15 years ago, when the first Scream slashed its way onto cinema screens, it was heralded as a pastiche piece de la resistance. Its slasher savvy protagonists commented openly on their precarious positions in their very own horror movie, taking enough time between offings to reference a plethora of horror classics.
However, in the wake of films like Scary Movie, (which, through its plagiarism of Scream was a copy of a copy) where it’s now the norm to spew random movie references, for the audience to think, “Oh, wow! These guys must really know what they’re talking about,” is another Scream entry really necessary? By the looks of number four, the answer seems to be ‘yes’.
True to the formula, Scream 4 opens with a pre-credits sacrifice. But what, on the surface, seems like ‘business as usual’, soon transforms into a cinematic russian doll of multiple layers of film references and in-jokes. It plays like the slasher equivalent of Inception, only with more blood and less smarts.
After this neat prologue – which establishes that the film’s tongue is placed firmly in its cheek – the fourth installment’s plot is fleshed out. Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to Woodsboro to stay with her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), ten years after her last ordeal and on the final leg of her book tour. She has written a self-help book, which soon comes in handy when the Ghostface killer returns to terrorise the town…again. Sydney, new sheriff Dewie (David Arquette) and his new wife, plucky reporter Gail (Courtney Cox) must once again team up to survive the ever cine-literate killer’s murder spree.
Wes Craven and series writer Kevin Williamson have certainly upped the ante in the self-reflexivity stakes. With this fourth film, Scream enters the Facebook-YouTube-Apple age where Smartphone-wielding college students can download a Ghostface App to their phone and the gory dispatches can be streamed online.
Scream 4‘s tagline reads, ‘New Decade. New Rules.’ The rules may not be ‘new’ exactly, more recycled, but this latest entry is still a fun, if superficial, popcorn flick.
Good: There’s, ironically, enough original unoriginality here to satisfy.
Bad: If you haven’t seen the originals (or perhaps Scary Movie), you might be better off nipping next door to a screening of Source Code.