It has been fifteen years since the Woodsboro murders, but their true legacy appears to be a series of films in the Stab franchise. They all take the basic template of the original killings as their cue, so will begin with someone receiving a telephone call which turns sinister when the deep voice on the line threatens the listener. Then it will be revealed that the caller is phoning from somewhere close by, has a knife, and will proceed to attack, it's the same old story, and frankly Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), who endured the original, isn't interested - even if her notoriety sells her self-help book.
But the team behind the original Scream movie were interested, with writer Kevin Williamson returning to the fold after being absent from the disappointing Scream 3 over ten years before. This provided the franchise with a shot in the arm after a whole decade of remakes, sequels and rip-offs that had become the stuff of the horror genre, but it was clear they were all too aware that they were simply adding to those rather than revolutionising, or at least revitalising, that trend as the first Scream had done. Williamson even went out of his way to have the characters point this out, fairly often as well.
Wes Craven was back at the helm, though understandably after all the killings in the previous instalments the cast members returning for the fourth time numbered three: Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, the latter playing a married couple as Dewey (now a sheriff) and Gail (trying to turn her hand to fiction as the journalism gig has dried up) have tied the knot. This meant a bunch of other characters turned up to either be victims of Ghostface, or suspects for the killer behind that mask, although Sidney had a hitherto unmentioned cousin, Jill (Emma Roberts), as a stand-in final girl should the usual heroine not make it to the end this time around.
The theme this time around was not sequels, but remakes, as the murderer is apparently staging the deaths as a tribute to those past crimes, even filming them on video cameras which is a step of logic somewhat baffling, as what exactly would they do with the footage once they had it? They couldn't upload it to the internet without it being a massive giveaway as to who they were, after all. Anyway, all part of the postmodernism gimmick, and there are the Randy substitutes in Robbie (Erik Knudsen) and Charlie (Rory Culkin), two movie geeks from high school who Gail recruits to record her investigations - and namecheck the fright flicks, natch.
Where many horror movies after the millennium found new technology rather pesky when it came to constructing their fright sequences - why don't they just phone for help, the question arose - Scream 4 found this handy in winding up its characters as Ghostface calls his potential hits for a spot of stalker-ish behaviour. But this was not the main concern, as like the first, it was the factual media's hypocritical reporting of violence rather than the fictional type that was held up for criticism here, and by and by emerged as the reason for the slaughter. Fair enough, but lacking was a truly great setpiece which the initial Williamson movies had - all the way through this wasn't bad, better than the previous one, but the jokey sarcasm grated more than tickled the funny bone, and the strain in keeping up the innovations did show. That said, for a basic slasher whodunnit Scream 4 was a cut above the competition - especially this far into the franchise. Music by Marco Beltrami.