When I went to go check this out in theaters with a friend, I remember being slightly curious, but unexpectant. After all, I found 'Scream 3' to be a letdown, so how could a fourth installment, around eleven years later possibly be any good. Well, I'm happy to say that I remember being very pleasantly surprised, but in all honesty, this chapter is still "just okay". For what it is, it succeeds (at least for me).
We start this one off in real-time, after the events of 'Scream 3'. The 'Stab' series within these films has reached the "out of control" point. They are not only on 'Stab 7' but evidently, 'Stab 5' apparently used time travel. I see that as a bit of a nod to the moments when horror icons get to outer space, like Jason on the Leprechaun. Anyway, surviving the events of the original films are Sidney (Neve Campbell), who has just published her own book on surviving the Woodsboro murders, Dewey (David Arquette), who's now the sheriff of Woodsboro and Gale (Courteney Cox), who is now married to Dewey and has since given up reporting.
Sidney returns to Woodsboro on the 16th anniversary of the original 'Scream' killings, and of course, to no one's surprise, finds that the killing has started all over again. This time, the big target seems to be Sidney's cousin, Jill (Emma Roberts), and her friends, Olivia and Kirby (Marielle Jaffe and Hayden Panettiere, respectively). In this case, the killer seems to want to direct his own reboot, so this one is more of a farce on reboots. A little bit I found kind of humorous here was that in one scene, Kirby is made to name a specific horror reboot. She lists off about a million of them, including 'The Hills Have Eyes', 'Last House on the Left' and 'Nightmare on Elm Street' - all Craven originals that were somewhat unnecessarily rebooted. Another fun little "shot" Craven threw in there for his fans.
Moving on, however, when the killing starts, evidence is found in the trunk Sid and her publicist, Rebecca (Alison Brie) arrived in. They are then made to stay in town by Dewey, himself until the killer is caught because pretty much "everyone is a suspect" (which may be a little nod back to the original). One thing I appreciated here was that the film really keeps you guessing. Is it Jill's ex-boyfriend, Trevor (Nico Tortorella) who is leaving threatening messages?; is it Dewey's new, somewhat creepy deputy, Judy (Marley Shelton)?; is it one or both of the film-obsessed geeks, Robbie and/or Charlie (Erik Knudsen and Rory Culkin, respectively)? Or could it possibly even be an original "cast member" (Sidney, Dewey or Gale?) It's always fun for me when a movie keeps you guessing like this, but perhaps there are more perceptive viewers out there who know who it is from the get-go. Honestly, I'm glad I don't have that ability - helps me enjoy mysteries much more.
A lot of this, like 'Scream 3' feels like more of the same. Once again, there's a standard set of rules here, but there are more than three. 1, don't mess with the original; 2, death scenes are more extreme (similar to 'Scream 2'); 3, "unexpected" is the new cliche; 4, virgins can die now (in 'Scream', a rule of survival was virginity); 5, new technology is used and integral to the plot; 6, an opening sequence is necessary (which I feel is a weird one, because I think most horror movies have these); and last but not least, 7, in order to survive these days, you pretty much have to be gay. Otherwise, the characters we know haven't really developed that much. For example, Gale quit reporting to basically quit being a b*tch to people, but she's still extremely tenacious about the case here and goes out of her way to get answers on her own like she always does.
As for the others, Dewey's the same old Dewey, just in a new position, and Sidney is basically just grown up and has become protector a little more than usual. Think Ripley's character from 'Alien' to 'Aliens', but to less of a degree. It's probably safe to say she probably got the most developed of the three. But for as much as things are familiar, it does go back to what I loved about the first and second 'Scream' movies by throwing in a whole bunch of scary movie trivia, Easter eggs and becoming a farce in itself. For whatever reason, '3' just didn't manage to do this as well, and it's still sort of hard to put my finger on. But I do consider this a vast improvement from '3', even if it's still not quite as good as the first two.
Body Count: 10