By MARK TURNER
Honestly, I am tired of seeing the Halloween masks for Ghostface, the mask all killers in the SCREAM films wear every year at Halloween. Enough, already. That being said, it’s nice to see a new film in the SCREAM franchise being released in time for folks to rent during the Halloween season.
With all the potential killers killed off in parts 1-3 you would think the story would have ended. Then again this was a film franchise and when it comes to Hollywood box office, who cares?
The film opens "spoiler" with a film within a film within a film as our ever-popular teens are watching the STAB DVDs, movies in this film series based on the first movie’s events and on the book written by character Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox-Arquette). And as with the other films, these teens end up being killed by another murderer in a Ghostface mask. With all suspects deceased who could be doing the killings now?
Returning to her hometown of Woodsboro, Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is on a book tour promoting her own book about how she dealt with the after effects of what she went through and became a stronger person. Gale is now married to Dewey (David Arquette) who is now the Sheriff. Sydney also has family left in town, her aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell) and niece Jill (Emma Roberts). It’s not long before people start trying to connect Sydney’s return with that of Ghostface.
But times have changed since the original story began. Cell phones are more prominent as is the internet. Schoolmates of Jill have their own websites where they broadcast what’s going on in their lives non-stop, sort of Facebook taken to the extreme. Jill becomes the center of the story as it is her friends who keep getting murdered one at a time until Ghostface lays out his plans for Sydney during one of his phone calls with her when he tells her he plans on killing everyone around her and saving her for last. Again one has to ask who is the killer this time around when everyone died in the previous films? All in good time.
The basic formula holds true here but the movie also acknowledges that times have changed. One student named Charlie (Rory Culkin) is the horror film fanatic this time around. He and one of his friends discuss with their film society that the rules for horror films have changed since they’ve become so popular. What was expected in the first film is now the norm so the opposite must be true this time around. This humorous take on the movie looking in on itself and the slasher genre was what made the first films so fun and it does again this time around.
The body count rises and with it the number of suspects dwindles. The last teens gather together for a party at one’s house and we know that the new Ghostface will soon follow. So who is it? I won’t spoil that for you.
The movie falls in line with the previous 3 in great form, offering up not just a serial killer on the lose but carrying on the story from start to finish as well. It continues to take a look at itself in a non-serious way, making fun of the standard things that happen in all slasher films including itself. It’s this self examination that makes the SCREAM films work where others have failed.
Director Wes Craven returns to the director’s chair as does screenwriter Kevin Williamson. They started the series and they’re here to keep it going. The same is true of the main cast, all returning to play out the roles they began some 15 years ago. It’s nice to see them stick with it rather than play out the usual Hollywood fight for more money. Fans hate to see new actors in old roles.
The jump scenes are there, the stabbings and fights are there and the solution to the mystery is held in check until the final third act. Guessing who the killer was has always been one of the things that made SCREAM so interesting and it remains for part 4. So if you’re looking for a treat this Halloween, give SCREAM 4 a chance. And with the original 3 out on blu-ray, perhaps now would be a good time to add all of them to your collection or have a movie marathon for the holiday.
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