Anchor Bay // 2011 // 111 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 3rd, 2011
New Decade. New Rules.
Who expected this? When they first announced Scream 4 would be coming to theaters, I was truly surprised. Although the first three films did huge business, Ghost Face's time had come and gone; the genre had moved on. Yet this wasn't going to stop Wes Craven from helming his first horror movie in years (we're just going to forget My Soul To Take ever happened) and dragging original writer Kevin Williamson along for the ride. A lot of familiar faces make a return engagement to Woodsboro in Scream 4, now available in hi-def care of Anchor Bay Home Entertainment.
Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell, Wild Things) has a lot of mental and physical scars from her run in with Ghost Face over a decade ago. Sydney's return to her hometown is punctuated by a promotional tour for her new book, "Out of Darkness," which explores her experiences as a survivor during the three previous murderous outings. The book should be a hit, as "Stab" mania is at an all time high -- the movies inspired by the real life murders have become huge Hollywood hits (seven and counting).
As the town of Woodsboro prepares for a Halloween-like festival (as one character says, "One generation's tragedy is another's celebration"), Sydney finds herself caught up once more in a string of murders that rock the town to its very core. This time, the killer is not just haphazardly picking people off, but is creating a remake of the original murders. With the help of seasoned reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox, Friends) and her husband Lt. Dewey Riley (David Arquette, Eight Legged Freaks), Sydney must figure out a way to protect her young cousin, Jill (Emma Roberts, Valentine's Day), and a group of young high schoolers (including Rory Culkin, Hayden Panettiere, Erik Knudsen, and Marielle Jaffe) from becoming a smorgasbord of teenage fodder!
I'm not sure how much of a clamoring there was for Scream 4, but here it is in all its gory glory. Many of the mainstays -- Craven, Williamson, Cox, Arquette, and Campbell -- are back, and the results are decidedly mixed. Fans of the series may be disappointed, but as sequels go you could do much worse (I'd name names, but there are too many to choose from).
I saw Scream 4 in theaters during its initial run and left mildly amused but mostly disappointed. The original Scream was a game changer; there aren't a lot of movies that allow for pinpointing where a genre changed directions, but this was a line in the sand. After the success of the original, the horror genre (like Skynet) suddenly became aware. Not content to just be scary, the films that followed (I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend, The Faculty, among many, many other) and their characters now knew they were in a horror movie and acted accordingly to this newfound knowledge. Other horror movies were referenced, making this post modern version of the horror genre burn out quickly. While a few of the films from this period were decent, the majority were turds needing to be flushed. By the time Scream 3 (a major disappointment, in my opinion) hit theaters in 2000, the genre had played itself out and moved into an endless stream of remakes.
That's where Scream 4 picks up. Since we're currently in the sunset of the remake craze (how could we not be when there's hardly anything left to remake?), this had to focus on that particular trend. It's not surprising then that Scream 4 tries to be a remake of sorts, and yet its predecessors did the same thing (Scream 3 had a replica of the original Scream house and had more murders happen there, making that a remake in and of itself). Craven handles the idea of the remake craze well, even if it runs out of gas halfway through the film. Curiously, Scream 4 lacks the trademark blood and guts of most current horror movies, and it's actually a welcome change. The screenplay attempts to focus on character, rather than cheap thrills and gratuitous effects work.
The actors give their all to sell this story, especially original Courtney Cox, David Arquette and Neve Campbell. The screenplay doesn't betray their original character traits, and the actors dive into the material with bloody gusto. The younger group of kids -- because let's be honest, the original stars are now in their 40s and closer to social security than high school -- are at least distinguishable, a high compliment considering most horror teens are interchangeable twits. I especially liked Hayden Panettiere's Kirby (a slutty horror film geek), Rory Culkin (how many of these Culkin kids are there?), and Erik Knudsen as fellow film students who view everything in their lives as internet-ready. Some characters have less screen time than others, but I have to give credit where credit is due -- they all do a fine job establishing their personalities.
* SPOILER ALERT *
I can't truthfully discuss Scream 4 without talking about the ending. In the interest of fair disclosure, I'll be giving away who the killer is, so please don't read any further if you don't want to know. There, I've covered myself.
As the curtain finally comes down, the killer is revealed to be Emma Roberts, which has to be one of the biggest disappointments of the film and the series as a whole. For a franchise based on great reveals (previous killers harkened back to Friday the 13th and other classics), this revelation is just...boring. In the previous installments, the killer at least had some menace to them, when the mask finally came off. Finding out the killer is Emma Roberts is like discovering Pee-Wee Herman lurks underneath Darth Vader's mask. It doesn't have any impact. Roberts's tries as hard as she can to be all kinds of crazy, but just comes off as a Disney star who wandered into the wrong movie. It just didn't work for me. On top of that, Scream 4 stretches believability as far as it can, with its reasons of why Roberts has become the killer (which I won't divulge here, gotta leave something for the imagination). If there is a Scream 5, the killer needs to either be resurrected from the dead or Sydney's grandmother.
Instead of allowing the series to remain a critical part of the 1990s, Scream 4 tries too hard to be relevant. The film didn't do blockbuster business, so I doubt there will be a fifth film, making Scream 4 the final coda. May it rest in piece(s).
Scream 4 is presented in 2.40:1/1080p widescreen and looks absolutely fantastic. Anchor Bay has pulled out all of the stops to make sure this transfer shines. I couldn't find a single moment where the image looked off -- no edge enhancement, no DNR, no scrubbing ,or wonky colors. Fans of the film and series are going to be thrilled.
The soundtrack is presented in a very aggressive DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio; a which mix gets the job done and then some. There are many moments where all of the speakers are fully engaged (especially during the kills). The bass gets a hearty workout and the whole thing sounds like it was produced to shatter your nerves. This is a very well done track by Anchor Bay and should be played loudly. Also included are English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Fans should also be happy with the bonus features offered here. While not extensive, there's enough to give solid insight into the making of the film. An engaging audio commentary by director Wes Craven and stars Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, and Neve Campbell; nearly a half hour of extended or deleted scenes; an outtake gag reel; a short and standard promotion piece with talking head interviews ("The Making of Scream 4"); a "Scream 4: The Video Game" promo piece; and bonus DVD and digital copies of the film.
For fans of the series and the genre, Scream 4 (Blu-ray) is worth a look. As a horror sequel, it's decent. As a sequel to a huge franchise, it's a disappointment (although not as bad as Scream 3). A well-done Blu-ray softens the blow.
Not guilty...just don't expect it to top the first two films.
Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Extended/Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Video Game Promo
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy