Managing to underscore everything pointless about the modern American horror movie, “Scream 4” follows up on previous installments — and not in a good way.
Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is still haunted by the specter of the Woodsboro murders and finds herself at the mercy of yet another ghost face copycat killer with an encyclopedic knowledge of horror films. This time it seems the killer is imitating the events of the original “Scream.”
Kevin Williamson, who wrote the first two movies, grabs for straws with this script, using the same jokes about slasher movies the audience has heard over and over again. And since the culture of remakes is being spoofed, “Scream 4” feels even more like trodden ground.
The dilemma is made explicit by the film’s opening — not one, but two false starts — using the “movie-within-a-movie.” The film then transitions from the meta-world of “Stab” into the actual plot of “Scream 4,” during which the audience is forced to sit through the same scene three times. All it manages to do is make a predictable and repetitive experience even more repetitive. Any tension or fear evaporates because none of the false start scenarios end up being any more contrived than the actual film.
There’s nowhere for the cast to take this material that it hasn’t already been and will be again three more times before the opening titles. Courteney Cox returns once again as news reporter Gale Weathers-Riley, but not even big-name newcomers such as Anna Paquin and Emma Roberts can save the series. The mocking satire becomes just as conventional and cliché as what it’s trying to insult. The remake never pans out in a significant way, becoming a plodding and unengaging buildup to the last act when “Scooby Doo and the gang” find out who the killer really is. It never once makes any sense, and what’s more, it’s never actually scary or funny.
“Stab” is depicted as having a pretty strong cult following. The roaring and raving crowds of fans is something the “Scream” franchise has been striving for from the get-go but reached its peak well over a decade ago. Back then it reinvigorated the genre. In 2011, this corpse of a film stinks more of old, washed-out ideas trying to stay in the picture.
“Scream 4” was written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven.