SCREAM 4 promo art
(2011, US)
3 and a half stars  

directed by: Wes Craven
starring: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Anthony Anderson, Alison Brie, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin, Marielle Jaffe, Erik Knudsen, Mary McDonnell, Marley Shelton, Nico Tortorella

choice dialogue:

“Like something out of a Gale Weathers best seller.”

- is the Meta better?

slash with panache?


[review by JA Kerswell]

  SCREAM 4 opens with a tricksy - and effective - series of flalse openings.

SCREAM 4 was a semi-return to form after the somewhat disappointingly safe and self-congratulatory third film. A new rash of murders plagues Woodsboro on the anniversary of the 1996 massacre and circumstances reunite the primary survivors of that night. Along with a new generation of suspects and victims-to-be, they band together to unmask the latest iteration of Ghostface. Despite coming too late to enjoy the slasher movie renaissance that the first movie ignited in the second half of the 1990s and early 2000s and too early for a subgenre revival, the film showed that there was still blood to ring from the old formula and held a few fresh twists of its own.

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to her hometown of Woodsboro to promote her new book ‘Out of Darkness’ detailing her journey of survival. Seemingly coincidentally, her bookstore appearance in her hometown is on the anniversary of the first wave of murders. Still in town is Dewey (David Arquette), who has now been promoted to Sheriff and lives with his wife Gale (Courteney Cox). On the eve of Sidney’s arrival, two teenage girls are brutally murdered by someone dressed as Ghostface. On discovery of their blood in the boot of Sidney’s rental car she becomes a person of interest and is told that she cannot leave town.

Sidney reconnects with her Aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell) and her niece Jill (Emma Roberts). After news of the murders breaks, Jill’s friends Olivia (Marielle Jaffe) and Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) suspect that Sidney is a bad omen. However, the local High School cinema club run by the horror-obsessed Charlie (Rory Culkin) and Robbie (Erik Knudsen) - who have a STAB film marathon party planned for that week - are thrilled that they get to meet her and geek out.

  Ghostface is back in Wes Craven's directorial swansong SCREAM 4.

After another brutal murder, Gale - who has been struggling to make a career writing fiction - is the first to piece together that the latest series of murders is being modelled on the victim list from the original killings and is spurred back into her role as an investigative journalist. As more bodies hit the floor it becomes a race against time to unmask the killer - or killers - and discover what motives might be driving the latest bloodshed.

Slasher movies tend to thrive on repetition, but SCREAM 4 threatens a case of diminishing returns in its attempt to purposefully rehash elements of the first movie due to its self-referencing narrative. It is almost a case of too clever by far in its ever more Meta approach. It opens with the then de-rigueur celebrity cameos with a series of admittedly clever false starts showing characters watching the film-within-a-film STAB series. Where SCREAM (1996) was a satirising love letter to early 80s slashers, SCREAM 4 ploughs the slightly less fertile ground of satirising the post-modern slasher movies that followed in the wake of the first film. However, ultimately it succeeds despite itself under the sure hands of Wes Craven’s direction (it was to prove to be his directorial Swansong before his untimely death) and Kevin Williamson’s strong script. Given the film’s approach, Williamson still has some fun referencing classic slashers with scenes such as Sidney briefly being chased across the rooftops of a house (mirroring a similar scene in HALLOWEEN IV (1988)) to most of the characters being as well-versed as ever in their classic slasher lore. Although, somewhat disappointingly, Williamson raises the interesting question of Sidney profiting off the sales of her book arguably in the same way that Gale cashed in on the murders but doesn’t really go anywhere with it.

SCREAM 4 is surprisingly brutal. Wes Craven appears to be revelling in the violence and perhaps asking questions of the audience as to why they enjoy watching it. Although, at times, it is somewhat jarring with some more broadly comedic elements. The film at least teases that the main players could be under mortal threat and has a sharper edge than the almost cutesy third instalment.

  Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has a serious case of deja-vu.

Without giving away the identity of who is behind the murders, SCREAM 4 is to be given credit for the then timely critique of wannabe celebrities using murder to fast-track their internet fame - with one saying “I don’t need friends. I need fans.” By filming the murders on webcams - with the plan to release them to the internet - it at least in part references what Ghostface gleefully tells one victim is the first ever slasher movie featuring POV, Michael Powell’s PEEPING TOM (1960). One character quips: “A fucking Facebook killer. Are you kidding me?” However, it is somewhat surprising that the film doesn’t take the role of social media a little further. Although the film certainly laid the ground for the rash of social media horror that followed later in the decade. Amusingly, Williamson also seems to predict the spate of time travel slasher movies that started with HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017), when a character quips that the fictional STAB 5 featured the same conceit and that it was the worst of the series.

As might be expected with a Weinstein production it wasn’t all plain sailing and SCREAM 3 (2000) writer Ehren Kruger was brought in during production to do re-writes - something which irked Craven (and no doubt Williamson). Originally the film was meant to end on a cliffhanger as to whether Sidney was still alive and able to identify the killer. However, the climactic scene in the hospital unintentionally added yet another self-referential element to another Weinstein production. The new ending mirrored a similar one in the remake of BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006) which was also added at Harvey Weinstein’s insistence.

SCREAM 4 holds the unfortunate distinction of being the lowest-grossing SCREAM movie to date. It failed to make back its $40 million budget on a disappointing domestic gross of just $38 million (although success overseas saw it not completely flop). For whatever reason it didn’t connect with mainstream audiences that had largely moved on from the SCREAM series and not enough time had passed for it to gain a retro interest amongst a newer fan base. Its disappointing box office nixed plans for a direct follow-up - although the series would regain its zeitgeist and commercial appeal more than a decade later with SCREAM (2022) and SCREAM VI (2023). And shortly, Kevin Williamson will be back with Neve Campbell for SCREAM VII (2025) free of the meddling hands of the Weinsteins.


SCREAM 4 is available in to buy on Bluray from Amazon US.


BODYCOUNT 13   bodycount!   female: 8 / male: 5

1) Female stabbed with a knife
      2) Female has her throat cut
      3) Female stabbed in the stomach
      4) Female seen deadn
      5) Female stabbed to death
      6) Female stabbed in the stomach
      7) Male stabbed in the back
      8) Male stabbed in the forehead
      9) Female stabbed in the back
     10) Male stabbed repeatedly
     11) Male shot in the head
     12) Male stabbed repeatedly
     13) Female electrocuted



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