Tis the season for horror movies: good, bad or indifferent. Wes Craven's Scream 4 (2010) falls into this latter category. At best it administers the good thirty second shock value we've come to expect from this franchise. At its worst the movie is a pointless and ambling regurgitation of everything we've come to know, love and even hate about horror movies in general. I mean, what has Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) done to so piss off her entire family? In the first Scream it was a psychotic boyfriend, in Scream 2 his equally unhinged avenging mother, in Scream 3 - the estranged brother she never knew. By now you’re probably thinking that Craven’s run out of relatives left to exploit. But no…wait for it. Because Scream 4 presents yet another familial whack job on the verge of snapping. Personally, I think Woodsboro police would be wise to simply put out an APB on any remaining family members and just commit the whole lot – Sidney included – to an asylum for evaluation.
This new crazy isn't so much a surprise as a 'ho-hum' level antagonist in search of a valid excuse to pick up the Ginsu and start gutting the general populace of Woodsboro. Although Kevin Williamson gets the 'artistic' nod for the screenplay, Scream 3's Ehren Kruger was also brought in to help juice up the ironic laughs. Unlike the other three movies, Scream 4 was shot in and around Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Livonia Michigan - a change of venue that is fairly obvious to the naked eye – mostly done to take advantage of Michigan’s tax credits.
The pre-title sequence to Scream 4 is pure schlock. Two teen girls (Lucy Hale and Shenae Grimes) are throat-slashed by Ghostface (Dane Farwell). No, wait. It was only a movie; the pre-credit sequence to the fictional movie within a movie - Stab 6. Actually, it was Rachel (Anna Pacquin) who gets it in the gut from her best friend Chloe (Kristen Bell) after criticizing Stab 6's corny opener. No. My mistake, that's the pre-credit sequence to Stab 7. Williamson and Craven have great fun tempting us with what is the reality of Scream 4. The problem is, they're the only one's enjoying themselves.
Actually, the real opener to Scream 4 is the slaughter of Jenny Randall (Aimee Teegarden) and Marnie Cooper (Britt Robertson), the latest alumni of Woodsboro High to wear matching toe tags after a new Ghostface makes bloody sushi of their innards. This carnage marks15 years since Sidney Prescott laid her demons to rest. Now Sidney's back in Woodsboro with her press agent, Rebecca Walters (Alison Brie) to promote her tell-all account of the experience. She's also going to meet Jill (Emma Roberts); the cousin she barely knows. Meanwhile, in another part of town Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) is clumsily waking up to another day of married life with Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox); the former reporter turned unsuccessful house wife who suddenly realizes she's a one hit wonder.
Out of nowhere Jill's ex-boyfriend Trevor Sheldon (Nico Tortorella) and her two best friends, Olivia Morris (Marielle Jaffe) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) begins receiving mysterious and threatening phone calls and text messages. Dewey calms their concerns but secretly realizes that the predictable cycle of 'stab' knock-off murders has once again begun. Sidney moves in with Jill and her Aunt Kate Roberts (Mary McDonnell) and gets to know the family better...well sort of. Dewey assigns his overzealous deputy Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton) to help oversee the investigation and places officers Anthony Perkins (Anthony Anderson) and Ross Hoss (Adam Brody) on patrol to protect Sidney and company from Ghostface's bloodlust. Naturally, all is for not. One by one Ghostface picks off the newbees in the cast while leaving the alumni to survive, presumably for another Scream sequel.
The rest of the plot is so congenitally clogged with clichés borrowed from the previous trilogy that I won’t waste any more of your time with movie to movie comparisons. On this outing the old adage 'You've seen one you've seen them all' is working overtime. Jamie Kennedy's clever horror movie geek (who bought the farm in Part II) has been replaced by homo-cinema club dweebs Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin) and Robbie Mercer (Eric Kudsen) in a thoroughly bludgeoned attempt to prove that gay characters are not immune to being killed off in a horror movie. Once again, the trio of Sidney, Gale and Dewey are reunited in their singular cause to survive the onslaught. Curiously, the film never addresses what became of Patrick Dempsey's Det. Mark Kincaid - a leading character in Scream 3 who survived the carnage of that film and was beginning to harbor romantic feelings towards Sidney in the final reel.
No, what Craven and Williamson have given us instead is a fairly abysmal retread of the original Scream, reloaded with a slew of largely forgettable characters. Instead of resurrecting the franchise for a new generation Scream 4 effectively sounds the death knell for the series with anticipated gore. Yet the blood-fest fails to shock. It's just messy and malevolent.
Alliance Home Video's Blu-ray is adequate though hardly exceptional. The image is sharp but exhibits some minor edge effects that occasionally distract. Colors are not as bold as one might expect. Flesh tones tend to appear slightly orange. Overall this is a middling visual presentation of an equally middling film. It won't disappoint, but it won't astound either. The audio is another matter. A hearty DTS mix explodes with solid bass acoustics that really give an added edge (pun intended) to the overall experience. Extras are of the usual junket variety and include a self-congratulatory 'making of' featurette, outtakes, deleted scenes and theatrical trailer. Alliance also stocks the beginning of this disc with a litany or trailers that one cannot skip but must advance through. Not recommended.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)