The cinema’s most annoying crank caller returns in this latest installment of Wes Craven’s franchise, as does original scripter Kevin Williamson, several original castmembers and that stupid ghost-face mask. After a decade spent licking her wounds, working on her martial arts technique and writing a memoir which apparently consists of nothing but self-help platitudes, final girl Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) finds herself back in old Woodsboro, overwhelmingly white and middle-class, with tastefully-tended gardens lining the boulevards, that blander-than-life, fantasy American no-place where killing’s just too much fun to keep those rascally, movie-obsessed kids away from.
Donning the old mask and wielding the old knife, the mayhem is rebooted and mostly shamelessly rehashed: to say that Scream 4 is more amusing than most youth-oriented contemporary horror is not much of a compliment. At once unlikely in its winky po-mo conceit and half-assed in its execution, the film’s immaculately cleansed and powdered zitless nubile babes discussing strategies for genre renovation reduces forward-thinking horror to nothing but infinite variations on “boo” moments, utterly removed from thornier challenges such as the consideration of what lies behind fear, anxiety, dangerous thrills, perverse humour or morbid curiosity. To note the film’s inherent preposterousness seems redundant, though the truth is that nothing in Scream 4 seems more improbable than a teenager who can’t remember where she left her mobile phone.
This time out there’s a geek who wears a camera on his ear so he can stream his POV on the internet, adding an ostensible layer to the film’s overall hall of mirrors thematic, which includes a sequels-within-sequels prelude. David Arquette drives around frowning as Sheriff Chipmunk while Courtney Cox’s journalist-mannequin tries to take the serial killer investigation into her own hands, invoking Sarah Palin in her declaration that she’s “going rogue.” Supposedly, these two are married. Campbell meanwhile seems at a complete loss, unable to do much besides wince angrily when confronted by yet another attack, yet another strangely listless scene of murder that at best recalls lesser bits of Roadrunner cartoons without the laughs. At least Marley Shelton is genuinely cute as a dutiful deputy, and the ending-ending, which is to say the ending that follows the predictably false false ending, is so loopy it’s actually rather winning.