Eleven years after the previous sequel, Neve Campbell (PARTY OF FIVE), Courteney Cox (FRIENDS), and David Arquette (THE TRIPPER) reunited again to battle the Ghostface Killer, along with director Wes Craven (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), cinematographer Peter Deming, composer Marco Beltrami, and writers Kevin Williamson (SCREAM and SCREAM 2) and Ehren Kruger (SCREAM 3). Because the characters played by Campbell, Cox, and Arquette are just about the only ones still alive after SCREAM 3, the veteran actors are joined by a new generation of hotties served up as slasher fodder.
If you liked the first three SCREAMs, prepare for a massive disappointment. Craven and Company bring nothing new or clever to the series; in fact, the very point of the film is to more or less remake the original SCREAM while also commenting on Hollywood remakes. Once you figure this out, which won’t take long, you’ve nothing to look forward to except a parade of nubile bodies (mostly female) getting rammed in the belly with a sharp knife and spitting up brackish blood.
It’s nice to see old friends again, and there’s some pleasure to be had in Sidney Prescott (Campbell) returning to her hometown of Woodsboro, the scene of the original SCREAM murders, after ten years to promote her new book and reuniting with lawman Dewey Riley (Arquette) and his wife, former tabloid journalist Gale Weathers (Cox). Craven doesn’t shunt them off to the side in favor of the new breed of teen horror star. He and Williamson (who did most of the scripting before Kruger signed on for a quick polish) make Sidney the focus of the film, though Gale and Dewey are mainly left to react.
Anyway, there’s a new Ghostface Killer in Woodsboro to coincide with Sidney’s return, and most of the victims are high school friends of Sidney’s younger cousin Jill (Emma Roberts). Earlier films established that the events of SCREAM had been made into a movie called STAB, which we now learn is up to its sixth sequel. Craven and Williamson take the opportunity to mock the movie business for its endless parade of unnecessary remakes and sequels, while forgetting their own movie has a “4” right there in the title.
Craven has cast his film with a lot of good-looking kids from teen-oriented television series, and the acting is fine. Forty years after entering the business, Craven the craftsman can still occasionally whip up suspense, but SCREAM 4 is basically a bore. The killer’s motivation doesn’t wash, and the whole exercise is just tiresome sadism without even the wry laughs of the earlier films.