Review: Scream 4 is Not Too Shabby

Scream 4 is clearly better than Scream 3. There, that's out of the way. Now we can discuss the pertinent issues that matter, such as the housing market and one's personal safety standards. Let's do this.

The first thing that throws me about the entire Scream franchise is the houses. They are always perfectly clean, modeled, and lovely. There's never anything amiss, no laundry anywhere, the floors are all wood, the appliances all stainless steel. I suppose the thought that "Hey, these people are being murdered in Suburbia!" should terrify me all the more than someone dying in a dingy back alley, but I can never emotionally get there. I just see these terrifically saccharine and tidy houses and figure they are going to have a tough time moving those units post-slaying, especially in this housing market. I can't imagine murder depreciation is anything to scoff at.

Here's the other thing. By this point Sidney Prescott should be America's most finely honed human weapon. Can you imagine having survived the dozens of attacks she has? Wouldn't you treat yourself to a little Jujitsu training, the occasional light Krav Maga tutorial, and be basically strapped to the gills with automatic weapons? Had I been through a quarter of what Ms. Prescott has endured I'd make Rambo look like a charity case. And who would blame me?

Person 1: Who is that person? And why is she carrying an arsenal with her?

Person 2: Oh, that's just Sidney Prescott. She's a bit concerned for her safety.

Person 3: That's Sid Prescott?? The poor dear! I wonder if she'd want my bokken to carry with her too?

Yes, in this hypothetical the pairing is practicing Kendo.

Still, the point is a valid one, and although in this iteration of Scream Ms. Prescott seems to have largely mastered the art of not being too afraid, like a fighter pilot who has faced constant danger, she doesn't seem to have taken her studies to the next level in the way I'd expect. So that was bothersome, though not unexpected.

Now then, as for the film itself, Scre4m, or Scream 4, or Scre-four-em, it starts out with what might just be the most most meta beginning ever, because it starts with the Stab franchise. Yep, that's the fictional franchise within the Scream universe which is of course modeled after Sidney Prescott's fictional life within the film. Regardless of the "in" ardor, the entire opening works, appealing to both our short attention spans and a predilection to like the series.

Also working? The clever dialogue, brisk pacing, and frenetic music. The killer still generally calls on a landline, but they throw in references to Facebook and Twitter, weaving in occasional cell phone stalking for good measure. No, they don't bother to deal with the prominence of caller ID, as then you'd have no movie. And yes, you'll definitely have that moment where you question the logic of, well, everything, before realizing that it hardly matters.

The premise and updating of Sidney Prescott as a character is also well formulated. She's back in town to sell a book while advocating an "I'm not going to be a victim anymore!" message. David Arquette is still bumbling as a town sheriff and Courteney Cox reprises her scheming and plotting take on Gale Weathers. The murder count is high, the blood flows continually, and the film does well to keep your guesses and suppositions off-balance. A perfectly acceptable Friday night, Scream 4 delivers plenty of scares without consequences, murder without depth, and a flood of legacy laughs. Though loftier philosophical messages are broached and then largely ignored (the idea that We Live in Public) it's hard to fault Scream 4 for not taking things too seriously. This isn't a film that matters in any real sense, but it's also not poorly done, and as such deserves a smallish amount of praise.

Grade: B-