The first shock of this review… I liked Scre4m. Actually, I liked it a lot. Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson re-unite to re-boot this now classic slasher series for a new generation and deliver the best film in the series since the brilliant original.
So now that we’ve made these grandiose statements let’s back it up for a moment… No, Scre4m isn’t nearly as good as Scream but that’s no easy task (or fair comparison?) because, in the eyes of this reviewer, Scream is a genuine horror gem, a classic that deserves its status among the very best that horror has offered (especially in the slasher sub-genre).
The first film in the series walked a fine line between meta-comedy and genuine scares (that mask haunted me for some time, since I was all of 12 when the first one hit) PLUS they came up with the brilliant idea of having not one but two killers… a true revelation that, combined with the sharp dialogue, made the film that riffs on the unoriginality of the genre so original and fresh.
As you can tell, we hold the first film in very high-esteem. The sequels? Not so much. We’re very precious about the first and can see some value in the Scream 2 (although it’s a far, far weaker film) but the third is downright laughable which made us more than a little apprehensive about the 4th installment (to say the least). Is it great? No. Is it perfect? No. Is it fun and entertaining and heaps and bounds better than the current crop of torture-horror? Absolutely.
To be honest, this is where I come to a bit of an impasse. Whodunit slashers rely on keeping mum and not revealing too much so reviewing them is inherently a bit tricky… What to say, what not to say (probably shouldn’t spoil the killer(s)). However, the marketing behind this film is very interesting AND works on multiple levels… on one hand spoiling a few of the film’s murders (sorry y’all but if you want to know NOTHING about who lives and who dies, don’t watch the trailers) and on the other it creates an absolutely genius case of misdirection (that is all we will say on this except that it is very, very clever and actually impacts the film). So a double-edged sword, the marketing ruins a few deaths but builds a credible MacGuffin that actually serves to make the film more unpredictable.
If you want some actual comments on the films merits… Wes Craven, when given decent material to work with (namely a Kevin Williamson script), still knows how to shoot the scares. The acting is actually a lot better than you’d expect in slashers… sure the cameos are hammy and the girls are predictably gorgeous (especially Hayden Panettiere as Kirby who we would love see get her own… sorry spoilers). The vets, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, know these roles inside and out and that lived quality (not to mention the added ‘meta’ aspect of the Cox-Arquette break-up) makes for characters that feel more flushed out than most genre pieces, enough to actually make us care about them. Campbell especially shines in what is really her only film role of merit… her Sidney Prescott is now the ultimate final girl (but is this her finale? You’ll have to go see…).
Right. So Scre4m is a lot of meta (and we loved the joke in the film when they discuss the ‘meta’ aspects unfolding around them and Dewey has to ask what it means…), a lot of slashing and a few cool twists. Most importantly, it has the feel and the tone of the original which is enough for us to hack and slash our way to the cinema. Yes a very pleasant surprise and very entertaining (even if not terribly scary).
Official Synopsis: “Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), now the author of a self-help book, returns home to Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. There she reconnects with Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox), who are now married, as well as her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her Aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell). Unfortunately, Sidney’s appearance also brings about the return of Ghostface, putting Sidney, Gale, and Dewey, along with Jill, her friends, and the whole town of Woodsboro in danger.”