Combustible Celluloid
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With: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Marielle Jaffe, Marley Shelton, Erik Knudsen, Rory Culkin, Nico Tortorella, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Gordon Michaels, Mary McDonnell, Alison Brie, Justin Michael Brandt, Nancy O'Dell, Lucy Hale, Shenae Grimes, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Aimee Teegarden, Brittany Robertson, Dane Farwell, Roger Jackson (voice)
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Directed by: Wes Craven
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, language and some teen drinking
Running Time: 111
Date: 04/11/2011

Scream 4 (2011)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Scream 4 is more of the same, but in a good way. This series consists of simplistic, yet gory murder mysteries, driven by Kevin Williamson's clever, grinning screenplays and Wes Craven's crisp, sharp direction. It has been 11 years since they phoned in Scream 3 -- Williamson didn't even bother with writing that one -- and, even though the order for Scream 4 came down from Harvey Weinstein's desk, Craven and Williamson attack their series with renewed vigor. After four films, Craven still finds fresh ways for his canny use of three-dimensional space, obstacles and cutting. (See also: Scream and Scream 2.

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to the small town of Woodsboro on the last stop of her successful book tour. She reconnects with Dewey (David Arquette), now the sheriff, and his wife Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), who is unsuccessfully trying to write fiction and longs to get back at some hard news. No sooner does she arrive in town, however, than the Ghost Face killings begin again. Before long Sidney discovers that her entire family, including cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell) are in trouble. Several twenty-somethings join the cast, including Hayden Panettiere, Nico Tortorella, Erik Knudsen, and Rory Culkin.

Craven is better able to juggle the cast this time, with no silly cameos. The younger characters barely resonate, but the older ones bring their histories to this new movie and build on them dramatically. It's too bad that Sid and the others don't have a relationship with old Ghost Face, who is brought to life by a new character in each film; that could have been an interesting take.

Now there are seven Stab movies, each with a weird "meta" twist. Characters are even more savvy and cynical than they were in the nineties, though -- as always -- this fails to save their lives. Like a relentless blogger, the movie pokes fun at itself, pokes fun at postmodernism, and mirrors the general overwhelming feeling of too much internet and too many cell phones and webcams. And yet it keeps on its toes. Just as something begins to smell a bit fishy, the movie quickly comments on it. "This is just silly," one character says during the climax. It is. In a good way.

Lionsgate released the new DVD and Blu-Ray; extras include a new commentary track with Wes Craven, Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere (with a "guest appearance" by Neve Campbell), 25 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, a gag reel (9 minutes), an official "making of" featurette (10 minutes), and a promo for the video game.

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