(Say what you will about the movie. This poster kicks ass.)
Call it the benefit of low expectations. Call it being softened up by a ten hour work day and thus primed to enjoy something undemanding but I had a blast at Scream 4. A clever, nimble, gratifyingly old school slasher, that was solid fun from its meta beginning to its meta(er) end. If nothing else it stands head and shoulders above The Scream sequels. Not that that is… you know… particularly hard.
For one thing, it gets the tone right for the first time since the first film. Riding that edge between playing with and paying off genre conventions, actively playing your expectations against you with just the right mixture of mischief and genuine unpredictability. As well as ditching the baroque plotting that made the sequels such a chore to get through.
More importantly there’s a genuine feel of investment in the film. The eleven year fallow period which previously looked like a sure sign of desperation, now looks unexpectedly like the greatest favor that could have befallen the film. Not only did it provide enough time for some new stuff to happen in horror and thus give the writer some new material to comment on, much needed because by Part 3 they were really reaching. But it also provides some unexpected poignancy. Odd that a slasher film that made it’s name by appealing to the youth market (Remember all that grousing about WB horror? No? What was the WB you ask? Fuck I’m old.) benefits so greatly from having a cast that is older. There’s the sheer rarity of it, I mean how often do you see adults in a horror movie? Let alone a slasher movie? More importantly it’s the way the cast has matured, particularly Campbell. It feels like they’re more invested in these characters now then they ever were when they were just supposed to be their break out roles that they left behind and laughed at.
As for the new cast, who initially posed the biggest amount of worry, well let’s just say that “surprisingly likable” goes right across the board. I mean there’s the surprisingly likeable Handen Panettiere (I know right?) the surprisingly likable Rory Culkin, the surprisingly likeable Emma Roberts. All actors who have exhibited, little to no, to actual negative charisma in previous roles all do a really good job in the film. I’d chalk it up to a sure hand in the director’s chair. But you know… it’s a Wes Craven joint…
In all fairness the film feels blessedly competent after the “This is a fucking joke right? Some kind of prank. No way this guy is fucking serious.” direction of My Soul To Take. Wes Craven proves if nothing else he can still get the fuck out of the way and deliver a few good scares. There’s nothing to write home about here, but nowhere does he actively embarrass himself either and for Craven I’d say that’s a solid W. Even the ending which initially seems to overreach into taking a detour into crazy town, is redeemed by the pretty clever commentary on the nature of reboots it provides (Compare it to the “Guh?” for the sake of “Guh?” ending of Scream 3 and you’ll see what I’m talking about).
The film isn’t perfect sure. A few of the scenes stray too far into overtly comic territory (“Fuck Bruce Willis.” Though truth in criticism the film is often legitimately funny, particularly in the opening. That said I was the only one in the theater who laughed at the Robert Rodriguez joke.), it is a bit on the long side, the plot involves some narrow escapes for The Slasher that are eye rolling even by the lenient standards of the subgenre and Mary Shelton is bizarrely offputting. On the whole I’m so shocked that Scream 4 does so much right that I can’t be that ticked that it does a few things wrong. A fourth installment simply shouldn’t feel this light on its feet.