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Movie ReviewsRating: 2 of 5 yaps

Scream 4

After watching “Scream 4,” it’s easy to feel sorry for screenwriter Kevin Williamson, the man who launched his career with 1996’s diabolically clever “Scream.”

Has the guy derived even a sliver of joy from watching any horror film of the past decade, or was it all just fodder for a fourth film in his and Wes Craven’s franchise?

J-horror, torture porn, the found-footage conceit, the zombie-film resurrection. Many fads have flashed and faded since 2000’s “Scream 3,” and Williamson flays them all. Perhaps he and Craven should have spent time concocting a reason for “Scream 4” to exist outside of the eventual killer’s minute-long monologue.

Look, there are dime-a-dozen horror films guaranteed to be awful going in, and then there are coulda-woulda-shoulda, wide-right boots like “Scream 4.”

Gone is the eclectic, electric punch the original — or even the first sequel — still packs today. Craven and company have simply swapped in iPhones for the cordless jobs of the late 1990s. Ghostface voice? There’s an app for that.

The sad thing is it’s easy to see why Williamson wanted to write it. Hungry for a hit, it’s easier to see why Craven wanted to direct it. The cultural insight about celebrity that Williamson concocts is a terrific idea. Too bad it’s preceded by many, many terrible executions. (Even then, the strong reveal is placed in the hands of an actor ill equipped to really sell that madness.)

“Scream 4’s” opening sequence is one of its few genuinely lively, and acidic, bits — taking a direct shot at “Saw’s” franchise life support. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for been-there, done-that sluggishness to set in.

On the anniversary of the Woodsboro murders depicted in “Scream,” survivor Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has returned to town on her book tour. (Don’t bother wondering why a nation would care about her victimization 15 years later. No one else ever does.)

Sure enough, ol’ Ghostface strikes again — ringing people up before ripping them open. But he’s not out to kill Sidney, at least not right away. Until he’s ready to filet her, he says, she’s going to suffer mightily.

Ghostface’s return draws David Arquette’s gomer cop Dewey — now a sheriff! — and Courtney Cox’s newswoman-turned-novelist Gale into the investigation. It also seems to rouse Dewey and Gale’s sleepy marriage to life — an intriguing subplot “Scream 4” drops, perhaps out of deference to Arquette and Cox’s real-life separation.

Another apparent target is Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her cabal of friends, played by Hayden Panettiere, Marielle Jaffe, Erik Knudsen and Rory Culkin. All of them, and the town’s other teens, are gearing up for “ ‘Stab’ Fest,” an annual marathon of the films based on Sidney’s tragedies that’s become a Woodsboro tradition. They might skip “Stab 5,” though. The time travel really killed that one.

“Scream 4” is not without its momentary charms, namely Gale tricking Dewey into calling on her at a press conference or Alison Brie of “Mad Men” still looking like Trudy Campbell while playing a character more akin to Pete Campbell.

There’s also one fine fake-out prelude to a kill, and Neve Campbell still throws plenty of ferocity into her fight choreography.

Eventually, though, “Scream 4” splashes around in a shallow pool of blood — precisely what it bags on other films for doing in its prologue. Though marginally better than “Scream 3,” the cycle of sequelized complacency churns as strongly as it did 11 years ago.

Craven approaches his boo scares the way Gallagher approaches watermelons. It starts to feel as if Ghostface is a Netflix shill offering queue suggestions. And in a scene when Panettiere rattles off a rapid-fire list of remakes to save a friend, you’ll face a depressing realization: A lot of those were better than this.

As “Scream 4” lumbers to its denouement — in a hospital apparently occupied by only three patients and a visitor — “Stab 5” doesn’t sound so bad after all.

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31 Responses to “Scream 4”

  1. [...] film’s finale is OK, but as my Yap colleague Nick Rogers put it in his review, it seems that there are only three people in an entire hospital, which sucks some of the realism [...]

  2. Victor Wakley says:

    It was pretty good; my boys really enjoyed it.

  3. Lisa Davidson says:

    My new favorite movie, I thought it was so funny.

  4. Janet J says:

    I love the scream movies and can’t wait to see this one inspite of the review! :)

  5. Jonathan Adler says:

    I can’t believe theres a 4th Scream. I’ll be waiting for it to come out on Blu-Ray.

  6. john mojzuk says:

    I love to see these with my wife. She totally gets jumpy and laughs a lot….

  7. Dvid says:

    "Scream" is really showing its age – I was not a big fan of this one when I saw it last week. I think they should let the series die with this one.

  8. At first I was not going to see this movie, because I was wondering why in the world did they wait so long to make another Scream movie, but I was glad I did. I like the Scream 4 movie, it had I more comedic and It allow for more for new age and new audience.

    LaQuisha

  9. Sarah S. says:

    I would see this movie- but not for more than $5 only to say that I did. I gave up o Scream when Saw movies started coming out. I like that gruesome movies more than the Scream movies. Maybe I will even wait to see it on RedBox.

  10. toya says:

    i am usually hesitant to see the 3rd or 6th installment of a movie. so far, most have not had the "magic" as the originals. i wanted to go the scream 4 becasue i am a fan of the origianl scream, but from this review, im glad i saved my time and money.

  11. Big D says:

    Can’t they just let the Scream saga just die already? They weren’t all that great to begin with, and then they just beat a dead horse by releasing a 4yh movie in the saga.

  12. Billy Jean says:

    I saw scream 4. I did not scream, but the film wasn’t horrible, just not that good.

  13. Chiller says:

    Not a big surprise this is a let down. Living off of the name.

  14. Eric J says:

    I remember seeing the first Scream in the theaters. It scared me so much, that I actually was petrified to be around windows in the dead of night, for fear someone was watching me outside with a knife, voice changer, and ghoulish mask. As the series progressed though, the movies got worse. No wonder they made such an easy target for the "Scary Movie" farce genre. I can’t imagine Scream 4 could resurrect the original fear of the first film.

  15. Joe Shearer says:

    Ed: My understanding is they were going through it during filming. It actually provides a neat arc because they have a subplot where their marriage is fizzling a little, and the return of Ghostface puts a spark back into it. But like Nick said, it kind of dropped off toward the end, so you can almost see the point where things came out, where perhaps Wes Craven out of respect toned down that arc.

  16. Ed says:

    Did the Arquettes film this while going thru their divorce, or before?

  17. Beara says:

    I stopped watching Scream movies after the first. Can’t believe they still make money.

  18. Tiffany says:

    Thanks for this review. It pretty much confirms what I already thought, that this movie wasn’t going to be any good. I’d probably see it anyhow, you know, for nostalgia’s sake, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve heard the movie tries to make up for the lack of decent plot with extra blood and gore. Ugh, no thanks!

  19. Matt says:

    I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would. First, I liked that it’s not just "torture porn" (to quote the movie itself), and that there is a storyline with characters that have some depth and that have been fleshed out in the first 3 movies. I like how this movie makes fun of itself while still trying to scare you. <Semi-Spolier Alert!> Also, in a scary way, I found the storyline paralleling real life a little TOO much in that the characters were trying to reach fame/stardom by doing some pretty horric things. Makes me think of the balloon boy family (while what they did was certainly NOT as heinous) and some of the school shootings where kids think being infamous is much better than NOT being famous at all.

  20. Scott says:

    While I agree this movie certainly fell short of the original, I still think it was better than most of other "horror" flicks were’s subjected to these days.
    Maybe it was the nostalgia of seeing the original characters 15 years later, but I thought it had an entertaining story and some good moments of suspense, mixed in with a little self-deprecating humor.
    If you go to Scream 4 expecting to see some artsy-film fare, you will be and should be disappointed, but I went for 1.5 hours of entertainment and I came out satisfied.

  21. Angelo Anton says:

    This movie just goes to show you how much originality Hollywood has!

  22. I have YET to see this…and want to even more after posted comments!!

  23. John L. says:

    I was so excited to see this movie because I absolutely loved the other ones. This one was so horrible it was hilarious!! Oh well, at least I got to laugh…

  24. Kevin T. says:

    I am sorry but this review has it all wrong!!! I LOVED this move. It was funny, and had a great ending. I thought it was just as good if not better than the 1st one! The "horro" movies that have come out lately have been PG-13 crap! Give me a bloddy rated R slasher over that anyday!!

  25. Paul D. says:

    Did not like the others. I doubt this will be any better. Maybe I watch when it comes out on DVD.

  26. Dan says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your review. Loved it. The hospital scene – is healthcare under Obama really this bad? No patients being treated? Anyway. Cheap plug – http://www.dasgamut.com. Good stuff.

  27. Steven grimes says:

    Scream 1 & 2 were good movies. Not sure of how 4 will be. Can i win Gulliver’s Travels now?

    Steven

  28. Cort K says:

    Thanks for the nice review I’ll wait to watch this on blu ray. Phew you saved me $12 thanks!

  29. Mary Strain says:

    I still want to see this for myself after reading this review. Two of my friends have seen it, and said they really enjoyed it!

  30. Lisa Davidson says:

    I’m sorry! but I just love all these movies, to me they’re not original, they’re funny, and I love the people in them!