When we last left Neve Campbell’s tragedy-magnet Sidney and the slasher-prone side-characters of the increasingly tiresome Scream franchise, they all seemed locked in some sort of meta-meltdown of self-reflexive mental masturbation—sad relics of the snarky, insular 1990s.
A full decade later, grisly torture porn and glossy franchise reboots have overtaken the horror movie landscape, but only the latter gets a workout in this half-thought-out lark.
Returning to Woodsboro on the 10th anniversary of the first installment’s murders, Campbell’s Sidney has penned an inane self-help book and gets ready to sign copies for an ugly, thoughtless generation of crude twerps who think it’s cool that they have a Ghostface-voice app on their iPhones. Bunking with her estranged teenage cousin (Emma Roberts) Sidney is aghast to find that it’s deja vu all over again, with a series of stabbings designed to mimic the events of the first picture. The joke is that some clever kid has decided it is just about time for a remake, and as several of director Wes Craven’s pictures have recently been remade, there’s an entire new set of rules to spoof for the current Hollywood horror mindset.
Tiresome for at least the first hour, Scre4m carefully sets up new characters and fresh faces, as if preparing for a franchise reboot that could conceivably drag on ad infinitum. It’s a lot of sloppily staged sequences in which young, hot television actresses run up flights of stairs and get stabbed in the sternum, until the final act comes around, and it blossoms into something quite remarkable.
The movie vehemently mocks and rejects every current trend of the genre. For better, but probably worse, Scream rejiggered horror movie conventions for an entire generation, so it’s impossible not to read this belated fourth entry as Craven (now 70) and Williamson (who is 46) hollering at all these goddamn kids to get off their lawn. Their crotchety anger is splenetic, and some kind of wonderful.