'Scream 4': Don't turn your back on this latest installment
The original's still the best, but Wes Craven's "Scream 4" makes a pretty good case for itself. Self-aware and efficient, this film will tickle franchise fans as well as those who like their horror not so horrific.
Seattle Times movie critic
'Scream 4,' with Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Mary McDonnell, Marley Shelton. Directed by Wes Craven, from a screenplay by Kevin Williamson. 103 minutes. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some teen drinking. Several theaters.
You'd think Sidney Prescott would know better than to show up in Woodsboro again. If that sentence makes any sense to you, you're likely the target audience for "Scream 4," the latest installment in Wes Craven's long-running horror series. Begun in 1996 and quickly followed by two sequels, it's been dormant for a while; funny to think that in the last "Scream" movie (released in 2000), constant cellphone use was still a bit of a novelty.
And while the original's still the best (a point none-too-subtly made in "Scream 4"), the new movie makes a pretty good case for itself — and, in these days of gruesome "Saw"-style torture porn, seems almost quaint in its bloody yet efficient killings. The point of the "Scream" franchise has always been its self-referential quality; the way its characters recite the rules of horror movies (i.e. people get killed in reverse credits order, those who say "I'll be right back" won't, and there's always something unexpected hiding in a doorway) and yet are governed by them. "It sucks to be a cop in a movie, unless you're Bruce Willis," says a cop in "Scream 4" — and, indeed, he's right.
The plot for "Scream 4" feels like we've seen it before, and that's kind of the point: It's as if the movie-within-the-movie in "Scream 3" ("Return to Woodsboro") became a real movie. (Confused yet? No worries; that's kind of the point, too.) Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a young woman of uncannily bad karma whose friends and family keep getting murdered, returns to her hometown to plug her self-help memoir — only to find that a new version of Ghostface (the killer who stalks his prey in black gown and ghost mask) has launched a new killing spree. Her publicist (deliciously played by Alison Brie of "Mad Men") is thrilled by the press attention this might bring, but Sidney, aided by longtime friends Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and former journalist Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), is determined to put an end to the murders, and to find out who's behind the mask.
And who is it? Well, you'll have to watch the movie; Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson let us believe that it might be anybody (though, according to the rules of horror movies, obviously it isn't the person you think it might be). But you don't watch "Scream 4" to solve a mystery, or to identify with believable characters or situations (just one example: there's a scene set in a hospital that apparently has no medical personnel); you'll watch it to see a horror movie that has a sense of humor about itself. For "Scream" franchise fans, or for those who like their horror not too horrific, that's enough.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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