FILM: SCREAM 4
Directed By: Wes Craven
Written By: Kevin Williamson
Executive Producers: Bob and Harvey Weinstein
Starring: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Review By Ross Hughes HCF OfficialCritic
“GHOSTFACE WITH ONE SINGLE SWING OF HIS BLADE RIDS THE MEMORIES OF SCREAM 3 AWAY”
We come to the end of the movie, Sydney is cornered for the 4th time in her life, she screams “who are you!” Ghostface laughs then rips of the mask….the killer is Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s back baby! and its time to catch up for lost time!
Ok, this did not really happen, and if I have spoilt it for those who were hoping that somehow the Terminator would be revealed as the killer then I am sorry. My point is for this odd beginning is that this review will contain NO spoilers! I won’t be mentioning who dies, any of the set-pieces, or who the killer or killers are! This will be the most boring review I have ever written, simply because if you going to watch Scream 4 then its best not to know! The fun of it all is the guessing element so if you are looking for a review that will at least give a hint to what happens, then its best to look somewhere else, because I am determined to write this without giving away anything!
Scream 4 is not supposed to happen! The third film was the end of a storyline that started way back in 1996. But the mixed feeling that the final chapter gained is the same has the ill fated Rocky V, in that the fans have refused to believe in the film, its like they see the end of the second has the finale to these characters and not the “official” one, that due to the filming madness that engulfed the production left a sour taste in the mouth of all fans. I am not going into the chaos that swamped the whole show, if you want to read it then take a look back on my special HCF Rewind section on the franchise, but I will say it again, that for all the criticism it has gained, Scream 3 is nowhere near as bad has it could have been! But it does not feel like closure, a franchise end to a horror that was thee genre buster of the 90’s. Fans wanted and deserved more, and when it was announced by the Weinstein Brothers that a fourth film was to be made, and all the remaining characters would come back, there was excitement that rippled through the horror ranks and there was a question that lingered in the air! “Could this follow the Rocky franchise again and become a Rocky Balboa, a sequel that nobody needed but stunned everyone by being really good?”
Or in simple terms, Is this better than Scream 3?
Before I give you that answer, we start at the beginning, and Scream 4 has a lot to live up to following the previous first two sequences. The Drew Barrymore cameo has gone down in movie horror history and that alone scene makes Scream the original a movie that will never disappear from best of lists!, Then we have the cinema brutal massacre from the 2nd that is so barmy with its film within a film concept that while its not scary, its still a quite an incredible set piece that slasher fans cherish and sets up the the second story so wonderfully well. The main criticism of Scream 3 is that it does not feel like a Ghostface picture and the start seems tired and stale, like its the whole premise has already run out of steam and ideas! Well any worries that Scream 4 will start this way is way out of the window, even before we see a single scene. While the Dimension logo is up we hear the sound of a telephone, there is no time to waste here, Ghostface has been gone for 10 years and there is no slow build up here. In fact the opening has such a fast pace that you be struggling to get your breath. Returning director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson are impatient to get going and with ten minutes into the film we already witness three murders! Yes, that is virtually more than the whole original films body count, but to say anymore will spoil it!, the opening will startle you and stun you, its not scary but its awash with vivid imagination that will bring a smile to your face and it matches Scream 2 every single step of the way!
By the time you manage to get your breath back, we see an older Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) who has returned to Woodsboro just in time for the 15th Anniversary of the Original Massacre. The figure of Ghostface is everywhere as teens of this area celebrate the day like its Halloween, but there is a new found confidence within Sydney. When she sees the suit of her nemesis on top of a lamp post she smiles, a calm composure comes from within, its been seven years since her nightmare ended and there is no chance of Ghostface ever returning. Such is this new found attitude, she has written a self help b
ook, a best seller in which she is in town to sign a few copies. She also meets up with her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) who is part of a new generation of Woodsboro teenagers, bought up on the tragic legend that has fallen onto the town!
Its easy to say that her friends are just set up to be meat for Ghostface but there is something quite likeable about them all! Hayen Panettiere is the one who steals the show, her tough as nails Kirby who has a knowledge of horror films (especially Suspiria) is the stand out of the bunch, a sort of Randy but without the geek, while the others like Charlie and Robbie (Rory Culkin and Erik Knudsen) serve the film really well! The less said about Trevor (Nico Tortorella) the better because he is nothing but a Billy Loomis clone, but to be fair to Kevin Williamson I do feel this was intentional!
While the new breed are pivotal to the premise, there is a nice balancing act between who we know and who we don’t, because back for the ride is Deputy Dewey or should that be Sheriff (David Arquette) and his now wife Gale (Courtney Cox) who have been living in Woodsboro for many of years. When news spreads of new teens being butchered, the town is in panic, and while at first Sydney refuses to believe that her nightmare is back, we then get to the second set-piece that again is strong and beautifully played for a slash movie!
Its here that we see Sydney finally crack and realises that she has to play the game again, but instead of running, this older version confronts and it makes a welcome change to the whole show! So Ghostface is back! Targerting Jill and her friends with his menacing phone calls only this time he is playing a new game. A much modern one where the Internet and Facebook is played to his advantage, where he is taking the knowledge of movie re-makes and sequels and giving it a 21st Century design! In order for Sydney, Gale, Dewey and Jill to survive, they must learn new rules, where no one is safe, where gore porn is the now standard for horror, where even Sydney herself is dispensable!
I know I am mentioning Ghostface as a “he!” but I am not stupid enough to give the game away like that! I always see this figure as a he, so anyone thinking I have spoilt it then please, I have not! Ghostface could be a he/she/ killer/killers even a dog, perhaps its Sydney’s dog, a kind of Cujo spin on the whole show, but I suppose its safe to say that logic is way out of the window!
Anyone worried about the lowered tone for a teen market will be stunned at how vicious this film is! Even I was shocked at how far Craven goes with the knife and make no mistake this 2011 Ghostface is the most bad ass of them all! There is no playful nonsense, he is like Michael Myers underneath that suit, leaving a trial of bloodbath in his wake! Its crazy but those who dismissed the original as nothing but a play on the slasher brigade will love this more. Yes the movie references are there but this is all about carnage and for the first time in any Scream film I lost count on how many died, its like one every few minutes and yes Slash fans, you will be in your element! I find this part highly amusing because the original Scream was rated an 18, but it has nothing on par with what goes on here!
The guessing element which served the first two so well is still here, but this for me is where Scre4m lets itself down! The film tries hard to hoodwink you but in between the mayhem, if you can catch your breath and think about it then its pretty obvious! It took me half hour to suss it all out even though it did not distract me from the entertainment! That is the only disappointment for me, and also the non use of the theme Red Right Hand made me cry long into my popcorn! That song itself is much part of the series like Sydney itself and I was very unhappy that it was missing!
Lets answer the question, is this better than Scream 3? Oh damn yes, every single second of it! The script fizzles with smartness that only Williamson can bring, while the action is so swift that its throughly entertaining. Again though there is nothing to match the Police Car Crash of the second or of course the unique originality of the original, but then we are into the 4th of a franchise and it is hard to maintain that level of unexpectancy. What Scre4m for is though in my opinion, probably the best third sequel to horror ever made! Yes seriously, the packed cinema I was sitting in were screaming and shouting like it was 1996 again, and this Scream is not exactly a sequel but a damn good homage to the original!
Yes there are many elements borrowed from the rest, I mean we get to see the beginning of Stab again which amused me, but what Williamson has wrote is a lavish love letter to himself, with this honouring every second of the film that created this dynasty! Even the motive makes sense, something which I believed in and dismisses those negative thoughts into how this could happen again to the same woman! Also the killer or killers are really crazy. They put the past ones to shame, and make a mockery of the third film reveal.
The climax itself goes way too long, it seems that Craven and Williamson were having too much fun and did not want to end it! First though I did think they were going to finish it with a very brave move, there was a hint of darkness to the plot that would have frustrated and made all the teen fans angry and would have set up the planned 5th lovely! But even they must have backtracked at the last minute, even though it would have given us a different ending to what has happened before!
In simple terms, this is a blast, a sequel that should be nowhere near as good as it is! The negative reviews that have followed this has took this horror fan by surprise, because I was not expecting Scre4m to be this enjoyable and the fact that every single person left that cinema with a smile on their face shows that Williamson and Craven have done their job! Slash is back, and it feels like its never been away
OVERALL: From its opening 15 minutes that I loved and while I am writing thi
s now beginning to realise its better than the first sequel, to the frantic pace, high body count, blood that lashes the screen, to a wonderful reveal that stays faithful to Scream’s design, I can see many fans chucking away that copy of Scream 3 and putting this in its place, because make no mistake, Ghostface is back, and he is better, darker and bloodier than ever!