Scream 4

Why does poor Sidney Prescott continue to answer a telephone?  Especially one in the town of Woodsboro, California.  Would she not be better off resisting the temptation to discover a crazed masked murderer’s voice on the other end?  Instead, I suggest she leave the phone ringing, and head for the front door.  Get in her car and drive as far away from her hometown as possible.  Oh, and do not return.  Not even for a book signing.

Unfortunately after three previous entries, eleven years must be too long of a break for Sidney.  She returns to Woodsboro to promote her new book about her real-life experiences with several ‘Ghostface’ killers.  If I recall correctly, the following characters have tried to murder her (SPOILERS!): her high school boyfriend and Shaggy, followed by her boyfriend’s mother and another high school twit, and finally her long lost brother.  Friends, family, and love interests of hers have all met the knife.  However, none of these killers who claim to really want Sidney dead have the strength to get it over with.  Sidney is always preserved until the end.

Well folks, Sidney (Neve Campbell) returns to watch more people she cares about get murdered, and somehow she tries to sleep during the nights between.  The fact that she has legitimate family left in Woodsboro by this fourth installment is a testament to these people’s courage or stupidity.  Director Wes Craven, writer Kevin Williamson, and stars David Arquette and Courteney Cox also return for more Screaming.  But of course, as with both of the previous sequels, the rules of the killings have changed.  Since Hollywood clamors for reboots and remakes and fears risking original horror material, Scream 4 has an open eye and ear for how the Ghostface killer approaches the remake of the original and fictional ‘Stab’ film which is based on the original Woodsboro murders from the first Scream.  If I’ve lost you, just nod in agreement.

High schoolers start getting hacked to pieces (again) as soon as Sidney returns home.  Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) cannot allow Sidney to leave, as she has now become a suspect.  Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) wants to get back into reporter mode and help solve the identity of the killer (again).  Added to the pack is high schooler Jill (Emma Roberts), cousin to Sidney.  She apparently has Ghostface’s eye on her, as her and her daffy friends fall victim to the murderous mayhem.  Among these friends are a questionable cheating boyfriend and a duo of horror geeks that run a full-time video blog via a website.  Yes, one of the two walks around school with an A/V headset all day because that’s what every teacher would allow in class.  And of course, these guys know everything about the latest trends in horror that automatically translate to the killer’s diabolical pattern.

While watching Scream 4, I was made aware of a few things.  First of all, Scream 4 is no Scream or Scream 2.  Second of all, the self-referential horror palate feels a tad dated.  Scary Movie 5 is on the horizon to inform audiences of the latest idiocy of horror films, so why stretch so thin with another Scream that has little to offer?  Third, there is little to no suspense in the story for a glaring reason: the high schoolers in peril ignore their predicament.  Their friends are getting gutted in front of them next door, and yet the dopes carry little to no sense of danger until caught in the clutches of the killer themselves.  In between more victimized friends, these kids carry on with drinking parties that revolve around watching all of the ‘Stab’ movies based on the murders.  I repeat, these kids are watching movies about the Woodsboro murders while more Woodsboro murders are happening to their friends!  These kids have also received the routine phone calls from the Ghostface killer.  Oh well.  The ‘Stab’ party is still the place to be!

Meanwhile, the returning characters feel a bit like an afterthought. Dewey and Gale garner little attention outside of expository dialogue revealing a strained marriage.  Sidney comes and goes, never quite knowing whether or not she’s the main character in Craven’s latest new nightmare.   Craven attempts to pass on the baton to a new group of hip youngsters, but he forgets to make them not… well, complete uninteresting dimwits.

That leaves us with Miss Prescott.  I never quite knew what Williamson and Craven had to say for Sidney this time around.  She’s hunted once again, running through the same maze, using little knowledge of her previous experiences to funk with the killer’s hokey plan.  At one point I was hoping she would question if she was in Scary Movie 5.  But no, Sidney still  plays victim, coming into physical confrontation with Ghostface on more than one occasion.  She has a habit of kicking him/her down a staircase and knocking him/her to the ground without killing them on the spot.   Instead she glances away only to look back and the killer has disappeared.  Shouldn’t she have learned by now?  I mean, you are in your fourth movie Sid… just sayin.

Despite all of its flaws and lack of commanding creativity after an 11-year hiatus, Scream 4 still fares better than most horror films running amok out there.  Intermittently, writer Williamson has something fresh up his sleeve to tease fans until returning to lesser tactics.  Beyond stylized batterings and one too many buckets of fake blood, the film’s occasional burst of energy and commentary keep the proceedings quite watchable.  However, I say with the talent involved and time made available, fans deserve better than watchable.  At least it trumps Scream 3.  I think.

Oh, and as for the killer’s reveal… of course I’ll give nothing away.  So I will respond with: C’mon…

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