Scream 4 is more of the same, but in a good way. The Scream series consists of simplistic yet gory murder mysteries, driven by Kevin Williamson’s clever, grinning screenplays and Wes Craven’s crisp, sharp direction. It’s been 11 years since they phoned in Scream 3—Williamson didn’t even bother writing that one—and even though the order for Scream 4 came down from executive producer Bob Weinstein’s desk, Craven and Williamson attack their series with renewed vigor. After four films, Craven still finds fresh avenues for his canny use of three-dimensional space, obstacles and cutting.
Sidney (Neve Campbell) returns to the small town of Woodsboro, on tour with her successful new book. Dewey (David Arquette) has advanced to sheriff. He’s still married to Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), who is unsuccessfully trying to write fiction and longs to get back to some hard news. These characters share an interesting history with each other, though not so much with the Ghostface killer, who is a new character in an old costume. Several 20-somethings join the cast, including Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Nico Tortorella, Erik Knudsen and Rory Culkin.
Craven is better able to juggle the cast this time, with no silly cameos. Characters are even savvier and more cynical than they were in the ’90s, 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.