Scream 4 review

Never go back to a lit firework. That’s one of life’s golden rules. There are very few good sequels past the second or third. That is another life’s golden rules. After lighting the touchpaper, Wes Craven has gone back to a lit firework after 2001's Scream 3 AND he’s created a fourth film in the franchise.

This could have gone horribly wrong. It is pretty much a given that the Scream movies were single-handedly responsible for the revival/survival of the horror movie in the mid 90s. At the time, it was on its knees and in real danger of becoming the genre Dodo seeing out those final years in the straight-to-video hell or as fright-free twee multiplex filler. Craven, like a white knight of terror, changed all that – aided, of course, by a wicked script from Kevin Williamson. Now, here we are in 2011 and the genre is sadly in need of another round of shock treatment to get it’s heart beating again as we risk being sucked into a teen-friendly bog of remake and half-arsed creativity or faux-Saw shockers. Craven himself is in dire need of a hit after the so-bad-it-is-SO-BAD rudderless waste of film, My Soul To Take.

Here Wes saves the genre again, and his own cinematic soul, with Scream 4. Scream was a game-changer, Scream 2 was a worthy if flawed sequel, and Scream 3 barely but only just did the job (it lacked balls and brains). However, Scream 4 is the money shot. Now, I am highly restricted with regards to what I am allowed to reveal as far as plot and characters go but I can tell you this – you won’t be disappointed by Scre4m – although that’s not to say it is totally perfect. The trademark touches are here as you would hope and expect. Arquette and Cox are back, as is Campbell, and even though it has been 11 years since the last movie, they slip back into these characters so slickly that it was like only yesterday. It is genuinely great to see them back on screen all together.

New additions to the franchise include the fierce Panettiere (who totally nails it), Bell and Paquin (who make a lasting impression) and Roberts, who seriously impresses with her best performance yet. Not all of the young cast convince, with some of the male teen cast seeming pretty wooden, but special mention should go to Liev Schreiber look-alike Erik Knudsen, as well as Rory Culkin (yes, Macaulay’s brother) who keep up with the girls and appear to be the only young guys not dialling in their performances. The online and gadget landscapes have changed considerably since even Scream 3 came out and that, along with everything that comes with that cultural shift, is embraced and played out here. Again, we have the right mix of solid shocks and yucks making this tongue-in-cheek enough to not take itself too seriously while also not losing credibility.

Scream 4 has moved with the times and embraced all the socio-political and even genre shifts but hasn’t lost its essence. The ending is pitched perfectly and shows that Williamson and all involved really still do have a feel for a finale. I had some very serious concerns about this film but Scream 4 (aka Scre4m) has really put those boogymen to bed. Does Scream 4 warrant a sequel? Just about, but if this is the end of the road, then that’s okay too. A solid, fun, feisty, balls-against-the-wall, crowd-pleasing bloodbath that more than earns a place in the top two of the franchise.

Scream 4 at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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