I hate myself a little for typing that title; Scre4m. In fact, I have half a mind to thumb my nose at it and type Scream 4 just to annoy it. I mean, who does it think it is? Se7en?

I won’t lie. I like the Scream franchise. I even quite liked Scream 3. Or should that be Scr3am? In fact, the only thing I didn’t like about the whole affair was it “inspired” the diabolical Scary Movie (by someone who clearly missed the point) and everything else that spewed out from it. So this has a big mask to fill.

Survivor from the previous outings, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), has written a book on her experiences and, for reasons best not queried too aggressively, organises her book tour visit to Woodsboro to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the, em, Woodsboro Killings. This proves to be as half-assed an idea as it seems on paper and lo and behold, but the killings start up again. Let’s face it, it wouldn’t be much of a slasher movie if no one got slashed. Somewhere, deep below the surface, it’s saying something about the victim culture but, hey, it’s no social commentary. Folk are going to get stabbed. Lots of them. It’ll probably hurt quite a bit.

Director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson team up for the first time since 1997’s Scream 2 and right from the clever outset, it’s clear that we’re in experienced hands. The self-referential dialogue and genre nods never feel too forced and although it borrows elements from its prequels — movie geeks and wannabes sucking up to Gale and the opening scene from Stab — it does it in a way that feels up a notch and lets you know it’s doing it and asks you trust it. It knows what it’s doing.

Courtney Cox Arquette and David Arquette Cox reprise their roles and given the grotesque pantomime feel of the movie, they seem to have the most fun while heroine Campbell is pretty much asked to be the poor maiden in distress again. Fresh blood added to the cast include Hayden Panetierre in a far more cynical role than her work on Heroes would lead you to believe.

The kills and shocks are as plentiful as you’d expect and while there are only a certain number of ways you can show someone being stabbed, for the large part it feels fresh and typical of this rebooted vision of what is at its heart a tried and tested formula. If there’s any doubt about that, in a typically hoarse phone conversation, Ghostface reminds us that Peeping Tom came out in the 1960.

If it has a failing it’s that the identity of the killer doesn’t come as a huge surprise and it really has the previous three films to blame for that. If it’s all about playing by the rules then, well, we’ve had a six hour lesson leading up to this. And anyway, the rollercoaster isn’t all about the end, it’s the journey, and for a couple of hours of fun and gore, it doesn’t disappoint.

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