By Vinny Abbacetola
There was a pang of nostalgia to be felt when the phone rang in the opening of Scream 4. Although it has been 15 years since the original Scream became a horror icon, this scene would cause many to fear the dreadful voice that asked, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” This question prompted audience members to fear the ringing of a telephone or to be in a house all alone. Now, 11 years later, the return of Ghostface is what moviegoers needed to satirize the film industry’s onslaught of unnecessary reboots, remakes and uninspired sequels.
Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, Scream series) is finally getting her life back together after facing several tragedies. She has penned a self-help book based on her experiences, and hasn’t been harassed by a certain killer in years. As she’s returning to her hometown for the last stop of her book tour, she reunites with her two fellow survivors of the Woodsboro murders, Dewey Riley (David Arquette, The Land of the Astronauts) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox, Bedtime Stories), who are now married. This isn’t a case of home-sweet-home for Sidney, however, since her return sparks the murders of two neighborhood girls, both by the knife of none other than Ghostface. With the help of a new generation of teenagers, they soon find themselves on a quest to discover who is the one donning the notorious white mask and black cloak, while at the same time learning the “new rules” on surviving a scary movie.
In spite of the lengthy hiatus, the three main Scream actors fit comfortably back into their roles. Campbell asserts her girl-power status as the heroine who doesn’t hesitate when the time comes to protect her friends and family. The audience is drawn to her because she immediately taps into her survival instincts when Ghostface is near and isn’t afraid to challenge the killer. Courteney Cox brings the thunder again as Gale Weathers. Her feisty attitude makes her another tough female character for the Scream saga. Gale will put herself in danger if it means she will grab the latest news story. As usual, she gets many of the film’s best lines. David Arquette resumes his role as the dimwitted, yet loveable Officer Riley.
The franchise’s latest group of teenagers includes Jill (Emma Roberts, Homework), who plays Sidney’s cousin; Hayden Panettiere (Alpha and Omega) as Kirby, a secret film-enthusiast; Rory Culkin (Twelve) as Charlie, the brains of the new rules of horror movies; Erik Knudsen (Beastly) as Robbie, a sort of new-age voyeur with his head-set video camera; and Nico Tortorella (Twelve) as Trevor, Jill’s mysterious and untrustworthy boyfriend. Each young star contributes to what is a melting-pot of hip high school personalities.
The script by Scream scribe Kevin Williamson retains the terror, albeit less so, and the comedy aspects that have mixed well in these films. After an 11-year gap in between the third and fourth installments, fans had a reason to look forward to this entry, especially the opening sequence. There isn’t a doubt that it’s carried out in a clever fashion, but it is deficient in the scare department. There are some decent frights throughout, but others fall into predictability. Luckily, it isn’t easy to figure out who the killer is because, just like the three other installments, Scream 4 persists in its guessing game that the audience loves to play. The tongue-in-cheek dialogue and dark humor are the film’s strong areas.
Scream 4 is superior to most recent horror sequels, and it has been hinted that it might be the start of a new trilogy. Hopefully, the writers have in mind a scarier and more suspenseful future for the continuation of the saga.