At a pivotal moment in Wes Craven’s self-referential and self-reverential slasher, a main character professes, “The first rule of remakes: don’t mess with the original.”
The same rule applies to sequels and screenwriter Kevin Williamson, who has penned every instalment of the Scream series since its delicious 1996 debut, hasn’t been shy about recycling ideas from that influential first film in subsequent outings of his knife-wielding menace, Ghostface.
Scream 2 boasted one stand-out sequence, a nail-biting escape from a crashed car that required the heroine to climb over the supposedly unconscious killer, but the lack of originality became glaringly apparent in Scream 3.
For Scre4m, Williamson embraces past glories by bringing the terror full circle as surviving characters of the original reunite in the once sleepy town of Woodsboro and experience a sickening case of deja vu.
Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette reprise their iconic roles, flanked by some fresh faces, who not so much inject as spill and spray fresh blood into the franchise.
It has been 10 years since the harrowing events of Scream 3 and survivor Sidney Prescott (Campbell) has put her shattered life together by penning a self-help book entitled Out Of Darkness.
She embarks on a whirlwind book tour, culminating in a signing session in her hometown.
This rare visit to Woodsboro allows Sidney to spend time with her aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell) and niece Jill (Emma Roberts), and reunites her with television hack turned novelist Gale Weathers (Cox) and her husband, Sheriff Dewey Riley (Arquette).
Alas, no sooner has Sidney arrived in Woodsboro than Ghostface emerges from the shadows, targeting Jill’s college pals Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), Olivia (Marielle Jaffe), Robbie (Erik Knudsen), Charlie (Rory Culkin) and Trevor (Nico Tortorella).
Dewey’s police force is stretched to the limit as Deputy Hicks (Marley Shelton) and her colleagues risk their lives to unmask the psychopath.
Scre4m settles into a familiar pattern, nodding affectionately to earlier films while acknowledging new rules of the genre during the past decade (“The only way to survive a remake is to be gay!”)
Performances are adequate, teetering on the verge of hysteria for the final showdown when Ghostface’s identity is revealed.
Craven orchestrates some effective if predictable jolts, embracing technological advances through the use of webcams, CCTV and smartphones.
Williamson has a few axes to grind amidst the disembowelment including the insatiable hunger for celebrity and the popularity of the Saw films.
“I hate that torture porn,” spits one protagonist.
Of course, that might just be professional envy given that Jigsaw and his diabolical killing devices have earned a place in the Guinness World Records as the most financially successful horror series of all time.
No one likes to be second best but that’s just what we get with Scre4m.
By Damon Smith
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10
Released: April 15 (UK & Ireland), 110 mins