SCREAM 4 Review

by     Posted 3 years, 139 days ago


The Scream franchise is a series of horror movies whose greatest asset has never been horror.  They provide the occasional jump scare, but the strength of the series lies in crafting a critique of the slasher genre, audiences (Scream 2), and Hollywood (Scream 3).  The first Scream did the best job in balancing scares with satire, but eventually the series devolved into ninety minutes of misdirection finished by a twenty minute speech where the killer explains his or her motivations.  In between the movie gropes at subtext, but rarely in a coherent way that’s clever or rewarding.  Scream 4 carries on this sad tradition but adds a heavy dose of resentment to the proceedings as it bitterly attacks everyone who left the snarky franchise behind.

A generation has passed since the Woodsboro murders of the first film and the current generation of damn kids with their music treats the event like it was a joke.  Lampposts are decorated with Ghostface masks and there’s even a “Ghostface App” that disguises the user’s voice sound like the serial killer.  But then local teens start getting killed just as original survivor girl Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) pulls into town to promote her new book about surviving.  Meanwhile, Gale Weathers-Riley (Courtney Cox) finds new purpose in trying to track down the killer while husband Dewey (David Arquette) is the town’s new sheriff and continues to prove worthless at law enforcement as he leads deputies Hicks (Marley Shelton), Perkins (Anthony Anderson), and Hoss (Adam Brody) in not catching Ghostface.


We’re also introduced to a cast of fresh young faces who are ripe for the slaughter.  There’s Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), Jill’s friends Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and Olivia (Marielle Jaffe), her ex-boyfriend Trevor (Nico Tortorella), and movie nerds Robbie (Erik Knudsen) and Charlie (Rory Culkin).  It’s a bunch of potential suspects, victims, and you barely care about any of them.  Scream 4 is so busy trying to cast doubt on everyone, but if any character were too developed, then that might rule them out as the killer and the reveal would be spoiled.

Here’s a tip for storytellers: if your story can be ruined by knowing the ending in advance, it’s not a good story.  I won’t spoil Scream 4, but once you know who lives, who dies, and who’s Ghostface, there’s not much reason to return.  Good horror doesn’t startle—it scares, and a good mystery is intriguing even once you’ve solved it.  But director Wes Craven insists not on crafting quality scares or a well-crafted mystery.  Instead, we’re subjected to endless scenes of Ghostface tormenting his prey before he stabs them.  It’s the clearest sign yet that the series has fallen prey to the tropes it set out to deconstruct.


And there’s so much in the horror genre that Scream 4 could play with.  The series has been gone for ten years and it’s in prime position to return and take on the tropes of horror porn like Saw or handheld horror like Paranormal Activity.  Instead, the series simply has characters openly voice criticisms of horror and then resumes not scaring you.  The film geeks try to explain that there are new rules, but essentially all they say is that there are no rules, because if there were rules, then you wouldn’t be scared.  That was the joke of Scream, but now it’s the premise—no rules so anyone could be the killer and anyone can die.

Rather than place energy into coming up with a clever way to deconstruct horror and increasingly savvy fans, Scream 4 brims with resentment.  It seems angry at today’s youth with their youtubes and their facebooks.  Occasionally it’s amusing, like when Ghostface tells a dubious teen that he’s “not an app.”  But mostly, the movie just takes wild swings at social media, reboots, remakes, sequels, other horror franchises, and even itself.  But having characters awkwardly voice criticism of the  Scream franchise doesn’t make those criticisms invalid.  It just makes them acknowledged. Even worse is Craven who seems uninterested in creating anything new or sharing the playfulness of the script.  It’s a bad match for a screenplay that wants to say something (even if it says it poorly) and a director that simply wants to keep creating the same tired jump scares.


If Craven were a little more hip to the story, he would understand that satire and comedy is where the movie could make its mark and when Scream 4 gives itself over to humor, it usually succeeds.  While almost all of the characters are underdeveloped, Cox once again scores with her comedic chops and gives Gale the only real character arc in the whole film.  The only other performer who shines is Alison Brie as Sidney’s shallow publicist.  The character doesn’t represent anything, but Brie brings such a mean peppy energy to the role that she ends up stealing every scene she’s in.

Scream has rarely been scary, but it’s at least had the courtesy to be playful and somewhat thoughtful.  Scream 4 has plenty of new material to play with, but the film seems more interested in pursuing tired scares and highlighting its own irrelevancy.

Rating: D+


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  • SV7

    This review pretty much nails it.
    With a tagline boasting NEW DECADE, NEW RULES, I was expecting a lot more imagination. There were no cool set pieces and no really innovative kills. There should have been plenty of recent horror to dissect, but instead they simply get a passing mention.
    There were so many new characters that none were developed. If I don’t care about the characters, I’m not afraid for them and I don’t care when they’re killed. Quite tellingly, I only became a bit tense when I thought Neve, Courtney or David were in danger because I cared about them as characters. The new teens were paper thin.
    It was fun being back in that world and a horror murder mystery is always cool. But it just wasn’t good enough. Not to warrant a forth film.

  • alex_manpsy

    Maybe this Scream was intentionally lame and not scary as a satire of…uhh forget it.

  • Eric Erardy

    I Agree Alex, whats funny about this is Scream 4 is almost a joke of itself which in a way i thank wes craven, it kinda gave it away to me when at the end sydney says ,” u forgot one thing about remakes, u cant FUCK with the original” haha that was a great syd line! but it makes sense what he did, Wes knows that the others r classics especially Scream and so nothing could b done to harm the story this Scream is just for Fun.. i was kinda hopeing that there would b more to the story and really feel like the 4th one but after all im actually more glad that he didnt try that and nothing was ruinined/

  • A.

    wow. i feel like i’m the only fan here…i think people take these movies way too seriously. I saw the midnight showing and loved it. I found it very entertaining, its an entertaining movie and thats it, nothing more or less.

  • Austin

    A., I completely agree. It’s Scream 4. All I expected was fun slasher, which is exactly what I got.

  • Ryan

    Just went and saw it this afternoon and I gotta say that I loved it. It was just a lot of fun to watch. I mean it’s Scream 4. Was anyone really expecting it to be Godfather 2? That was the whole point to the best Sid line ever “Can’t fuck with the original.” They knew they couldn’t top Scream so they didn’t try. They did however wash the bitter taste of Scream 3 out of my mouth and at least lived up to Scream 2. I went to have a good time and that’s what I got. This is the 4th film in a horror franchise that’s been inactive for a decade. If you were expecting more than a good time and a fun ride, your a fool.

  • C. Towns

    Saw it a little while ago, liked it. Went in with low expectations and I liked it more than the last films.

  • ryan c

    Fuck Bruce Willis and fuck whoever wrote this review

  • chuck

    Will see Scream 4 tommorow night but cant undertand why many people knock Scream 2. I thought it was a terrific sequel that in some ways was ever better than the original. Scream 3 had problems but its still a good watch.

  • Aaron

    “You forgot one thing about remakes, you can’t fuck with the original!”
    This holds great significance to the movie, much more than an in your face meaning, if you really pay attention to the movie, it’s basically a remake of the original, something I think was Wes Craven & Kevin Williamson’s intentions from the beginning without really being too obvious about it, brilliant film making with the exception with some of the dialog.

  • Scott

    I saw Scream 4 today and this review is way to serious. One of my friends asked me what I was going to see. I told her it was “Scream 4.” She didn’t know what that was and I told her it was a Slasher Flick. “Oh, a horror film.” That’s the thing. It’s not a horror film. It’s a comedy. I went into the movie knowing that I was going to laugh at random celebrities. As soon as the movie started and the first “victim” died, I burst out laughing.

    After Scream 2 I gave up on hoping it was going to be scary. I realized though that it could be a fun “I wonder who survives” type experience. As the movie kept going and more kept dying, never did I go, “I wish these characters would be more planned out.” Slasher Flick characters aren’t meant to be liked to much. If they are then when they die, their deaths aren’t funny.

    After the movie was over, I sat back and thought, “I liked it.” That’s all that should count. I didn’t know who Ghostface was, but I liked finding out. In the end this was just as good as Scream 2, better than Scream 3, and worthy of the legacy set by Scream. I hope there is a Scream 5. Maybe not in two years, but eventually. I could easily sit through another movie.

    • Casey

      If I were in your theater I would of stabbed you.

  • Josh Litman

    I agree with this review in that the film was a fun ride, but the Scream schtick is starting to feel a little old by now (and it also just wasn’t much of a horror movie imo).

    I actually reviewed the film myself for an episode of WE EAT FILMS, which can be viewed here:



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