Starring: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Courtney Cox, Hayden Panettiere, Nico Tortotella, Marley Shelton, Eric Knutson, Rory Culkin, and Anthony Anderson
Director: Wes Craven
Rating: Six of Ten Stars
Sidney Prescott (Campbell), once only famous for being the intended victim of the Ghostface Killer and several copycats, is now a successful self-help author who has left the dark terrors of the 1990s far behind. But the past comes back to life in a gruesome fashion when her book tour takes her home to Woodsboro... and yet another Ghostface copycat starts targeting Sidney's cousin (Roberts) and her friends.
There isn't much to say about "Scream 4". Despite all the talk about "new decade, new rules", it pretty much follows the tone and pattern established in the first films of the series, although it's thankfully closer to the first "Scream" in entertainment value than were the sequels.
The formula has seen some updating--with cellphones and social networking sites being prevalent everywhere and a running theme about the increasing prevalence of celebrities who are famous for being famous, and viral YouTube videos who give more people than ever 15 seconds of fame--but it's still the same old "Scream", with plenty of characters making jokes about slasher movie plots and a certain level of playfulness in the structure of film with genre conventions.
And I think the viral video aspect is going to be the driver for the sequels that Craven & Crew have promised if this film is successful enough to warrant them. Perhaps someone can finally do a horror film that fully incorporates the web and modern self-broadcasting technology, something which the filmmakers failed at here and here.
Sidney and series mainstay characters Dewey the Cop (David Arquette) and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) have also been updated a bit, with ten years having gone by. Sidney, in keeping with the changes in slasher film cliches now spends more time chasing Ghostface and kicking his ass than being chased by him. Dewey is now at the head of the Woodboro police force and they are a little less buffoonish than in previous films--although still as ineffectual or there wouldn't be a movie. Meanwhile, Gale, the character who was a celebrity journalist in the first films, is trying to recapture her fame in this one. Leaving these central characters in place with some changes to their circumstances and personalities was the right thing to do for the film. Their fates through the course of the movie was also exactly the right thing to do; it's good to see that "new decade, new rules" didn't mean "crap all over the original movies" like it so often does in Hollywood, even when those involved were part of the original productions, as we saw in the god-awful "Halloween: Resurrection".
While few of the new characters are likely to be back in any of the sequels--thanks to the twist-on-a-twist-ending that would probably have had me spewing all kinds of venom if it had been in anything but a "Scream" movie--I hope this film will be the start of many horror appearances for several of them. Emma Roberts did surprisingly well in her role, and Hayden Panettiere was great fun as well, but there was no one who didn't do an excellent job in their parts.
"Scream 4" is one of the better sequels in recent memory, because it updates the right things and leaves everything else as it should be--it was great to learn that the new rules are, essentially, the same as the old rules. If the first ones entertained you, this is worth seeing. The wink-wink formula may not be as fresh as it was in the mid-1990s, but this is a well-crafted movie.