Let me start this with saying I am extra biased in favor of all things Scream. Since the original film in 1996, this has, and always will be, my favorite trilogy. Granted I was eight when the first film came out but it wasn’t long after that I saw it. When a see a reference or hear someone talking about the trilogy I get as giddy and giggly as a school girl. Not joking. Director Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Last House of the Left) has done for the horror genre what Picasso and say, The Rolling Stones did for their areas of expertise. But a lot of credit is due to writer Kevin Williamson (Teaching Mrs. Tingle, I Know What You Did Last Summer). That name is sorely left out when hearing about the Screams and the writing, dialogue and wit truly makes these films.
Co-reviewer Eric Robinette shares a similar love to the original Scream, “I saw the original Scream last year, and it holds up extremely well. It’s always been my favorite film by Wes Craven – yes, even more so than Nightmare on Elm Street. It was the rare horror film that was sharp, funny scary and bloody.”
The synopsis is pretty well-known at this point. For more than 10 years, Sidney Prescott has been haunted by a killer motivated by the mistakes of her mother. After countless encounters with three different teams of two murderers, Prescott, now a self-help author, returns home. Duh, first mistake Sidney, but if we didn’t have naive characters what would we have?Besides the typical abundance of gore/blood scenes, most notable in this film are the endless movie/pop culture references. Whether it’s to the original Scream, other films, TV shows, film critiques of the horror genre, campiness, the references made by the writer-director duo are much appreciated by major film fans. Especially, ones to the torture-porn era of Saw where more gore trumps character development, Shaun of the Dead, “Heros,” Robert Rodriguez, endless sequels and money-making ways of the industry, etc.
Robinette says, “Moreover, in the years since, quality has drained from American horror movies like guts drain from a carcass in the “torture porn” movies – a phenomenon Scream 4 cannily acknowledges right off the bat.”
The most obvious references to the 1996 film include Steve tied to chair on the back porch, Billy as crazy boyfriend/suspect, the way Tatum was killed by garage, Dewey’s stupidity but life-saving abilities, Sidney’s father bound in closest about to be framed, Billy and Stuart stabbing each other, killer never dies the first time, etc. Throughout the film I found myself “awwing” to the film like I would a romantic moment in a rom-com because of my fond love of the trilogy.
While I loved the references, Robinette thought they were sometimes over-the-top, saying, “Scream 4 does not forget to be scary, even if It does push too many “We know all the film references” buttons. If a person were nudging at me as often as this film does, I’d have that person brought up on assault charges. The film didn’t need to try so hard. The references are clever, yes — but they’re not the only reason the Scream series exists. Craven stages a number of very effective scares, including a suspenseful parking garage attack, and one scene where a character goes on a major masochistic streak is genuinely unnerving.”
As for the three main characters Prescott (Neve Campbell), now Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette), and Gale Weathers-Riley (Courtney Cox), they were all great to see again in action, teaming up to find and defeat the killer(s). While Prescott has always been a brave character, in this film she epitomized someone willing to continuously risk her life trying to save others. I was happy to see Dewey and Gale as a successful married couple (too bad it didn’t last in real life) because as Gale put it the two really did solve all the murders as a team.
I was impressed by how well the line-up of younger actors delivered in their characters/lines/nuances, etc. Hayden Panettiere as the hot film buff Kirby was probably my favorite character in terms of the new cast. Emma Roberts as Prescott’s cousin Jill was so-so; her acting was really good up until it became over-the-top. But I have to think of it in terms of the bigger picture, in which her exaggerated acting works. This would be way too long of a review if I listed all the new characters but I enjoyed those played by Marley Shelton (Grindhouse, Sugar & Spice), Shenae Grimes (“90210”), Anthony Anderson, Rory Culkins, Adam Brody, and Alison Brie (“Community”).
I don’t want to say too much about the film’s opening because well that would be rude of me. But I loved the many references to social network sites like Facebook and Twitter. It was absolutely hilarious and a great comment on our generation’s reliability and naivety for them. The film made great use of foreshadowing, a lot of which isn’t picked up on until the killer is revealed — at least for me. The writer and director definitely threw in a lot of plot twists/characters solely to throw the viewer off guard, which I appreciated.
Read Robinette’s full review here.