There are several lines from the “Scream” franchise that popped into my mind while watching Wes Craven’s latest installment, “Scre4m.” Craven heeds the advice of his character Randy, while providing new rules for the audience to follow along to.
In “Scream” we learned that we should “never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, ‘I’ll be right back.’ Because you won’t be back.” Sequel Randy informs us that “the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate – more blood, more gore – *carnage candy*.” In “Scream 3”, Randy reminds us that, “Anyone including the main character can die. I’m sorry. It’s the final chapter.”
“Scre4m” sees a bigger cast, naturally then the body count is going to be higher than the first. Neve Campbell returns as Sidney Prescott to the bloody little town of Woodsboro to promote her bestselling self-help book. David Arquette’s Dewey is the new town sheriff and his wife Gale, Courtney Cox, is retired but thrust back into the limelight. While in town, Sidney visits with her teen (it’s not a horror movie without teens) cousin Jill, played by Emma Roberts, and her group of friends, or the new batch of bodies.
Writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven return 15 years after the original to offer fans of the horror genre a break from the torture-porn that we have come to expect. In typical “Scream” fashion, the movie starts out with a killing that seems random but connects back to the characters; however, there’s a clever twist added to mess with the fans and take a little potshot at the “Saw” series.
The new targets, sorry, I mean, Jill’s friends, include her BFFs, Olivia (Marielle Jaffe) and Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), the movie’s token cinema geeks (Rory Culkin and Erik Knudson) who stream their lives on the internet, and the ex (Nico Tortorella).
The geeks inform everyone that this isn’t a sequel murder like the last time, this is a remake. For remakes, the rules are completely different since they are trying to be better than the original, but follow the same story since it’s a remake. Get it?
The teens still run up the stairs and try to unlock the chain on the doors, and after the first couple murders, it does feel like we’re watching the original “Scream.” However, Kevin Williamson’s dialogue is fresh enough to remind us that this is a new chapter in a storied franchise. Throughout “Scre4m,” it lets us know that it knows exactly what is going on.
Wes Craven is a clever enough director to know that we would be bored by the standard second act. He had to throw it in, though, to get to the final act, which redeems the film. To say there’s a surprise would be an understatement. If only there were a way to close the gap between the first and third act, this would’ve been a much more fun film to watch.
“Scream 4” provides exactly what its core audience will expect, a bloody good time with everyone from Sydney to the town detectives in on the joke. But maybe that’s the film that Craven set out to create, an ironically amusing commentary on the direction the genre has taken. We don’t have to analyze the film too thoroughly because Craven and Williamson do it for us. All we have to do it watch the bodies pile up, that is, if you’re into that kind of thing.
For those of you that’ll watch this multiple times, play a little game with yourself. Count how many times Craven references back to either any of the other “Scream” movies, or any of his films in general. My only spoiler: there’s a fun nod to the first in the high school, you might spot something pretty cool.