Scream 4

Scream 4 ★★★½

The more the Scream franchise dives into the meta qualities of its own existence, the less tolerable the dialogue in these things becomes. Perhaps it's 2023 post-Whedon clarity that has desensitized me (and most sensible people) to an overabundance of reference-infused conversation, but the growing charmlessness of the "we're in a movie" attitude built into the DNA of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's brainchild is abundant to a nauseating degree in Scream 4's cold open. It may actually be the most annoying pre-title card sequence I've seen today! So... why is Scream 4 quite possibly the best this franchise has to offer so far (and not in a backhanded way, either)?

I think I'd chock my complete 180 on this franchise—from lifelong ambivalence towards its existence to now welcoming whatever annual entry we might get for the foreseeable future—to just how briskly paced these films are. I pray this isn't a quality that dies with Craven, because even Scream 3, for all its flavourless stupidity, is an absolute breeze—peak junk food cinema! Combine that with the general adherence to actual respect for the genre they inhabit—whether that respect is as clever as it thinks it is is up for individual scrutiny—and what you get is simply an unfailing, fun-ass time!

Scream 4 would probably have gone down as a serviceable, milquetoast entry in the series—its victory being the mere fact that, as a proud embodiment of the prevalent trend of shitty horror remakes, it didn't outright suck. However, as with every Scream film, you're only as good as your reveal. Even having had the killer spoiled by 12-year-old me's propensity for reading entire Wikipedia summaries for movies I had no plan of seeing, the unmasking of the 4th Ghostface Killer is executed extremely well, not necessarily for its novelty or the killer's reasoning, but more in how it ties with the morbid numbing of torture porn and the interlocking hunger for attention catalyzed by internet culture.

The final act of Scream 4 single-handedly raises the entire film into the peak of what this franchise has to offer: it's twisty, engaging, consistent with its characterization, and a blaring reminder of just how much Williamson's sharp scripting was missed. Precisely how he and Craven manage to mirror this climax with that of the first Scream while building upon it with a refreshing spin is nothing short of astounding; a true benchmark for the cleverness to which this series's referential nature aspires.

"I was so believable today, wasn't I?"

Yes you were, [REDACTED]! So much so that you reminded me how much I've truly missed you this past decade.

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