Film Review: Scream 4

20 April 2011

Written by: Jessica Buccolieri

From the first scene of Scream 4, it is clear that it’s more than just another horror movie. On the surface, it appears to be another sequel, resurrecting something that passed its peak over a decade ago. The storyline is on the weak side, the death count is predictable and the characters aren’t even that easy to like. But it is worth a closer look, because what operates beneath the surface of this slasher is pure cinema genius.

Neve Campbell returned as Sidney Prescott, our loveable and no nonsense leading lady. Still as gorgeous as she was in 1996, it was a pleasure to see that her acting style has matured – her portrayal of Sidney is done without the stammering and hunching of her youth, and her character comes out clear and strong. She is, of course, supported by an extraordinary cast, with Courtney Cox and David Arquette reviving Gale Weathers and Dewey Riley.

It wasn’t just the original cast that reignited the Scream franchise. Pleasant surprises also came from the supporting cast. Hayden Panetteire was cute and charming as Kirby Reed, the adorable BFF; Emma Roberts does a very impressive job as Jill, the potential Sidney of this generation; and comic relief came in the form of Rory Culkin and Erik Knudsen, the techno savvy film geeks.

Collaborated by writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven, Scream 4 does not only pay homage to horror movie greats. It also has a fabulous social commentary.

Killers now stalk via Facebook and text messages, and Ghostface is more than up for the challenge. Digital killings are all the rage and Scream 4 sets this up with the use of web cams, blogs, Facebook, mobile phones, apps and live feeds.

The cleverness of Scream 4 though, is its analysis of horror movies – it’s almost a parody of itself. One of the kills directly replicates the first murder in Scream, with the victim duct taped to a chair. There is also a quote about victims appearing with their ‘eyes gouged out’ like Jamie Kennedy described them back in 1996.

But it’s not completely self indulgent. It also makes many pop culture references. There are obvious examples, like Panetteire’s soliloquy when quizzed by the killer. She shouts the names of horror movies that have been recently remade: ‘Halloween, Texas Chainsaw, Dawn of The Dead, The Hills Have Eyes, Amityville Horror, Black Christmas, House of Wax, Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine.’ Or there is Gale describing Sidney as ‘Daniel Radcliffe to my JK Rowling’.

The other approach that Craven takes in Scream 4 is to keep things unpredictable. Dewey, the bumbling Sheriff of Woodsboro, has the knack of turning up at a crime scene late every time and he is assisted by two police officers, played by Anthony Anderson and Adam Brody, who fit the bill perfectly as the obligatory overweight African American, and the skinny white rookie. Craven creates stereotypical people and situations and then contradicts the way it is customary for them to behave.

Williamson has also written the script in a way that allows the characters to deconstruct their behaviour as they act it out. When our loveable Buddy Cops are keeping watch outside Sidney’s house, they discuss in dismay that cops just don’t last very long in movies, ‘unless you’re Bruce Willis’ or if ‘you’re one day away from retirement’. They set themselves up by leaving their windows open, failing to save the helpless female and fatally making light of the murders.

Like the three films before it, the rules of the film are observed – and broken. But the undeniable clincher was Sidney aptly summarising Scream 4 like only a final girl can: ‘You forgot the first rule of remakes. You don’t f*ck with the original’.

Corina Thorose is about to graduate from La Trobe University with a Graduate Diploma in Journalism. She is currently an editor for Pagemasters.