The newest installment in the acclaimed franchise that ushered in a new wave of horror in the 1990s is written by series creator Kevin Williamson and directed by suspense master and director of the first trilogy, Wes Craven. The film stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Mary McDonnell, Marley Shelton, Nico Tortorella, Marielle Jaffe, Kristen Bell, Anna Paquin, Lucy Hale, Shanae Grimes, Aimee Teegarden and Brittany Robertson.
Original cast members Courteney Cox, David Arquette, and Neve Campbell have all returned for the reunion, which also introduces (and largely kills off) a new set of young but very familiar faces recruited for the festivities. The sizable ensemble cast includes Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Alison Brie, Hayden Panettiere, Marley Shelton, Rory Culkin, Adam Brody, Mary McDonnell, and Heather Graham, among many others who make up visitors or inhabitants of the imaginary town of Woodsboro, USA, scene of the meta-movie carnage that began 15 years ago. The excuse for this round of action is the return of original surviving victim Sidney Prescott (Campbell), who is making a hometown stop on her book tour. As the heroic survivor of the various incarnations of Ghostface, the knife-wielding killer in Scream's first trilogy, Sidney has become a celebrity and purposefully shrugged off the victim label, but still lives on as a folk hero. Turns out she's especially popular with Woodsboro's high-school population and the many horror film buffs who constantly analyze their every activity in relation to the behaviors of movie characters and the rights and wrongs of what to do when there's a killer on the loose. It therefore surprises no one that Ghostface has returned to haunt Sidney, including retired reporter Gale Weathers (Cox), her now-husband Sheriff Dewey Riley (Arquette), and the assortment of teenage dopes who saturate the entire venture with theatrical gouts of gooey, black blood. The movie-within-a-movie franchise Stab is also a major player in Scream 4. Its sequel count is now up to seven as we discover in the briskly crafted and very funny opening scenes. In fact, Scream 4 is constructed with smarter precision than any of its predecessors and would require a lot of brain power for someone who feels up to the task of trying to figure out who Ghostface is this time and why the killing has started again. But taking the story seriously pretty much defeats the purpose of the absurdly entertaining formal achievement that Craven and Williamson have created. All the stabbing and screaming and intricate (il)logic of horror movie conventions are simply part of the mysterious amusement of a concept that will not die, now delightfully retooled for a new generation. --Ted Fry