In preparation for Scream 4, I recently went through the first three films in order to do a quick roundup of the original trilogy.
First off, Scream was an undisputed classic. Watching it now, 11 years later, it’s still as scary and funny as it was when it first hit cinemas. The horror movie rules are laid out for all to see, the characters are absolutely perfect and nothing can touch that classic climax.
Scream 2 was a strong sequel. Though the climactic scene simply didn’t pack the same punch, there were many memorable moments, from the near operatic opening to the post-car crash experiment in tension.
Scream 3 was an awful way to end the saga. With writer Kevin Williamson gone, Ehren Kruger worked from his notes, and the result was pretty poor. Whilst it featured some interesting ideas, the film featured too many annoying, over the top characters and simply wasn’t scary any more. Indeed, the climax was almost pantomimic. Then there were the rules laid out for the final chapter of a trilogy, which didn’t really ring true: the killer has to be superhuman and the plot has to challenge that which we learnt in the first film? Really? Since when? It felt like the ‘rules’ were simply created to suit the film, rather than the other way around. There were only two good things about Scream 3 – the opening scene featuring Cotton Weary, and the hilarious knife throw towards the end of the film. It really had nothing more to offer.
So, 11 years later we have Scream 4. Firstly, Kevin Williamson is back on board, so the film is instantly better than the third instalment*. Secondly, it manages to completely stun the audience with an opening that has to be seen to be believed. They certainly outdid themselves this time, and instantly proved that the Scream franchise still has something to offer.
Of course our main three characters are back. I can’t remember anything that Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox or David Arquette have been in recently, so it comes as little surprise that they were willing to return to the well. Sidney (Campbell) has just released a book about her healing process and has come back to Woodsboro to make an in-store signing appearance when news of a fresh killing reaches her.
Incredibly, Campbell has managed to walk a fine line with Sidney. After three films, it must hard to portray her as human – surely by now Sidney would either be a quivering wreck or, alternatively, an emotionless killing machine who is quite willing take self-defence that step too far. She manages to be neither – thus, our lead character still has the ability to get scared, but at the same time will run into a house to save someone who’s being attacked. It’s the ideal balance and Campbell is still undeniably the person anchoring the entire franchise.
“New decade, new rules” is the tagline and mantra of the film, though that makes little sense to this reviewer. My complaint with the horror genre in the years since Scream has been about how little it has changed. Even the Williamson-penned I Know What You Did Last Summer, which appeared hot on the heels of Scream, was a by-the-numbers horror film, dutifully pandering to all the clichés. Thus, aside from the popularity of torture porn, it doesn’t really feel as if much has changed.
In fact, there are only a handful of horror films in the last decade that have messed with the formula. An obvious one would be High Tension (Haute Tension), and I was disappointed to learn that that was one of the few horrors that wasn’t name-dropped in Scream 4 (and believe me, dozens make the list.) So really, not that much has changed, except for the prevalence of new media and the increased appetite for gore within the genre, and of course the concept of reboots and remakes – the film touches upon all of these.
Thanks to the likes of Saw and Wolf Creek, Scream 4 is easily the bloodiest of them all. It provides the audience with lots of close-up shots of stabbings, something which the original films did sparingly. It could be argued that the film doesn’t really ratchet up the tension as much as the first two, instead aiming for the element of surprise time and again.
The young blood (so to speak), is pretty decent this time around. Hayden Panettiere is exceptional as the strong, bitchy Kirby, whilst Rory Culkin is an impressively dour update of Randy, the requisite horror movie buff. Emma Roberts is equally impressive as Sidney’s cousin Jill, and there are a couple of cameos that are best left as surprises. It’s a big cast, and perhaps most surprising is how little of the film features the original three. Brilliantly, however, it works. Craven and Williamson manage to give each character the time they deserve – no mean feat when you see just how many peeps they squeeze into the 111-minute running time.
Overall, it is quite an impressive film. The decade-long break really suited the franchise, and though I find it hard to believe that Williamson has another two films planned (as per the internet rumours), this really is a worthy addition to the series. Sure, it seems unfortunate to take away anything from the closing scene of Scream 3 (which was really quite touching), but this is certainly a worthy successor. Scream 4 is far superior to its immediate prequel, and quite frankly, gives Scream 2 a run for its money too (opinion was divided amongst my friends). Did it need to be made? Probably not. But it certainly has enough going for it to be a praiseworthy entry to the franchise. Fans can rejoice, because this Scream‘s got the goods.Rating: