to establish the movie’s timeliness with references to torture-porn, Facebook and Twitter. The series also gets as close as it ever has to totally disappearing into a black hole of self-awareness by starting off with a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie.
Things start to pick up once the actual story kicks in. Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott returns to her hometown of Woodsboro plugging her new motivational memoir. David Arquette’s Dewey is now the sheriff and married to Courtney Cox’s Gale. She’s retired from reporting to write fiction but is suffering from severe writer’s block. Fortunately for her and unfortunately for everyone else, someone’s decided to pick up the Ghost Face mask and take one more stab at killing Sidney and those closest to her, including her teenage cousin Jill (Emma Roberts).
This time out, Williamson and director Wes Craven take aim at the remake/reboot craze, something Craven knows a thing or two about. Maybe the movie’s scariest moment is when Hayden Panettiere’s movie buff character rattles off a list of all the horror remakes from the past few years. But the movie’s best observations are directed toward the younger generation’s obsession with fame. For the first time since the original, Ghost Face’s killing spree actually makes a valid satirical argument.
The new additions to the cast are surprisingly interesting characters, for the most part. Roberts and Panettiere are particularly good. As for the veterans, Neve Campbell does her best but is definitely running out of ways to play the shell-shocked victim. Courtney Cox seems at times to be genuinely irritated that she’s in another one of these movies. At least David Arquette still appears to be having a good time.
Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray looks terrific with deep, dark blacks and careful attention to detail. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track packs a punch, especially with those gotcha stinger moments that the Scream movies are so good at. Extras are a mixed bag. Wes Craven, Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere contribute a not-terribly interesting commentary with Neve Campbell literally phoning her appearance in for a little while. The deleted and extended scenes include alternate versions of both the ending and opening scenes. These also come with optional commentary by Craven, which I always appreciate on deleted scenes. There’s also a making-of/promo piece that’s only around 10 minutes long, a gag reel (lots of jumping out of closets and scaring the bejesus out of unsuspecting actors), and a promo for the Scream 4 video game.
Making a sequel is never easy and crafting a part four ten years after a series ran out of gas is even more daunting. Scream 4 isn’t as crafty and innovative as the original. But I’m impressed that Craven and Williamson found something else to say with their creation. But should they ever decide to forge ahead with Scream 5, it may be time for Ghost Face to find someone else to pick on for awhile.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke