In “Scream 4,” the recently-released thriller directed by Wes Craven, a publicist refers to Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) as a “victim for life.” For Prescott, who was attacked and nearly murdered in the original “Scream” trilogy, the characterization rings true. In “Scream 4,” victimhood and the publicity that accompanies it are major themes as a new killer emerges in Woodsboro, the site of the original murders.
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On a publicity tour to promote her new book “Out of Darkness,” Prescott returns to Woodsboro where she reunites with former tabloid reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette). Weathers and Riley are married and while the former is writing a novel, the latter spends his time as the town sheriff. Even before Prescott starts signing books at a local store, a new killer has already struck. That killer is soon hunting down some of the local teenagers and trying to murder Prescott.
As I previously noted, I enjoyed the original “Scream” trilogy. Like a lot of horror movies, the series features a lot of violence and gore but the stories are well-told. The trilogy was created to serve a certain audience and they do that well. While “Scream 2” was the best of the original trilogy, “Scream 3” was the weakest. “Scream 4” should be rated beneath the original two “Screams” but above “Scream 3.”
One of the reasons for this distinction is because Kevin Williamson, who wrote the original two “Screams” wrote the screenplay for “Scream 4.” Like the first two films, the newest one features a few solid supporting characters that viewers get to know before some of them are killed. The supporting cast includes the webcast-obsessed Robbie Mercer (Erik Knudsen), the creepy Trevor Sheldon (Nico Tortorella), and the always-perky Deputy Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton). All of these characters are stronger than the supporting cast of “Scream 3,” which featured Jenny McCarthy as a bland actress and the nearly unwatchable Parkey Posey as a Gale Weathers-wannabe.
“Scream 4” pokes fun at the horror genre and some of its newest entries. There are a few nicely-timed jokes about the seemingly-unending “Saw” franchise. (For critics who think the “Scream” franchise has gone on too long, try watching the latest “Saw” movie. It’s nearly unwatchable.)
“Scream 4,” like its predecessors, also includes some thoughtful ideas. A few of the earlier “Screams” included ideas about media violence and people blaming parents for their children’s misdeeds. “Scream 4” explores the idea of victimhood and how society often celebrates it. Although Prescott is a real victim, there are side plots in the story about people wanting to be “victims” for publicity. Considering how politically-correct and easily-offended some people can be, it seems like “victimhood” is a timely theme. One prime example of this is Ryan Murphy, the creator of “Glee,” who seemingly claims victimhood when bands reject his show. For a man whose show is a huge hit, one would hope that he would focus more on the people who love his show rather than the few that don’t want their music used on it.
As with some other horror movies, “Scream 4” has a few weak characters and some terrible dialogue. Nevertheless, it rises above its peers in the genre and proves itself as a film that is worth screaming about.