‘Scream 4’ makes a killer comeback

Scott Viau

The “Scream” trilogy has always held a special place in my heart, so when news of a fourth film broke, I was skeptical. I didn’t want anything to ruin what I considered to be a relatively great horror series. Thankfully, those fears can be put to rest, as “Scream 4” proves itself to be a worthy entry in the series.

Sidney Prescott’s (Campbell) life has been relatively quiet lately. For the past 10 years she has been able to gather herself, write a memoir and reemerge as a survivor, not a victim. On the last stop of her book tour, Sidney visits her hometown of Woodsboro. Here she reconnects with friends Dwight “Dewey” Riley (Arquette) and Gale Weathers (Cox), who are now married, as well as her cousin Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts).  With her return home, Sidney reconnects with the masked killer who has haunted her before.

For me, “Scream” has always been about the characters and I’m glad to see they’re in fine form in this latest incarnation. Gale is back to her unrepentant self and is even more of a rabble-rouser than ever. Dewey is as clueless as he’s always been, but his marriage with Gale brings out a very sweet side to him and their once off-screen romance brings a nice layer of depth and reality to the film. Sidney, who has grown stronger in each film, is now a force to be reckoned with. If “Scream 4” had been these characters sitting around a table conversing and drinking coffee, I probably would’ve declared it better than the first.

For those who are just interested in the red stuff, “Scream 4” offers it in gallons. I don’t recall the original trilogy ever being as bloody or brutal as it is here. The opening scene is not only a clever riff on how anticipated the “Scream” opening scenes are, but provides enough carnage to last throughout the movie. Those expecting dazzlingly creative kills, though, will be disappointed. There are only so many ways to off someone with a knife before it becomes standard. It’s the realism of the kills that make them vicious, not the originality. Ghostface here is more like Freddy Krueger in “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare,” a darker, more driven version of its originally conceived self.

Although a new trilogy is proposed, I would be happy with “Scream 4” being the last film in the series. Upon first watching I wasn’t sure how I felt. It looked like a “Scream” film and sounded like one, but I just didn’t feel it. After pondering the number of remakes that I’ve seen, and even anticipated, “Scream 4” takes a chance by making itself as satirically ridiculous as the remakes that have been pouring out of Hollywood. This is not to say there are not genuine emotional moments. Maybe that’s what makes the film so perplexing: its mixture of the sincere and the absurd. Regardless, when one understands its aim it makes it a great deal more enjoyable.

If “Scream 4” were to have a flaw it would be its lack of character development. Perhaps this is another inside joke writer Kevin Williamson put in, but what made the first “Scream” so enjoyable was that the characters were likable, or we at least got to spend enough time with them to form an opinion. Here it’s as if the characters appear on-screen to crack a joke in order to appear pleasant (or suspicious) enough. Aside from the original trio, very few of the new cast will elicit much emotion should they be maimed or murdered.

Given its box office opening, it’s looking unlikely that a “Scream 5” will appear anytime soon. That’s a good thing. Fans of the original trilogy have been given a rare treat –– a film that works despite being more than 10 years after its last entry, as well as one that pays respect to the fans. When a series gets to its fourth film it’s probably a good idea to go out with a bang. If “Scream 4” is indeed the last, it will have done just that.