VOD film review: Scream 4
James R | On 28, Oct 2021
Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts
What’s your favourite scary movie? Well, it probably isn’t Scream 3, which was a little too meta to be scary. That’s how a film review of Scream 4 starts out: with a joke about sequels. Then it goes on to talk about how Scream isn’t so relevant these days after all the horror reboots and remakes of decades past, before adding that this satirical slasher series is following in the same footsteps – and that Scream 4 has a fair stab at the revival formula too. Wind up with a witty sentence, and that’s your first paragraph.
Some kind of synopsis usually occurs at this point. Ten years after the last Woodboro massacre, Sidney (Neve Campbell) returns to her home to be haunted by Ghostface all over again. A summary a bit like that. Only a lazy review fails to mention the other old faces that pop up (most likely making an ironic reference to Courteney Cox and David Arquette being together) while an obligatory few words go towards welcoming the new bunch of teen characters ready for slicing and dicing.
Then you expect some sentences using words like “acting” and “script”. So let’s skip that bit and talk about the fact that local cop Adam Brody doesn’t get nearly enough screen time. And then we return to the obvious review clichés anyway, rehashing the usual line about how the Scream franchise is not as scary as it used to be. (In short: it’s not as scary as it used to be.)
A swift appreciation of Wes Craven follows – if nothing else, he’s still the undisputed king of chasing people round empty houses – alongside some very kind words about the inspired, laugh-out-loud screenplay, which opens with a brilliant sequence straight out of the Kevin Williamson playbook but also manages to conclude with a wonderfully tense final act.
The fifth paragraph sometimes drags a little bit.
The sixth mentions that the killings aren’t as inventive as they once were – which is quite convenient really, because they aren’t. The review might also note the amount of gore present despite the film’s 15 certificate, or argue that the script referring to Facebook and Twitter isn’t cheesy but to be expected in a contemporary context.
Of course, an appraisal of the cast has to happen, no doubt highlighting Hayden Panettiere as good and praising Emma Roberts as Sidney’s niece, Jill – a long-standing Scream watcher might also note that it takes that Erik Knudsen from Scott Pilgrim plus Rory Culkin to even begin to fill the shoes of Randy in the film nerd role.
The review then adds that the franchise veterans are the ones who get the best lines, even as there’s talk of Craven starting up a brand new trilogy. Finally, there’s a comment on how ludicrous it all still is – here you can read adjectives like “fun” and “entertaining” to allow for the daft decision-making by Ghostface’s potential victims or the police officers, as well as to hint at the genuinely clever twists the script inevitably has in store.
Put all these together and you’ve got yet another review of Scream 4. A film review about writing a film review? That’s exactly the kind of post-modern silliness that a Scream fan would hope for – and the franchise’s unexpected, and unexpectedly delightful, fourth film has it by the bucket load, without skimping on the spooky suspense. Your new favourite scary movie? Perhaps not. Your new favourite Scream movie? You just might be surprised.