11 years after “Scream 3”, at a time when arguably no one was expecting, let alone anticipating, another sequel, “Scream 4” (I’ll ignore the stupid “Scre4m”-title in my review, thankyouverymuch) was released – and while overall, it wasn’t that well received, I for one really like it, and think that it’s the second best of the series, falling short only of the original. Contrary to the hugely disappointing third one, they brought Kevin Williamson back to write the script, which probably is one of the main reason why this was more in line with the first two, quality wise, than with “Scream 3”. Also, Wes Craven – who had some atonement of his own to do after the abysmal “My Soul to Take” – once again sat down in the director’s chair, redeeming himself once more in his career – albeit, unfortunately, for the last time.
“Scream 4” was a step up from the weak third one in every way, and definitely seemed to be very much in line with the first two. This already starts at the beginning, which – contrary to “Scream 3” – managed to grip me right away, cleverly commenting on the overabundance of twists in horror movies after the success of “The Sixth Sense”. I already liked the short part of “Stab 6” that we get to see, but to reveal that this was actually the beginning of “Stab 7” really was a nice touch. They don’t stop there, however, and instead feature yet another twist (in a scene that gives us a cameo by Kirsten Bell and Anna Paquin). The rest of the movie also features a couple of nice, new and clever ideas, like the phone app that allows pretty much everyone to sound like Ghostface. Later on, they also comment on the uprising of torture porn, found footage, and the fact that in the last decade, horror movies overall became much more graphic – illustrated, for example, with one blood-soaked room that – despite much more brutal horror movies that were released between the first “Scream” and this one – still managed to shock and repulse me. I also liked the statement that in the new millennium, the rules have changed. That added an element of uncertainty to the proceedings. Overall, the movie did a great job to convince me that this time, everything is possible, and everyone – including Sydney – is a viable victim. Which is one of the main reasons why I found it so suspenseful and gripping. And, lest not forget: After “Scream 3”, where they totally overdid the humor, this – despite a couple of funny moments – finally felt like an honest-to-got horror thriller again. Whatever you may think of the movie otherwise, but tonally, it’s definitely the closest to the original – something that I very much appreciated. Another strength that it shares with (all) his predecessors are the performances. I once again felt that everyone here was great, with not a single weak link to be found in the impressively huge ensemble. They also, again, feature a nice mix of already-well-established actors and actresses, as well as a couple of new talents that used this as a starting point to get more/bigger roles in the years since.
There also are a couple of scenes again that were cleverly set up – like the one where the killer calls them and tells them that he’s hiding in the closet. That was quite an intense moment, which led to a great revelation that I won’t give away here, but which was also staged very well. I also loved the bit at the secret “Stab”-screening. The atmosphere that they captured there of people being in a room celebrating something that they know and love really spoke to me. It’s an experience that, thanks to film festivals like “/slash” and/or retro-screenings, I could relate to. Plus, the fact that Ghostface seemingly filmed his dirty deeds this time gave this a new, interesting angle. I also loved how unpredictable the movie was when it came to the question of who would live or die, and in which order they would perish. Which, in a way, finally brings us to its last and also one of its biggest strengths: I absolutely loved, loved, loved, loved, loved the reveal regarding the killer. On first viewing, that really catched me totally unaware, and had me going like… “Whaaaaaaaaat?”. It also was the first time that I felt that the killer’s motivation was plausible and reasonable – fucked up as it might be. Plus, it also included some nice social commentary that I appreciated. Pretty much my only major gripe with “Scream 4” is that I wished they would have had the guts to end it seven minutes sooner – which also would have fit perfectly to the new millenia’s horror trend of dark(er) endings. If they would have stopped at a certain scene and afterwards only would have shown the reporters in front of the hospital, it would have been perfect. Also, the criticism of the media that lies therein would have been even more damning. Granted, the “Don’t fuck with the original”-line was great, so it’s not like everything that came afterwards sucked. But had they ended the movie where I wish they had, “Scream 4” might have even been able to catch up with the original (at least in my book). As it stands, though, it’s nevertheless a great sequel that I believe to be vastly underappreciated.