“Sick is the new sane,” the killer harangues to Sidney (Neve Campbell) in the faux-climax of Scream 4. Quite frankly, I couldn’t agree more. Where psychotic crimes are being committed and news-clipped at a frantic pace (gunmen opening fire on a crowd at coffee shops or schools; people mutilating themselves and others in ill acts of retribution; kids killing their parents for revenge because they weren’t bought an iPod), sane has gone the way of VHS.
Scream 4 tries to capitalize on this 21st century version of reality: where technology and electronics govern the actions of humanity, seemingly making us knife-stabbing zombies of our cell phone, Youtube culture. And as much as I wish I could turn-off the impossible, implausible and completely ludicrous part of my reasoning brain for all 111 minutes of Scream 4, I just couldn’t.
The first Scream was cult classic horror movie triumph. Tounge-in-cheek; bloody good with a self-reverent spin on teenage psyho-killer slasher thriller, I still list it as one of my favourite horror movies of all time. Scream 2 kept on par in mode of the original, with enough believability to make it work. Scream 3 (introducing the Stab movie-within-a-movie franchise that continues in multiple sequels here) was total trash and disappointing. Scream 4 teeters into Scream 3 territory, even with the return of Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox ( back in total Gale Weathers bitch mode now married to Dewey) and David Arquette (Dewey Riley minus the limp from Scream 3 and less doofusy).
I believe the ultimate problem with Scream 4 is its pacing. Whether this results from Wes Craven’s lack of depth’n’substance directing (the opener is by far the less impactful of the four, especially once the real kills commence) or a fault of the editors, I’m not sure. The usually brilliant Kevin Williamson (Scream 1 & 2, Dawson’s Creek, The Vampire Diaries) stays on-point with his barbed pop-culture writing structure. But some of the death set ups and killings verge on laughable (though this may be due to rewrites done after he left). The flow of Scream 4 seems to surf from one bloody killing to the next. Versus Scream 1 and 2 that actually built context, subtext and structure through character development, drawing out slow, protracted tension from its scares and deaths, all the while keeping one foot in the sand of sanity.
Trying to revitalize the franchise with some young, new blood (Emma Roberts as Jill, Sydney’s cousin bringing the family element back into play; Hayden Panettiere; Alison Brie; Adam Brody; Nico Tortorella; Kristen Bel and Anna Paquin) they end up being reduced to just that: big gore-pools of blood.
S4 seems more focused on these blood baths then on giving Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette good material to work. With it being a decade since Scream 3 graced the theatres, and fifteen years since Ghostface first started his slashfest of Woodsboro teens, I can see how Neve’s Sydney would come across as tired and bored.