Review: Scream 4
Hello yet again, Sidney. The beleaguered Ms. Prescott (Campbell) has returned to her hometown of Woodsboro—the final stop on her self-help book tour and original site of the massacre that claimed the lives of family and friends in Scream (1996). Since then, the Ghostface killer has followed her to college (Scream 2) and the City of Angels (Scream 3), so what would her homecoming be without a little intestine-spilling bloodshed? Director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson get the butchery off to a witty start with a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie prelude (fans of Veronica Mars and True Blood are gonna go ape). Then it’s back to the self-aware characters we know so well: Sidney, plus writer’s blocked tabloid reporter Gale (Cox) and dim-witted lawman Dewey (Arquette)—as well as a bunch of franchise newcomers (a Culkin and a Heroes cheerleader among them) who are just begging to have their innards filleted.
It’s a professionally polished package—cinematographer Peter Deming frames the carnage beautifully in widescreen—but don’t go in expecting scares so much as laughs. Scream 4 is a better Scary Movie than any of the Scary Movies ever were, from its inventively gut-busting kills (watch out for that mail slot!) to the unintentionally humorous sight of the three leads acting as if they’re in three separate films. Cox, looking like a digitally airbrushed simulacrum, has officially reached her Joan Crawford-in–Strait-Jacket phase. A wigged-out Arquette uncomfortably appears to be phoning in his performance from Permanent Midnight–land. And Campbell treats the proceedings with an often moving solemnity more appropriate for a Eugene O’Neill production than the glibly sarcastic latest from the creator of Dawson’s Creek (no dis on you, Mr. Leery). As for the ensemble’s irritating Johnny-come-latelys, well, let’s just say Ghostface can’t drag them back to Hell-A soon enough.