Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Kevin Williamson
Starring: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Anthony Anderson, Alison Brie, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin, Marielle Jaffe,
Back in 2011 when Scream 4 was released, it was in the midst of a remake phase of horror. All of the slasher classics, Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and A Nightmare on Elm Street had been recently remade. Over a decade later there’s still remakes every year, but not the flagship slasher franchises like there was back then. Scream 4 is a reboot, it had been eleven years since the third film, and in some ways it’s a remake at the same time, following similar plot beats. By balancing being a reboot and a remake, it’s able to continue its commentary of the horror genre, with witty humour and at the same time still be a solid slasher film.
The film starts with not one, but two, fake-out openings, both the opening to Stab 6 & 7, which is the in-universe adaptation of the events of the first three films. From Stab 4 onwards they’ve just been making up the story since Sidney (Neve Campbell) won’t let them use her life story. The second fake-out, which is the start of Stab 7, features cameos from Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell, discussing how people overthink the Stab series, while it’s also scarier than other horror films because it’s a real person with a knife. The scene is a good summary of why the Scream series lives on a special shelf in horror fandom, it works on both levels. If you ignore all of the meta stuff then it’s still a great slasher, that few have come close to matching.
In the ‘real’ Woodsboro, Sidney Prescott is returning home as part of her book tour, Dewey (David Arquette) is now sheriff and married to Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox). Returning to these characters a decade later in their lives and the town of Woodsboro, still feels like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket. The reunion between the characters also sparks a copy-cat killer, with the events playing out in a similar way to what happened fifteen years prior.
Scream 4 is the final film in the series to be directed by Wes Craven, who died four years later. It also marks his last film. Joining him is Kevin Williamson, who also wrote Scream 1 & 2. The writing for the characters feels really well done. Where we find the three main characters feels like the natural progression from where we left them in Scream 3. Sidney is still working towards healing and moving forwards, and is a much stronger character. Gale has chosen love over her work in journalism, trying to write fiction, but the new series of murders rejuvenates her passion for journalism and she wants in on the investigation. Dewey is now sheriff, a much more serious position and he’s more grounded because of it, with a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. Kevin Williamson perfectly captures the characters through his writing, and they feel incredibly real.
A lot of plot beats from the first film are replayed here, with some strong twists throughout. It would be easy to dismiss this as a remake of the first film, but there is a lot going on with it. It adds to the series, updates it with modern references and gives enough twists on the original film to make it a worthwhile entry to the series. The scares are still there, the comedy is still great, and the characters continue to be some of the strongest in the genre, the newcomers included.
Scream 4 continued the trend that the first three set out. Near perfect slasher films. It’s smart, gory, and a welcome addition to the series. It may have taken over ten years for the sequel to happen, but it’s gone down as one of the best sequels in horror history.
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