It begins as an imitation of the first film but with a fantastically clever twist which instantly plunges us into uncertainty, putting us at the mercy of the director. It is the trademark Scream style reveal and an example of how well Scream 4 pays homage to the original. The central character is the sole survivor of the first three films Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), who has become a famed celebrity across America, known as the one who got away from Ghostface. Her successful series of books documenting her escape have been adapted into a series of movies, Stab 1-7 (wink, wink). Obviously, the harmony is short-lived, as Ghostface returns to haunt the town and close in on Sidney by slaughtering everyone. He is equally as menacing yet vulnerable as before, with his knife sharper than ever and his movie trivia on point. Scream 4 certainly doesn't hold back with the references to the originals, from the stairs chase to the horror trivia test and the party scene. Sadly, at times the nods can get a little tiresome with the sense that they were slightly running out of ideas and just looked to the old formula.
Of course, we get new ideas too. In keeping with the found footage craze, the killer now films his murders and we get a rundown of the new updated horror movie rules, including the fact that everyone is vulnerable now including the virgin.But these new ideas are rarely explored and the potential is, for the most part, wasted. Gladly, there is still that great feeling of dread and constant threat that Craven is so masterful at. Every back turned and door left open risks ominous consequences and there is the feeling that no character is safe, even Sidney herself. Sidney's niece Jill and her high school friends are the new young victims but many of them lack personality and seem like a shallow attempt to imitate the character of the original cast. Gladly, they play a small part in Scream 4 with Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox) reprising their key roles well. Sadly, the last third of the film feels ridiculous and stretched out compared to the rest of the film. The final reveal is also more than a little contrived but they manage to just pull it off.
Scream 4 is clearly an impressive feat considering the track record of other horror movie franchises. It is a satisfying modern take on the original which, while it lacks some originality and is less memorable than the others, reflects the original well and keeps the core elements of the series. A Scream 5 would be a shame, as this feels like a good note for the series to end on.