‘Scream 4′ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated May 22nd, 2011 at 7:51 pm,

Scream 4 Review Scream 4 Review

Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews Scream 4

Back in 1996, famed scary-movie director Wes Craven teamed with writer Kevin Williamson on a film project that didn’t just introduce the world to a new iconic slasher personality (in the form of Ghostface), the pair succeeded in making a genre film that took every horror trope imaginable – and turned it on its head.

Scream, as well as its subsequent sequels, were love-letters to horror film fans with plenty of meta-references including Stab, the film series within a film series, as well as the notorious “rules for survival” that served as tongue-in-cheek winks at the genre – while also serving as an ironclad set of guidelines for each film to work around.

Number one: you can never have sex, number two: you can never drink or do drugs, and number three: never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, “I’ll be right back.”

It was the interplay between genre-fueled expectation and smart storytelling that created a number of memorable set-pieces (as well as twists) in the original trilogy. However, there’s no doubt that Scream 2 and (especially) Scream 3 failed to live up to the bar set by the original. Will the return of Williamson (who passed on the third film), paired with a decade-full of new horror properties to satirize, capture the same magic as the original? Or, much like Craven’s other recent work, is Scream 4 just another brainless slasher film?

Fortunately the answer is it almost captures the same magic. Scream 4 is without a doubt a much better film than the prior Scream sequels – offering plenty of scares, suspicion, as well as light-hearted commentary about the state of the horror genre. More than any of the previous Scream installments, this film is unapologetic about meta-references and horror-film expectations – turning audience anticipation upside down once again. There are plenty of plot holes and a number of bland performances but for the most part the actors and filmmakers deliver an enticing and intentionally cheesy diversion from the current genre staples (torture-porn and gritty reboots).

Scream 4 is a scary film that’s scary fun – not scary disturbing.

The Cast of Scream 4 Scream 4 Review

Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette in 'Scream 4'

If you were a fan of the original trilogy but are still confused about Scream 4’s place in the franchise, check out the synopsis below:

In Scream 4, Sidney Prescott, now the author of a self-help book, returns home to Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. There she reconnects with Sheriff Dewey and Gale, who are now married, as well as her cousin Jill (played by Emma Roberts) and her Aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell). Unfortunately Sidney’s appearance also brings about the return of Ghostface, putting Sidney, Gale, and Dewey, along with Jill, her friends, and the whole town of Woodsboro in danger.

Unlike Craven’s recent writing/directing effort My Soul to Take (read our review), Scream 4 is brought to life once again by the surprisingly cohesive collaboration between the director and Williamson’s script. While Craven’s recent creations don’t have the depth necessary to carry a film, the director has no problem taking someone else’s writing – and translating it into tense and compelling onscreen drama (and suspense) that holds-up well even in the current action-focused cinescape.

As in any slasher film, the characters are stereotype frames but a number of tongue-in-cheek performances (especially by Hayden Panettiere and Erik Knudsen) give the characters an added level of polish that isn’t often seen in the horror genre – allowing for some actual surprises along the way. Even the least-assuming Woodsboro residents are portrayed with a bit of menace, successfully keeping audiences on their toes – without resorting to manipulative shifts out-of-character.

Scream 4 Hayden Panettiere1 Scream 4 Review

New Ghostface victims Hayden Panettiere and Emma Roberts

Like its predecessors, playing against expectation is one of the greatest strengths of Scream 4 – not only in terms of the “Rules for Survival” and the over-arching story beats but also during the moment-to-moment tension. Good slasher films succeed when they can surprise the audience – in spite of the numerous tropes of the genre. However, Scream 4 not only delivers surprises, the film succeeds by showing the audience something ominous and fulfilling that tension – but in a manner that flies in the face of expectation. While it might sound obvious on paper, no horror film has ever taken the trick as literal as Scream 4.

For horror fans that are less interested in all the meta-film commentary, Scream 4 also offers the most kills of the series. The slasher sequences in the film are not only more frequent than prior installments – they’re also larger in scope. Several of the Woodsboro victims are dispatched in surprisingly creative (but still brutal) sequences – all while managing to avoid slipping into the torture-porn-esque subgenre the film derides.

That said, as the film steamrolls into the inevitable who-done-it revelation, it’s hard not feel as if the actual reveal falls a bit flat. Sure, the high-expectations come as a result of the shocking and innovative reveal in the original Scream; however, the reveal at the end of Scream 4 seems more concerned with serving as a precautionary tale about all-access Internet notoriety than a satisfying climax to the actual tension in the film (or resolution to the characters). Sure there are definitely some interesting twists but there’s no question that the last 15 minutes of Scream 4 drag-on, first bogged-down by the weight of the meta-narrative, and then abandoning the tightly-crafted storyline for a more-traditional and over-the-top final set-piece.

Scream 4 Neve Campbell Scream 4 Review

Neve Campbell returns as Sidney Prescott

In spite of the updated Scream 4 “remake” philosophy, the film itself rarely violates its own rules – and while that could lead to a somewhat disappointing set of act three revelations for some moviegoers, there’s little doubt most fans will enjoy the ride.

If you’ve already seen the film and want to talk about its details without ruining it for others, head over to Scream 4 spoilers discussion to chat about anything that could spoil the experience for those who haven’t seen it yet.

However, if you’re still on the fence about seeing Scream 4, check out our Scream Trilogy Primer to get caught-up on the series, then watch the official trailer below:


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Follow us on Twitter @benkendrick and @screenrant and let us know what you thought of the film.

Scream 4 is now playing in theaters.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. I’m going to be seeing this tonight. Most of the reviews I have read so far have given it a pretty good rating. And from the sounds of it it seems like Williamson coming back to the franchise is why it’s going to be better than 3…

  2. I’ll see this movie soon. Haven’t checked out anything on it other than the heavy rotation trailers that are playing constantly on primetime tv. Maybe it’s Cox’s character, maybe it’s deputy dooley … maybe it’s Neve … but I’m hoping it’s the parents of Drew Barrymoore’s character who died in the opening credits of Scream 1. I bet they got so tired of seeing alllllll the drama that Sidney, the Media, and everything else glossed over in the coming installments. We’ve seen the villians in the first movie breed relative psychos in the coming attractions … so why not let Drew’s parents get a “stab” or two in there. I’m sure “Daddy” would have a good “I’d have gotten away with it if it weren’t for these meddling kids”. Laughs. Just chills baby!

  3. Anna Paquin has a little monologue at the beginning of this movie which described exactly how I felt at the end of this movie. While there were good scares and jumps, this movie was too aware of itself and commented on that awareness too often.

    The scene I always love from the “Scream” franchise is Drew Barrymore’s dead body reveal in the first movie. I didn’t see anything that shocking in this movie. I was hoping more and more teenagers would die as the movie progressed. I found them irritatingly annoying.

  4. I thought it was the best SCREAM since the original. WAY better than Scream 3. The Twisted Ending you have to see to believe. I think if there is a Scream 5, Wes Craven has this new trilogy going in the right direction.

  5. Scream 4 has redeemed the SCREAM franchise. Its KILLER.

  6. Great review and has me really psyched to see this tonight. Sounds like a worthy follow-up to the series. One small point though- I think it’s unfair to lump together Scream 2 & 3 as disappointments. I think 2 absolutely lives up to the original in every way. I won’t say “better” but it had the same energy, brains, and scares as 1 and it’s a rather brilliant sequel ABOUT sequels. Part 3 is pure rubbish and deserves every harsh word thrown it’s way. But I will stand up for 2 on any day!

  7. I thought it was great! I thought the acting for the most part was pretty good, Hayden Panettiere definitely has some acting chops. I didn’t see half of the reveal coming at all. The end dragged on a little. They should’ve ended it with “they say she might make it!” Definitely better than Scream 3, that’s for sure.

  8. Feh. Pseudo clever banter doesn’t take the place of real storytelling, and there’s not one real scare to be had (although plenty of faux scares). There’s no reason for the film to exist save to crank out more $$ for a franchise that peaked with the original.

  9. “New Ghostface victims Hayden Panettiere and Emma Roberts”

    Did you just give away something?

    • Not necessarily – I just meant like as opposed to Sidney and the returning cast members. I was actually really intentional about avoiding spoilers in the review.

      • Whoa, if they actually die… beware =P

        • Rofl, agree!

          • There’s no way of addressing it without spoiling the story.

            1) As I mentioned, I was careful about spoilers in the article (and captions). So readers who haven’t seen the movie shouldn’t read into the use of the word either way.

            2) “Victims” of a serial killer don’t necessarily have to be killed either. In the movie Sidney is referred to multiple times as a ghostface “victim” as a result of her experience in the prior films.

            I know you guys are joking around but… I’m worried that someone is going to reply with a spoiler – so let’s move on ;)

  10. i have seen scream 1 2 3 but i rely want to see scream 4 it looks blimming ausome

  11. Does Neve Campbell have a deal with the devil or something? She looks like she has not aged since the last Scream movie.

  12. just saw this movie last night…awesome is all i have to say and that the reveal of ghostface was completely unexpected i hope for a scream 5 that is all i will say and go see the movie.

  13. wow this movie was really bad possibly the worst horror film to date 3.5 is way to generous

  14. Great movie!! Glad they made it to redeem these wonderful characters from the other Scream sequels! If you’re a fan of the first one, it’s a must see!

  15. It was okay i guess I just could not take it seriously with all the scary movie goofs i felt like i was watching another one of those. Overall scream one was the best but anymore come out ill watch it.

  16. I agree with this review in that the film was a fun ride, but the Scream schtick is starting to feel a little old by now (and it also just wasn’t much of a horror movie imo).

    I actually reviewed the film myself for an episode of WE EAT FILMS, which can be viewed here:



  17. I thought it was one best slasher sequels ever because it had character development, good story, good acting, great actors. Some horror franchises don’t have that such as the Saw franchise because you don’t give a crap who dies because their is no character development , with scream who care about the characters except for the killer.

  18. it was good and choking at the same time

  19. Wasn’t worth the money I paid for it save your money and go see Captain America this film was god awful bad acting the killers were stupid and too young for the role what happened to all the adults from the last 3 I hope they dont make another

    • Yes I hope that was the last one

  20. it was awful… sorry a little late to the discussion, but i was watching in some hope that they would have expanded something. a handful of wasteful characters that i could not care about, the main ones i wish weren’t there… exception dewey he was very much the same. silly deaths that felt pushed onto the screen and the twisted “duh” like ending.

    they needed an return of the living dead ending were they [the government] blows up woodsboro. last just because you can recite a handful of movies, doesn’t make your new scream version any where near to the three before it. it should have just been left alone and those involved should have maybe read the script not just be there because of the franchise that was once scream.

  21. I am surprised that Scream 4 was even made?! This is a great movie! Thanks!

  22. I have always been a huge huge scream fan! i was so excited that they came out with a 4th one i really thought that would never happen. I thought the movie itself was really good but the thing that bothered me was that in the scream movies every movie that killer gets more intense..stronger..smarter..so scream 4 the killer is the craziest out of any of them and than it ended up being a little high school girl lol. i mean that was defiantly a twist dont get me wrong but that pissed me off a little. Other than that i loved it i can’t complain im happy that they made a 4th one especially after so many years. A 5th one…that i would like to see…just because im such a big scream fan BUT i think if they made a 5th one Sidney would really just have to die at this point it was almost over due in this one but i would be really upset so they should prob. leave it at that.

  23. To be honest, the film isn’t as clever as it thinks it is. I will reveal no spoilers but I figured out who the killer was within the first 10 minutes and also their motive.

    Of course, I wasn’t sure until the end that I was correct, but right near the start I guessed who it would be and came up with my own motive for them – and that motive turned out to be the one used in the film.