This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
Scream 4 brings the gang back for another survival adventure. Usually I’d wonder why the main character hasn’t moved out of town already but she actually did so I have to give her credit there. It’s just bad luck that she has to go back to the town once more and of course things don’t go very well. It’s nostalgic seeing the characters return once more and the series is definitely as meta as ever.
The movie starts with two different fakeouts as characters get bumped off left and right only for us to find out that they were movies within movies. It’s pretty interesting how this plays out and one reason I’m glad the first one was a movie is because otherwise opening the door made no sense. You’ve got a crazy guy calling you on the phone and then there’s a knock on the door. The girl asks who it is and there’s no response. Why would you possibly open the door at that point? It just doesn’t seem like a good idea in the slightest and I think that’s the point of the scene. If that was real then you’d be shaking your head the whole time.
Back to the real plot, it’s the 15th anniversary of all the deaths from the original Scream. A bunch of students decide to celebrate this for some reason and it’s basically become an entire holiday over there. Unfortunately a new Ghostface has appeared and has slowly started to bump everyone off. Unfortunately for Sidney this is happening right after she has returned for a minute. Now that she is here there is no way to leave since she is also a suspect in these killings.
Dewey is now the sheriff so at least she has a familiar face here. He orders Sidney to stay in the same house as Jill and a few of the other teens who could be the next victim. Some are happy to have Sidney on board while others are not since death tends to follow her around. Meanwhile Gale is being blocked out of the police investigation so she decides to try and find some clue on her own. Will she be able to solve this case in time?
One of Scream’s strongest elements has always been the character cast. The fact that the characters keep on returning is impressive because they keep their character development and as a result you have some characters that are actually likable which is extremely rare in the slasher genre. It might take out a bit of the tension since at this point you don’t see any of the big 3 dying, but it’s nice to have some core characters that you can follow around.
Sidney was at her best in the third film with how tired of this she was. It was nice seeing her be on the offensive with the Ghostface the whole time and this one picks up where she left off. She’s older but still ready to throw down with the villain and actually has a good win in their first confrontation. A bit of super speed is all that saved Ghostface from being taken down early on. Sidney isn’t telepathic and can’t be around constantly to save everyone, but she does really well and appears as the bravest character in the film.
Gale also looked really good as she quickly tried to wrap this case up. She goes undercover, finds the clues, and generally does a good job. She may not have Sidney’s fighting experience but she’s still always ready to help. Really the only member of the original 3 who doesn’t look very good here is Dewey. It’s hard to cut him as much slack this time. Being overpowered and outsmarted the whole time?
That’s fine, the issue is with Dewey suddenly trying to box Gale out of the case. Keep in mind that they’re married. Sure, she isn’t a police officer but there’s a mass murderer on the loose so you could really use everyone that you can get right? Not to mention that Gale isn’t some random expendable, she’s been through this before and would be really helpful.
Then you’ve got that new officer Judy who is flirting with him the whole time and he’s pretty much oblivious to the whole thing. Without being rude I think he could have taken a much tougher stance with her particularly when she’s trying to mess with Gale. Dewey shouldn’t be letting that slide. He looks awful in the climax but that’s more the Dewey you’ve come to expect so that part’s fine. He always was the weakest out of the 3 even if he means well.
For the new characters, well there’s Judy as I mentioned. She gives a few good jump scares and has a previous history with Sidney so that throws her onto the suspect list. As always with the Scream films you’ve got quite a few suspects to get through which is part of the fun. Can you guess who the killer is among these members? Judy certainly has the motive and resources to pull this off.
Jill gets a big role as the main teenager from the new generation. The whole Ghostface craze annoys her to the extreme and that makes this town a rather tough place to be. Her ex Trevor is also hounding her around but Jill is on bad terms with him since he cheated her. Don’t blame her for keeping him out since cheating destroys any trust in the relationship for good. Fortunately her friends are supportive. Of course, what better way to end the craze then to start it up again so the modern gen takes it seriously?
Then there’s Olivia who seems nice enough. While her role isn’t quite as large as the others, she lives right next door which is convenient and seems to be one of the most popular girls at school so she has a lot of contact. This location would allow her to get past the cops (Which don’t look very impressive to say the least) so it’s a good staging ground for Ghostface.
Kirby is the tough member of the crew who doesn’t let herself get intimidated by the murders. She still goes to murders as normal and basically does things at her own pace. On one hand that bravery is impressive even if it might be reckless but maybe she has good reason to be brave right? She seems to have the most fun out of all the characters, that’s for sure.
Trevor is the guy who is shown to be so ultra suspicious in every scene that it makes you wonder if the film is trying to be extra slick by actually having him be Ghostface. He jumps through the window of Jill’s house even when the place is supposed to be totally secured by the police and he is always finding the front doors “unlocked” so he just walks in whenever he wants. Not a likable guy to be sure and this makes him rather intimidating.
Finally you have Charlie and Robbie. They head up the school’s film club and are naturally very into the current situation. They watch the Stab series quite a lot and are the ones hosting the party so naturally it seems like they are blowing off the current situation. They’re both quite unlikable though with Charlie always hoping that Kirby will like him but in a really desperate way while Robbie is just focused on getting his life on film. They both seem a bit unhinged in different ways.
I would actually say this film felt a little less violent than the prior installments. It’s a bit relative as this is a slasher of course but most of the deaths are relatively straight forward. You don’t have people painlessly dying slowly or being ripped to shreds. Virtually every death here is just from being stabbed. I dunno, it felt more tame than usual as the focus was more on the investigation which is a nice change of pace. It might not change much in the long run but it continues to give Scream points for being a more thoughtful slasher series than the rest.
Scream 4’s writing is also unique. The characters are constantly discussing what it is like to be in a horror film and as a result they won’t fall for the usual tricks that get a lot of people. I like this part because if you are in the middle of a mass murder scenario in the real world you’ll be giving this a lot of thought. Even if you don’t watch films, you’ll know enough about them to avoid doing obvious things like entering the park late at night or keeping the front door unlocked. Parts of the meta vibe from the film may feel over the top but I do feel like a lot of the dialogue here really could work which is good. In the end the strongest part of the film is just that the characters are rather decent. They still have their iffy moments like when a character gets drunk and starts off a random affair but for the most part they keep their cool. As much as the characters talk about being horror pros though, they still end up being caught rather easily at times though.
Overall, Scream 4 works well as a sequel. Try to see if you can guess the correct murderer in time before the film ends. This movie certainly holds up with the original trilogy, even surpassing the original if you ask me. The original characters really got their respect here and the meta aspect of the series was handled well. Having two fake outs to start the movie is a really bold choice that I can respect. It’s hard to picture very many films pulling that off. The actual villain is also a step up from some of the other Ghostfaces that we’ve seen in the past. Not a great villain but the motivation was a lot more interesting than previous ones.