Scream 4 Review / Susan Granger
Back in 1996, when sardonic screenwriter Kevin Williamson and inventive director Wes Craven devised this humor-tinged concept, it was a new and totally different type of horror picture, as the characters rattled off self-reflective meta-commentaries, often in the form of rules. There were two sequels, one in 1999 and another in 2000 - and innumerable copycats. In the interim, the horror market has changed radically -- favoring torture-porn and gory, graphic violence. As a result, this fourth installment of the franchise seems rather archaic.
As this story begins, three pairs of attractive young women (Lucy Hale and Shanae Grimes, Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell, Aimee Teegarden and Brittany Robertson) receive those familiarly frightening phone calls and fall victim to what seems to be the Ghostface Killer (voiced by Roger Jackson with the body of stuntman Dane Farwell).
That coincides with the return to Woodsboro of Ghostface's original prime target, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), who has written a self-help best-seller, her memoirs about being a survivor, and is now concluding a promotional tour, accompanied by her smarmy publicist, Rebecca Walters (Alison Brie). Forced to stay in town due to investigative procedures, Sidney interacts with Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and his wife, frustrated reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), along with deputies Perkins (Anthony Anderson), Hoss (Adam Brody) and Hicks (Marley Shelton). Under police protection, Sidney moves in with her Aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell) and young cousin Jill (Emma Roberts). That's where she meets Woodsboro's current crop of ill-fated teenagers: Jill's best friends, Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and Olivia (Marielle Jaffe), her stalker-like ex-boyfriend Trevor (Nico Tortorella), and the high-school film-club geeks (Rory Culkin, Erik Knudsen).
The updated, self-reverential script includes references to contemporary social media obsession with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, along with spoofs of the new wave of horror pictures, but the cast includes far too many extraneous characters. As a result, they emerge as archetypes, making it easy to calculate who will succumb when.
On the Granger Movie Gauge, "Screa4m" is a stale, silly 4, with multiple false endings becoming monotonous far too soon.