Scream is one of those franchises that was running through my teenage years, so consequently I watched and loved them. Yes, even 3 which wasn’t great, and watching again recently seems actually quite weird. Scream broke down the slasher genres and told everyone the rules. Most horror fans knew the rules from seeing the movies but Scream laid them bare and was as much a parody as a horror movie itself. The sequels followed and told us the rules of a sequel and the rules of a trilogy and seemingly ended the story right there. So fast forward over a decade from since the last film and Scream 4 comes along to do the same thing again, only a decade later the rules have all changed and self reference is something a lot of horror is doing, so what does Scream 4 really have that other films don’t?
Well the story begins on the anniversary of the original Woodsboro’ massacre. After 15 years it’s become a bit of a joke and a reason for the kids to throw a party and call each other and ask “What’s your favourite scary movie?” with a ghostface voice. It just so happens that Sidney is on a press tour, she’s written a book about her experience and is back in her home town to do a book signing and guest appearance at the local book store. Meanwhile her cousin, Jill, is with her friends, Kirby and Olivia, driving to school when they get a call from one of their friends talking like Ghostface and being threatening. She hangs up and goes to school, Once in lessons everyone receives a text telling them 2 of the girls from the school have been stabbed to death. Back at the book store, Dewey who is now the sheriff, bursts in and tells everyone to stay where they are. A phone was taken from the scene and is in the vicinity. They call the phone and the ringing appears to be coming from outside. The phone is in Sid’s car, along with blood.
After being asked to stay in town Sid stays with Jill and her mom and police protection is put outside for her and her family. Jill’s friend Olivia has taken to calling Sid the Angel of Death and refuses to come in while she’s there and goes home. While Jill and Kirby talk to Olivia on the phone Kirby’s phone rings and believing it to be Jill’s ex she answers telling him there’s nothing to be said but it’s Ghostface. He tells them he’s in the closest and dares them to open it. When they do and discover he’s not there he tells them he didn’t say it was their closet, and they turn around to see him bursting out of Olivia’s closet. And so a whole new round of Ghostface killings begin.
So what has Scream 4 got? Well in the face of all the post modern, self referential, gore ladened horrors of today and all the remakes of older films it has basically gone back and done what the original scream did. There’s some more gory scenes, but not as many as the likes of Saw. It’s remembered that at the heart of a lot of the old slasher films there was an element of humour and there’s also some nice nods to the originals as well as the genre as a whole and the state it is in right now. What it doesn’t have, at least for me, is scares or shocks, I was sat there alone and not once did I jump.
There’s a level of self awareness to the film that makes it hard to take seriously as a horror film, though that’s no bad thing as far as I’m concerned because right now horror films aren’t all that good. The level of humour is quite high without pushing it in to comedy territory, though the uttering of things like “Scremake” push the level of self-awareness a little high. The story is a Scream story, so plenty of false suspects along the way and the motivation is flimsy as all hell, but then when has that ever been a strong point of horror films anyway? Personally I enjoyed it. And in my eyes it’s a good addition to the franchise. Your enjoyment might hinge on if you find the level of humour acceptable and whether you believe what it says about the genre was worth saying, if you don’t then you might just think it’s a lacklustre and pointless addition to an already dead franchise.