If the critics are to be believed, "Scream 4" comes closer to recapturing the horror franchise's bloody and ironic glory than anything else we've seen in nearly 15 years. Unlike the first two films (the original in 1996, the second in 1997), overall reactions to 2000's "Scream 3" were neatly summed up by one Entertainment Weekly reviewer who said that "the only thing the movie kills with any decisiveness is your time."
By contrast, the critics have been relatively kind to "Scream 4," often praising its twisty plot and welcome humor, though occasionally lamenting over its tired premise. For those critiques and more, read on for what the pros are saying about the new Wes Craven film.
"[T]he story premise is neat: Having published a self-help book about how she has, as Oprah might say, moved on after outwitting every previous Ghostface who ever lunged her way, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, looking uncommonly lovely) returns to promote her tome in her hometown of Woodsboro. Old Screamers Dewey-the-cop (David Arquette) and Gale-the-journalist (Courteney Cox), now married, are there to greet her. So is Sidney's teenage niece, Jill (Emma Roberts). And so, conveniently, is Jill's collection of glossy friends and classmates, each ripe for slaughter, or at least struggle, now that Sidney's back in town. Among the potential targets, Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin stand out as a snarky party girl and an avid movie geek. In her own corner of the frame, Alison Brie ('Community,' 'Mad Men') happily goes for the jugular as Sidney's aggressive young book publicist." — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
"Craven made sure he continued to keep the franchise R-rated. 'Scream 4' just might be the bloodiest of them all. There are rooms covered in blood, intestines spilled out onto beds, knives being driven into people's foreheads (this is so crazy amazing I can't even begin to tell you), and much, much more. The film earns its stripes and the moniker of a 'slasher' film." — Brad Miska, Blooding Disgusting The Pace
"Individual scenes have passing energy and jokiness, even if nearly all of the latter is highly insular in the way it self-consciously references horror genre tropes and the series' own history. But the narrative doesn't build the way it should in a good suspense film; just as it seems that the climax has arrived in a big Stab-A-Thon night at which dozens of horror geeks have congregated to watch the series while Ghostface is on a new tear through town, the film downshifts as it prepares to string out the last series of murders as long as it can before the final revelations (not bad) about who's behind the mask this time and why." — Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
"Like its predecessors, 'Scream 4' replaces the values of storytelling and suspense with the value of being in on the joke. Unfortunately, in the 11 years since 'Scream 3,' the joke has gotten pretty old ... [T]he central conceit of the characters' fates being determined by the 'rules' of horror movies feels irredeemably tired; a clever idea that was worth one movie. When a character comments on how meta everything is, the audience laughs, but why? Only because it's been conditioned to, just as it's been conditioned to think that the intellectual window dressing makes the 'Scream' movies something more than slasher films." — Mike Hale, The New York Times
The Final Word
"Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson let us believe that [the killer] might be anybody (though, according to the rules of horror movies, obviously it isn't the person you think it might be). But you don't watch 'Scream 4' to solve a mystery, or to identify with believable characters or situations (just one example: there's a scene set in a hospital that apparently has no medical personnel); you'll watch it to see a horror movie that has a sense of humor about itself. For 'Scream' franchise fans, or for those who like their horror not too horrific, that's enough." — Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times
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