It looked like the advent of mobile phones spelled the death of horror movies. What threat could Michael Myers of Leatherface pose if the cops were one phone call away? Contrivances like lack of signal and smashed phones became clichés until, in 1996, Scream came along and turned the phone into an accessory in the crime. There have been many who’ve said that the franchise is no longer relevant, that the idea of subverting expectations is clichéd in itself- well, Scream 4 (or Scre4m as we’re being asked to call it) takes the old formula, throws it into the 21st Century and comes up trumps.
Each of the Scream films stands on their own two feet but, in this case, it’s important to recognise the presence of the previous films in its blueprint. This is not Saw 5 or Hostel 2, this is very much a Scream film and some might find that difficult to comprehend. Craven does amp up the gore level for the younger demographic but, at the end of the day, it’s just a big ol’ kitchen knife, not a serrated vice, industrial oven or pit of used needles. This is a traditional slasher movie, as alluded to by Ghostface in one of the films climactic scenes which, whilst exhilarating in its own right, is a damning testimony of modern horror.
Yes, you will work out the ‘whodunit’ element after about half an hour, but when have the Scream films ever been difficult to riddle? The original cast return as older, middle ages versions of themselves but the majority of the film falls on the shoulders of its younger stars like Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere who possess great scream presence. Other up and comers like Rory Culkin, Lucy Hale and Erik Knudsen also perform the duties of running around and getting cut to pieces as adequately as possible. This doesn’t make nearly as many concessions to the younger demographic as many reboots of classic horror franchises have and is all the more fun for it.
It may not gather the news fans that the studios wanted but Scre4m is still as much fun as the cinema allows.