In the 15 years (really?) since Scream slashed its way onto the screens and into the audience’s consciousness, holding an originality unseen in many a year, a lot has gone on in horror. Ranging from the revolutionary (The Blair Witch Project) to the de-evolutionary (The Saw Series), there’s certainly a lot for Scream 4 to sink its knife into. Re-uniting the original triumvirate of Neve Campbell , Courteney Cox and David Arquette with a new array of cast members including Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin, has Scream managed to transcend the decades and achieve the seemingly-impossible – a sequel which is both worthy and enjoyable?
Nicely tying into the original series, Scream 4 sees Sidney (Campbell) return to Woodsboro on the 15th Anniversary of the original murders in the latest stop of her book tour. Whilst rooming with her niece Jill (Emma Roberts), Ghostface strikes again, picking off a number of expendable cast members whilst being perused by Sheriff Dewey Riley (Arquette) and his now-wife Gale (Cox), who heads up her own campaign to capture the killers, smelling another shot of fame.
The beauty of the Scream franchise lies in the fact that due to its referential nature and the embrace of the genre the characters outwardly state, in 20 years another addition could come along and feel a welcome member to the canon. The best sequel in the series (and that includes Scream 2), 4 doesn’t tread too far from what it knows. Disparaging remarks towards torture porn are reflected in Ghostface’s method of killing, with the knife still remaining the beautifully simple weapon of choice, whereas real flicks of ingenuity lie in its subtle touches, from the fantastically realised opening (does saying Kristen Bell is featured count as a spoiler?), to the little remarks about recent horror ranging from the fact that Ghostface is now filming himself, to the dismissal of the countless and pointless remakes we are constantly subjected to. There’s a great moment seen in the trailers in which Panettiere’s character Kirby reels off a list of remakes in order to save another character which really exposes how lazy film studios have got recently. On occasion, the references tend to be a bit smug (Erik Knudsen’s character, the film geek Robbie, praises Kirby’s DVD collection for featuring Suspiria and Don’t Look Now) yet they never overshadow the on-screen events.
Although all of the new characters entertain even if they’re not the most gifted performers, the true stars still remain Sidney, Dewey and Gale. Now with his own, rather deranged deputy, Dewey has outgrown his comedy status to become a seemingly-respected local sheriff, whereas Courteney Cox is clearly having a ball as Gale, still as sassy and intrusive as ever. In fact, the relationship between Gale and Dewey is as intriguing as the central story, the cracks in their marriage starting to show and grow as he refuses her assistance whereas Neve Campbell still remains rather convincing as the film’s centre-piece, though it remains to be seen whether Sidney would really return and stay in the town which shattered her life even before Ghostface pops up.
What’s nice about the Scream films is that up until its reveal, you can never be too sure who’s going to be under that iconic mask. Whatever happens on screen can never quite be taken as gospel and there’s still a lot of fun to be had in taking in the surroundings in order to try and work out the killer(s?). The film’s denouement is slightly ill-judged in places and psychosis threatens to spill over to farce, yet Scream 4 is still a solid movie indeed, and could well prove to be one of the horrors of the year. Scream 5 will by no means be unwelcome, and to say that about a popular film franchise is remarkable in itself.