Sunday 17 April 2011

SCRE4M review

The long awaited next installment into Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's Scream franchise is now in cinemas. Watch the trailer and read my review, next...

Ten years after the events of the third film, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to her home town of Woodsboro to promote her book about overcoming emotional turmoil. When the copycat killings start again, Sidney must team up with the now married Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox) to ensure their parts aren't cut by the rebooted Ghostface.

It's hard to believe that the Scream franchise has reached the grand old age of fifteen years old, now aimed at an audience that were barely alive when we were first introduced to the white masked killer Ghostface. It was reassuring to see that the three principal stars of the franchise chose to return, but for me the most important question was, after the frankly appalling My Soul To Take, could director Wes Craven regain some of his mojo with a return to the one franchise he could truly call his own. Thankfully the answer is yes, with Craven's direction here being nearly the equal of his work in the earlier installments.

As an unashamed movie nerd, the one thing I always loved about the Scream franchise was its references to other classic horror franchises. I'm going to use my relative youth as my defense for not knowing about Friday the 13th or Halloween at the time, but the first Scream really was my gateway drug into the world of slicing and dicing. Could this latest chapter open up a world of stalk and slash movies to a new generation? Quite possibly. The referential aspects are all present and correct, with the new updated rules of a horror movie explained to us by Rory Culkin and Erik Knudsen's movie geeks Charlie and Robbie (who might as well be called Randy 2.0 and Randytron 3000). 

There's nods to recent torture porn franchises such as Saw, winks towards fans of recent remakes like Halloween, When A Stranger Calls, Friday the 13th, Dawn of the Dead, etc, and even a bit of love shown to Shaun of the Dead. There's also a lot of appreciation shown towards the 'film within a film' Stab franchise (now up to its seventh installment apparently), particularly in the opening sequence that takes the concept of metatextuality and stops just short of ripping open the cinema screen, walking up the aisle and sitting next to you to watch the movie and share your popcorn.

The new additions to the cast add little to the existing dynamic and despite the supposed attempt to inject some new blood, it's still very much Gale, Dewey and Sidney's story we're following. It's strangely comforting to know what's become of these characters, and even if a lot may have changed between them off screen the actors slip quite easily back into their roles; in particular, Courteney Cox seems to be having a lot of fun as the straight talking bitch, Gale. As usual you'll spend a lot of time trying to figure out who's behind the Ghostface mask, but as the film heads towards its grand reveal it really could be anyone. This isn't down to some crafty plotting, but rather the fact that a lot of the supporting characters haven't been very well written. Really, it could have been anyone.

Despite some noticeably bloodier kills in its arsenal, Scream 4 never quite reaches the self referential brilliance of the first (and to a lesser extent the second) film, but it blows the cobwebs off the dull, hardly mentioned reanimated corpse that was the third film. Far from the reboot/remake/reinvention of the franchise that was hinted at, Scream 4 is in fact just the latest installment after a prolonged absence. More of the same it may be, but the return of Ghostface is still welcomed.


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