Distributed by: Dimension Films
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I first heard that a fourth Scream sequel was about to hit the theaters, I cringed. I loved the original Scream and I even thought Scream 2 was decent, but Scream 3 was a total flop in my eyes. The way I see it, some horror film makers take things way to far in the sequel category and I was certain that the fourth installment of the Scream film series would be horrible. Then I listened to the soundtrack of the film, did some research about this installment and became intrigued. So when my friend, a huge fan of the Scream series, asked if I wanted to go see Scream 4 with her, I said why not.
It’s been years since Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has been back to Woodsboro…years since she was victimized by the numerous incarnations of Ghostface, a serial killer that has plagued Sidney’s life since she was in high school. Sidney has moved on from being a victim and has written a book chronicling her journey. Unfortunately, her publicist chooses to have her book signing in Woodsboro coincide with the fifteenth anniversary of the Woodsboro massacre she’s been so desperately trying to escape.
Things start innocently enough until town sheriff and fellow survivor Dewey Riley (David Arquette) announces that two teenagers have been murdered and one of the victims’ cellphone signal has been traced to the location of the book signing. They find the cellphone in Sidney’s rental vehicle along with a great deal of blood and the knife used to stab the victims. Sidney is forced to stay with her Aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell) and her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) under protection of the Woodsboro Police Department. Jill resents this inconvenience into her high school life and fails to see the necessity until she receives a call from Ghostface and watches as he kills her next door neighbor and friend.
Meanwhile, Gail Riley (Courtney Cox), former news reporter, wife of Sheriff Riley and writer of the Stab series based on the Woodsboro murders, decides to go after this new serial killer on her own. She enlists the aide of Sidney and a group of horror film fanatics in an effort to learn what the killer’s next move might be. The group’s leaders, Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin) and Robbie Mercer (Eric Knudsen), offer up ideas, suggesting that the new serial killer might actually be re-enacting the first Woodsboro murders. By following that progression, Gail realizes that the killer’s next move may take place at an underground party scheduled for that night. She decides to attend, surveillance cameras in hand, to catch the killer in the act.
No one is beyond suspect in this town. Could the new Ghostface be Jill’s cheating boyfriend, Trevor (Nico Tortorella), who just happens to turn up before or after every murder? Could it be Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), horror buff and Jill’s best friend? Could it be one of the video blogging horror fanatics celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the Woodsboro murders? Could it be that Sydney has finally cracked and become the very evil she has fought to recover from?
I really wasn’t sure about this film, especially when it opened so cornily with three different murder scenes. The first two were scenes from Stab 6 and Stab 7, movies within movies watched by the real first victims of Scream 4. When the real murders came along, I wasn’t sure if we weren’t watching a scene from Stab 8. But once the actual events in Scream 4 began to unfold, I was thoroughly hooked. This film took things back to the original Scream format - the format that made Scream so popular in the first place. We had big name actors getting knocked off slasher style, everyone is a suspect until they are either picked off one by one or are there when one of Ghostface’s victims buys it, and the revelation of Ghostface is a total shock to the audience.
I’ve already said that the music was pumping in this film in my Scream 4 Soundtrack review, but to see it coupled with the scenes the music was selected for was awesome. Each track was perfectly selected for the scene, perfectly married to the action taking place, enhancing the horror and adrenaline pumping experience.
Sure, by now, we can figure out the horror film formula and know when someone is going to be killed in Scream 4, but for some reason that adrenaline rush coupled by not knowing who the killer is, unlike in serial horror films like Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and Friday the 13th, makes the killings in this film more intense and interesting. You know it’s coming and yet you are still somewhat surprised when it happens.
The Scream franchise still uses quirky comical moments to provide stress relief. In Scream 4, Dewey is not as bumbling as he appears in past films, but there are others to take his place in this department, including Deputies Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton), Perkins (Anthony Anderson) and Hoss (Adam Brody). But this installment of the Scream franchise had what Scream 2 and Scream 3 didn’t - this movie shocked me. I only realized who Ghostface was toward the last fifteen minutes of the film. For the entire movie, I was trying to solve the mystery along with the cast. I loved that! I also loved the fact that, by this time, everyone in the audience was totally involved, shouting at the screen and cheering on the heroes.
It was that fact alone - that ability to shock me after all these years - that makes Scream 4 the must see film in the Scream franchise. I have only one request of the film series powers that be - end it here. This film was the defining moment in the series. It tied things together and ended them on the perfect note. To create a sequel after this would be to tarnish the excellent work that went into making a fourth installment of a horror series fresh and exciting while still harking back to what made the original Scream film popular in the first place. Scream 4 is the perfect movie to end the series on, going out on a high note of horror excellence and you never want to go out on a bad note now do you?