The first three Scream films are pretty vital to the horror genre. The original movie shot this extra dose of adrenaline into slasher flicks, bringing a new found interest when most were beginning to think it was a tired genre. Truth be told, it probably is (most conceptions about the horror genre being terrible are true). Enjoyment, however, can be found even in terrible films, but great gore doesn’t always make up for bad acting and a terrible story. But every once in a while, a film comes along with a solid cast and is written well enough to remind people why they love the genre that they do. Scream did it for horror 15 years ago; Scream 4 could very well do it again.
The most important part of Scream 4 is that it actually feels like it belongs in the series. Despite the cast being filled with mostly new recruits, they get sucked into the killings rather easily and it only makes predicting the killer that much more difficult to do. Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette all slide back into their respective roles without any trouble at all. The “new rules” aspect of the film is probably the most refreshing breath of life this installment could possibly offer (nearly everything the original films went by is shattered). Virgins can die now, saying, “I’ll be right back” — it doesn’t matter and, thanks to this dismantling, the veil of uncertainty is automatically drawn over how you think the film could play out (there is more than one time in the film where you think you have the identity of the killer figured out before being swerved into thinking it’s somebody else). Scream 4 breaks the mold by being a third sequel in an array of nothing but less than spectacular remakes that manages to poke fun at the genre in a new, intelligent way while also putting a new spin on a story audiences already know that they love.
Yet, with all of the really good things going for Scream 4, there’s at least one downfall to note. There’s such an emphasis on the “new rules” that you’d expect the film to go in an unexpected direction. But when it finally has the opportunity to take the franchise and its future sequels down a completely new and unseen course, Scream 4 circles back around to put this chapter in the series back on a path its traveled three times before. Also, do you remember the first time you saw Speed? It had an ending that just kept going; you thought it was going to end once they got off the bus, but we still had yet to venture into the subway, see Sandra Bullock with a bomb strapped to her chest, witness Dennis Hopper get decapitated, and watch Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock make out in the leftover destruction. Scream 4 does something similar (minus all the bombs, buses, making out, and Dennis Hopper) and while it’s great that the film keeps you guessing and takes you for a ride that lasts longer than you expect it to, it really should have stuck with ending fifteen to twenty minutes earlier than it did.
Scream 4 is, nonetheless, the bloodiest, most suspenseful, and most unpredictable Scream entry yet. It’s also one of the best horror films to be released theatrically in the first few months of 2011. Despite a few misfires, mostly lying within its finale, Scream 4 is a sharp sequel that not only continues its trend of poking fun at other horror movies in innovative ways but it also offers a fantastic cast, some great kills, and will keep you guessing until the identity of Ghostface is finally revealed.