Scream 4 (2011)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #273

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: April 15, 2011
Sub-Genre: Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $40,000,000
Box Office: $101,314,231
Running time: 111 minutes
Director: Wes Craven
Screenplay: Kevin Williamson, Ehren Kruger (uncredited), Scott Derrickson (uncredited)
Characters: Kevin Williamson
Producers: Wes Craven, Iya Labunka, Kevin Williamson
Special Effects: Robert Bolanowski, Ron Bolanowski
Visual Effects: Jamison Scott Goei, Jon Cowley, Reupal D. Rawal
Cinematography: Peter Deming
Score: Marco Beltrami
Editing: Peter McNulty
Studios: Corvus Corax Productions, Outerbanks Entertainment
Distributor: Dimension Films
Stars: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin, Mary McDonnell, Marley Shelton, Alison Brie, Marielle Jaffe, Nico Tortorella, Erik Knudsen, Aimee Teegarden, Britt Robertson, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Lucy Hale, Shenae Grimes, Roger L. Jackson

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Suggested Audio Candy

The Sounds “Something To Die For”

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That’s the ten-dollar question and, alas for Keeper, Scream is nowhere near the top of the pile. To its eternal credit, Wes Craven’s film dared to be different and certainly orchestrated something of a slasher boom in a decade drier for innovation than a yeti’s blowhole. But, all things considered, it just isn’t quite in the same league as the true greats. Despite this, it was unprecedented in one thing; it was a whole steaming dollop of fun. Having said this, it was also something of a one trick pony and, while the sequel showed flashes of brilliance, its run had begun to peter out by the time Scream 3 materialized and pissed out the candles.

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Eventually Craven appeared to have cut his losses and things went mighty quiet for Ghostface. However, you can’t keep a good masked psychopath down. Ask Myers and Voorhees, their last couple of movies helped fund their hip replacements and Freddy Krueger finally got that pair of dentures he’d been crying out for after the Elm Street franchise, another Craven creation, was rebooted in 2010. The burning question is, where would Wes and screenwriter Kevin Williamson go from here? What was considered ingenious back in 1996 would surely be long in the tooth a full fifteen years down the road.

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Thankfully, the pair decided to take the suspense back to the idyllic town of Woodsboro once again. Scream 4 returns to its grass-roots and is all the better for doing so. It also marks the return of its three pinnacle protagonists. Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox all make a comeback although, this time, they are joined by the all-new class of 2011. As for the scares, well it has to be said, there’s precious little left in the tank by this point but what it sorely lacks in the fear factor, it makes up with Williamson’s sharp script and the same sense of fun that made the original such a hit all those years ago.

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The plot, as irreverent as it is, involves Sidney returning to her home town on the tenth anniversary of her departure to promote her new novel Out of Darkness. Nothing much has changed in that time, Dewey is still just about hanging onto Gale despite her becoming disillusioned with small town life. She needn’t have worried as, where Sidney goes, trouble is normally no more than two steps behind her. No sooner has he started signing copies of her book, than Ghostface has picked up the reigns and commences terrorizing her nearest and dearest. You get the idea by now.


Its film-within-a-film-within-a-film opening comes across as contrived but then, where was left for them to realistically go? Short of digging up Drew Barrymore and putting her through the ringer a second time, there isn’t a whole lot new or inventive that could be done with the formula. It is at this point that we must cut our losses and have faith in the fact that Craven and Williamson know exactly how to entertain their audience. The introduction of new technology certainly helps in this respect, times have changed and nowadays even dogs know how to Skype. They use this to their advantage, milking those last legs from a franchise which long since ceased being hip and fresh.

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In addition, there are some interesting characters thrown into the melting point. Horror aficionados Robbie and Charlie (Erik Knudsen and Rory Culkin) do their best impressions of Randy and Stuart, although they end up trumped by the fairer sex on this occasion. Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) is, by far, the most flavorsome of the fresh meat and teaches the boys that she knows her Leatherfaces from her Plutos. If she is the pick of the bunch then Nico Tortorella walks away with the wooden spoon as Trevor. This is no slight on his performance, merely that his character is superfluous to requirements other than to act as the far-too-obvious red herring. Audiences were never going to fall for that particular banana in their tailpipe this time out.

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Scream 4 is far more interested in box office receipts than sickening us with grue and this is no different from we expect by this point. It’s a cash cow, over $100m return on the investment will surely have helped the Weinstein brothers sleep soundly and this is unashamedly slasher-lite all the way. It plays for laughs with regularity and this provides as many misses as hits but can never be accused of not keeping us invested, despite the bloated running time. There is something to be said for a genre flick which holds our balls gently in its hands for just short of two hours and, in that respect, it heralds something of a minor success.

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The clichés may have lost much of their ironic edge and the Scooby Doo plot certainly breaks no new ground whatsoever but, after Scream 3 left audiences a tad cold, it does mark a reasonably triumphant return to form. Meanwhile the final revelation, whilst not rocket science, at least tries something new and caps things off rather well, all things considered. Cutting edge it most certainly isn’t and the competition has caught up after fifteen years but Scream 4 does exactly what it says on the tin and its hard to kick a dog when it’s midway through taking a dump. Is Craven back on form? The jury’s out I’m afraid, he comes and goes pretty much as he pleases nowadays and certainly brings no shame to the game with this latest installment. But to think, he would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those pesky kids.


Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 2/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: Plenty of stabbing going down but anyone expecting a bloodbath has clearly walked into the wrong movie. Having said this, one kill in particular stands out as a little more mean-spirited than the rest and Ghostface gets plenty of practice in while he prepares himself for the somewhat inevitable Scream 5. It may seem unlikely at this point but how else is Ghostface going to fund his pacemaker five years from now?

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Read Scream Appraisal

Read A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Appraisal

Read The Last House on The Left (1972) Appraisal

Read Hills Have Eyes II (1984) Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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