Back in 1996, a modest little movie completely changed the horror genre. And it did it during its first 10 minutes. When the poor parents of Drew Barrymore opened their front door to see their teenage daughter gutted and hanging from a tree swing, the slasher flick was never the same.
The original Scream was a revelation. It boasted all the best qualities of a horror film in all the best ways. The scares were scary, the thrills were thrilling, and the gore was gory. But it also had something that most horror films do not: a genuine sense of humor. A lot of contemporary scary films are unintentionally funny, usually due to bad acting and/or an unconvincing story. But Scream, with its hip script and fresh faced cast, was great in the way it poked fun at the horror genre and its faults, all while poking fun at itself.
Scream’s sequel, in which the surviving players were terrorized by a new Ghostface at college, was a worthy followup, but with a lame ending. Scream 3 was a forgettable, Hollywood-set, addition to the franchise. And now we get the completely unnecessary Scream 4, which aims to do what the first film did, but (mostly) fails miserably.
Like the first 10 minutes of the original, the opening of Scream 4 proves to carry its best, most spirited sequence. A slew of scenes that allow franchise director Wes Craven to not only poke fun at the horror nonsense that is now typically associated with the genre (i.e. torture porn) but also at his franchise in general. But once the title card flashes onscreen, you can kiss the fun byebye and welcome a tired plot that is as dull as what Craven apparently seems to love ridiculing.
On the anniversary of the original Woodsboro murders, Sidney Prescott (a why-the-hell-did-I-agree-to-do-this Neve Campbell) returns home to promote her new self help book. Needless to say, a new Ghostface starts offing people, leaving Sherriff Dewey (David Arquette) and his has-been tabloid journalist wife, Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) to hunt yet another black caped killer.
In addition to the principal cast, a number of horror-film obsessed youngins show up to clue the audience in via neverending scenes of expository dialogue. The best of the bunch being Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her best friend Kirby (a fiery Hayden Panettiere). The movie cuts back and forth between the old generation and the new, and ultimately teams them together to catch the killer. Yawn.
Look, I wasn’t expecting much from Scream 4, and aside from its opening moments and scene stealing performances from Panettiere and Cox, there’s nothing really to write home about. I do find it funny, however, that a film so concerned with making fun of itself doesn’t take the time to really examine its story and try to be, you know, a scream. D+