Movie Review: Scream 4 (Short Version)
The First Ninety-Four Minutes and Twelve Seconds of Scream 4
By Tom Douglass
December 13, 2011
The Big Three:
At this point we are instantly re-introduced to Sidney, Gale, and Dewey. Sid has written a book about her experiences and returned to Woodsboro for the first stop of her book tour. Dewey and Gale are now married, with Dewey now the town sheriff and Gale finding herself adrift after riding the threadbare coattails of the Woodsboro murders all these years. Dewey traces the victim's cell phone to the trunk of Sidney's rental car, and we're off to the races.
Neve Campbell has Sidney Prescott down to a science at this point, and despite not being given all that much to do, she does a competent job with her wearied survivor role. Courteney Cox and David Arquette are more of a mixed bag. Especially towards the beginning of the film, they are delivering caricature versions of Gale and Dewey which, considering they are caricatures to begin with, makes it feel like they are really laying it on thick at times. (Scenes like Gale being a bitch to another media type and then walking away saying “Yep, I've still got it!” are just trying too hard.) As the movie gets rolling, the increasing amount of danger they are in serves to ground the portrayals on more solid footing, and you almost forget about the earlier ham-handedness.
Our main characters/victims/suspects this go-round are generally an appealing group. Emma Roberts plays Sidney's niece, Jill Roberts, a character that becomes infinitely more interesting in the final act (more to come on that shortly). Many of these scenes are carried by best friend Kirby Reed, played wonderfully by Hayden Panettiere, and Erik Knudsen playing a character that should have been named “Okay, fine, we brought Randy back from the dead, sue us”. Rory Culkin also does good work as the sulkier film nerd to Knudsen's Randy 2.0.
Ultimately, since the Scream movies have a predictable plot template and are never going to escalate much in the gore department, it's the characters that need to engage us in the movie, and by and large that works here. You root for the characters with crushes on each other to pair off, and don't really want to see any of the core group at the end of Ghostface's knife. The movie does a good job of teeing up enough entertaining peripheral characters to fill out the body count (hello, Alison Brie, Mary McDonnell, Adam Brody, and Anthony Anderson), while giving the audience just enough time to invest in the main characters before...
The Final Act:
This is by far the most interesting and best part of the movie, and the final 15 minutes are among the strongest moments of the franchise. The teenagers take refuge from the preceding madness at Kirby's house, and it isn't long before Ghostface arrives for the final throwdown. Rory Culkin finds himself tied to a chair outside the house exactly like the original Scream, but Kirby seems to pass the quiz this time, running outside to untie Rory only to have him stab her in the gut, berating her for ignoring him all these years. Once back inside, his co-conspirator is revealed to be Jill, to Sidney's shock and disgust. Jill states her motive to be an attempt to frame her ex-boyfriend and become every bit the famous victim that Sidney is for her own profit.