To paraphrase something a wise woman once said, assumption is a crap-filled Twinkie: it looks great until you take a bite out of it. An assumption is a little bit of mental laziness that circumvents the heavy lifting of critical thinking and just going with whatever’s easiest.
Of course, this brings us to Wes Craven’s latest effort, “Scream 4”.
Eleven years after the last entry in the series, Craven brings us back to the unfortunate little burg of Woodsboro. This time, series heroine Sydney (Neve Campbell) has returned to the town on tour touting her book on her growth experiences as a survivor of the previous murders. Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courtney Cox) are still around: Dewey is the sheriff and Gale is having a hard time coming up with a new book idea. Luckily for Gale, yet another copycat of the original Ghostface killer has begun to strike the circle of friends belonging to Sydney’s cousin, Jill (Emma Roberts). Suspicions grow, new rules are introduced and the streets run red with the blood of the young and unintelligent.
Unlike his previous outing, the shameful “My Soul to Take”, Craven has assembled a strong, talented cast. In addition to the returning Campbell, Arquette and Cox, you have Roberts, Hayden Panettiere (“Heroes”), Rory Culkin (“Signs”), Marley Shelton (“Grindhouse”), Mary McDonnell (“Battlestar Galactica”) and a host of cameos sprinkled in. Together, they breathe life into Kevin Williamson’s sharply-voiced script. Combined with some clever character motivations, the script is one of this movie’s greatest strengths.
Sadly, it also fails mightily.
One impression I took away from the film what that the younger characters were much smarter and worldlier than their predecessors. Unfortunately, this doesn’t carry on to the movie itself. “Scream 4” finds itself mired in hokey genre tropes, catastrophic logic failures and a need not just to suspend your disbelieve but to beat it senseless and have it carted off to a gulag. If you’re going to promote this as “New decade. New rules,” then don’t give me the same old crappy movie you gave me back in the mid Nineties. Just like the characters in your film, the audiences are smarter and savvier as well. We know your awkward attempts at herding us into scares. Like the clumsy manipulations of a sausage-fingered teen trying to unfasten a bra for the first time, it’s tedious, annoying and rarely gets results.
Even if we considered it by simple genre standards, we find it lacking. Despite the interesting twist, the film is remarkably predictable. Kills are telegraphed well in advance so that they carry almost no weight, just a feeling of bored inevitability. And as for the kills themselves, you have a garden variety of stabs and slashes but nothing to write home about.
“Scream 4” is a magical, mystical trip back to the Nineties, where everything old is old again. Just like our aforementioned Twinkie, it looks good on the outside. You just might want to think twice before taking a bite out of it.