The original Scream often gets credited with being the first post-modern horror film, even if that honor probably really belongs to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Scream 4 might be credited with being the first post-post-modern horror film, if anyone can ever figure out what that actually means.
Once again series mainstays Sidney, Dewey, and Gale find themselves in the midst of a series of slashings perpetrated by a killer in a ghost mask. This time, however, they’re joined by a new generation of scream queens such as Alison Brie, Britt Robertson, Kristen Bell, Emma Roberts, and Hayden Panettiere. That cast might be the strongest element of the new film as they shine just as much here as they would all do so in later work. Unfortunately, the Scream premise itself feels a little tired and so playing to the moment all the discussion here is about reboots and how you update a franchise. The problem is nothing here feels particularly new. Instead, there’s a bit of an old school versus new school vibe that really pays off in the climax, but not enough to salvage the rest of the film.
I’ll admit, the first time I saw this film in theaters I really enjoyed it. Revisiting old friends via a master of horror like Wes Craven felt familiar and safe—which is actually something you should never feel in a horror film. The Scream franchise openings have always been fun dating back to Drew Barrymore’s part in the first film, and this one ups the meta even more to the point of absurd humor which, again, like the rest of the film just isn’t scary.