Over the years fans have speculated over what exactly this meant. Was director Wes Craven literally leaving the door open for a sequel? Or might Wes' intentions have been less metafictional and more straightforward, showing that, at long last, Sid could relax and no longer hide away behind locked doors, considering that The Ghostface Killer had finally been dealt with once and for all?
But in the alternate reality of the actual Scream films, we get endless sequel after sequel after sequel. In fact, the fictional STAB movies now officially have more entries than the real Scream flicks, which stopped in 2000, right?
What a difference 11 years makes, huh? Because now, in 2011, we actually have a "Scre4m", complete with a real deal holyfield return to Woodsboro for a veritable robe-load of survivors both in front of and behind the camera. Yes, yes, folks... this is most assuredly a Wes Craven film and, indeed, Amigos, this is a Dimension release, just as the previous films were, still under the watchful care of smilin' Bob and Harvey Weinstein! The good news is that original writer/ creator Kevin Williamson is back with the pen. The bad news is that just when a set of rewrites were being called for, Kev-Kev was called back to get busy on his steadily growing Television Properties, so Bob-o didn't hesitate to call in one Ehren Kruger to pick up the pen!
Whoa! Didn't the same thing happen behind the scenes on Scream 3??? Yeah, pretty much... but Bob, Harvey and Wes are assuring us that all Ehren did was "Punch up the Dialogue" and that this is Kevin's script.
Ah. Got it. As for the "Same thing happening", that's pretty much what Scream 4 has in spades! A whole LOT of the same old thing.
Naturally, this is part of the point! From the beginning, Scream was that self-aware horror flick that referenced all kinds of current and classic Slasher and Splatter films, running right up to Parody's front door and ringing the bell without ever actually crossing the threshold into spoof territory and remaining a "Hard R" horror franchise. The references to Scream itself started as early as Scream 2 with the film-within-a-film STAB retelling the events of the original movie.
Here, we get more of what made Scream, as a film and a series, great, with some definitively modernized elements. After all, how can one tell the same story of that crazy Ghost Face calling up his victims with a voice disguiser that sounds, for all the world, like Roger L. Jackson when everyone out there really does have a cell phone with caller ID and everyone surfs the web with them and uses text messaging, Facebook and Twitter almost more often than they actually talk on the damned things?
Well, Scream 4 aims to answer that question while still succeeding as a worthy sequel in its own right (and, potentially, the first flick in a new trilogy)! Williamson and Craven set the stage beautifully with some tongue-in-cheek looks at the way-too-many Stab installments, before getting into a sequel of their own... to be released at a time when the only thing worse than a Bad Horror Sequel is a Bad Horror Remake!
Naturally, the one person who is in the mood for neither one happens to be our leading lady herself, new author Sidney Prescott (the ever-lovely Neve Campbell)! Her media and signing tour is finishing up right where her nightmare started, in good old Woodsboro. Hopefully she'll get a chance to catch up with old friends like former Deputy and now Sherriff Dwight "Dewey" Riley (David Arquette) and his loving wife Gale Weathers-Riley (Courtney Cox-Arquette) and some of her remaining family like cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and Aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell)!
After all... who else is actually left still alive?
Luckily, Woodsboro is packed with new young people to pick up the torch and either be violent or violated! That's because on the eve of Sid's homecoming, the new Ghostface Copycat has left her a few welcoming gifts... in body bags! And, once again, kids... EVERYONE IS A SUSPECT!!! Who we talkin' 'bout?
Once again, that's quite a roster and the cameos are just jam-packed (look closely and you'll even see a bust of Henry Winkler, Scream's Principal Himbry). Also packed in are the references to other, similar films, including the other films in this series, the spoofs, endless sequels and, because we're quagmired by them every month or so, the plethora of bad horror remakes (many of which are actual remakes OF Wes Craven flicks)!
In many ways, this plays perfectly into the subtextual joke of Scream 4! Yes, they tell us, we are doing yet another sequel to our venerable and classy series, both to be a good entry AND to spoof the never-ending sequels to once venerable and classy franchises, but we're ALSO repeating ourselves to satire the horrendous septic tank seepage of bottom-feeding remakes, all in the internet age, all with new tools and instant access to streaming video.
And in so many ways, this works very well and it FEELS like we're watching a legitimate continuation of the Scream franchise (which, of course, this is). On the other hand, while Scream and its first two sequels were all metafictional commentaries on the horror brand, twisting its clichés on their ears and boldly holding a mirror up to the genre without truly ripping off any other picture, what the Scream films never were... was predictable! And sadly, Scream 4 can actually be relatively predictable in ways that detract from the final product. It's not hard to figure out who might be doing what and when, even when suspicion is shined on just about anybody. In that respect, Scream 4 closely resembles Scream 3 in its near cross of the line between mockery of horror clichés and embrace of those same clichés.
Then again, that's not to say that Scream 4 isn't a good movie... it is, and it never becomes a waste of time. Craven and Williamson (and, possibly Kruger who, along with Bob and Harvey, is credited as an Executive Producer, Lord Help Us All!) keep things feeling MOSTLY fresh, even as they push up against their own expiration dates! It's both comforting and frightening to note that, still, in the Scream series, anything can happen and even the main characters can be killed off, dramatically, if unceremoniously. Any of the shortfalls in the denouement (and its buildup) are at least somewhat redeemed in a satisfying and positively Scream-worthy final act. Happily, the score was once again written by good old Marco Beltrami, so even when we think we've predicted the killer-killer's identity, the suspense and startles aided by the music tend to push us back into questionable territory... even if we end up being right.
Unfortunately, the predictions can be right a bit too often! As Scream 4 holds up a mirror to the current crop of mediocre horror, it tends to be judged by the company it keeps. Extra blood, visible guts, dorky know-it-alls who can Svengali just about everything under the sun, while pulling the wool (and/ or fright mask) over everybody's eyes and a plethora of "New Rules", informed by vastly inferior remakes and diluted sequels tend to hinder Scream 4 as a horror flick all its own and embitter Scream 4 as the near-lampoon successor it continues to be.
That said, it's hard not to appreciate Scream 4 for all that it is and all that it dares to say. By now the series is something of an elder-statesman of Slasher Horror, which is ironic, considering the young, hip revitalization that it infused into the genre that spawned it. If any series has the right to mock and criticize the current crop of "horror porn" experiments in bad taste and worse storytelling, it's Scream! For succeeding at that while still telling a very cool and still scary, continuing story, it deserves the respectable Three Stars out of Five that it gets today! Sure, much of this we've seen before... and much of that was seen within this very series... then again, that's a big part of the whole point, isn't it? Ghostface has yet another copycat killer on the loose right smack-dab in Woodsboro once again... how could the story not repeat just a bit? In short... it's not as good as SCREAM or SCREAM 2, but it's just about tied with SCREAM 3! More importantly, it deserves its spot on the shelf right next to the other three... and in the inevitable packaged and re-packaged ad nauseum boxed sets. So until we get a new Scream 5 and Scream 6, in which Sidney has to hide again because we find out that the new Svengali-string-puller behind that Edvard Munch-inspired, Brigitte Sleiertin-created Fun World Ghostface mask is actually good old Stu once again (hey, we never actually got confirmation that he died), I'll see you Film Freaks in the next reel!
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