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'Scream 4' puts an interesting spin on a new era of the horror genre

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Perhaps the biggest question movie goers had when the release of Scream 4  was announcedNeve Campbell in Scream 4. Photo: www.fanpop.com was why the franchise was being brought back after an eleven year absence.

Director Wes Craven himself was skeptical about signing on again until he saw some of the script. There was pressure to not only revive the franchise, but to be different and not pretentious. Most importantly, they had to make Scream important again.

But despite a reportedly difficult shoot (which included a script change in the middle of filming), Scream 4  surprisingly manages to pull it all together. At the same time, the movie adds a new aspect to the horror film genre.

It’s been 15 years since the first Woodsboro murders, and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to her hometown to promote her new book. However, trouble seems to once again find her whereever she goes, and Ghostface makes its return upon her arrival. This time, the killer not only effects Sidney's life, but also the lives of Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), Jill’s friends, and Sidney’s aunt Kate (an underused Mary McDonnell).

Also back in the mix is Dewey (David Arquette) and his wife Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), the ex-reporter is trying to adjust to her suburban life after successfully writing Stab (a book based on the Woodsboro murders), which we now learn has seven cinematic installments.

While Sidney, Dewey, and Gale are clearly traumatized by what transpired over the last fifteen years as well as the recent events in town, the new generation of Woodsboro high schoolers practically glorify the Woodsboro murders due in large part to the exploitation of the Stab movies. This is where Ghostface seems to get inspiration from, as many of the recent “happenings” in Woodsboro seem to mirror the plots of the Stab films in one way or another. The three friends who are forever bonded join forces again in an attempt to outsmart the killer before it’s too late.

This is the angle which makes Scream 4 work. It’s much deeper than just your typical slasher fare. Screenwriter Kevin Williamson (with help from Ehren Kruger) does a great job of incorporating sensationalism, social media, and today’s dichotomy of notoriety and fame into relevant aspects of the movie.

Of course, all of the usual cliches of any Scream film can be found (you know- the phone calls, none of the victims never getting away expect for Sidney), but it’s what you’ve come to expect from this franchise, and it gives the series its own identity. The only real lesser points involve character development. One would think there would be more interraction between Campbell, McDonnell, and Roberts, but I guess you can only squeeze so much into a 103 minute film.

Without giving anything away, Scream 4's plot is not as predictable as one would think. Although at times it lacks suspense, there are the occassional moments when you really don’t see Ghostface coming, and you will literally be guessing who the killer is right until the very end.  Don’t worry about any shortage of blood, either. This might be the most graphically violent Scream of them all. In fact, one scene is an absolute gore fest that almost makes you turn away. Almost.

Campbell, Cox and Arquette slip back into their roles with ease. Newcomers Adam Brody and Anthony Anderson add some much needed comic relief, while Hayden Panettiere and Roberts do a nice job of bringing new life to the franchise, which has now spanned parts of three different decades.  If you were to link any two of the four movies together, this one would be most compatible with the original.

And don’t worry, Scream fans. Chances are you haven’t seen the last of Scream on the silverscreen. Rumors have Craven contemplating a fifth and possible sixth installment of the series.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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