Wes Craven’s “Scream 4” is less of a fourth installment in the horror-satire series and more of a throwback to the 1996 original. But retro is in: This movie operates at a bizarre level of existentialism that beholds a pointed critique at its own existence, all swathed in the techno gadgetry, hardly dressed co-eds and pornographic torture of the modern horror genre.
Ten years after the events of “Scream 3,” Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to her hometown on the last stop on her book tour. She’s penned a bestselling memoir about her traumatic life as the fixation of serial killers and the basis for a successful and schlocky film franchise, “Stab,” that serves as the “Scream” within the “Scream” universe.
On the anniversary of the original murders, a new Ghostface emerges, his kills modeled after the first “Stab” movie. With Sidney again the target of a killer, Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) heads what proves to be an incompetent investigation while his wife Gale (Courtney Cox) sees another opportunity to solve the murders.
It’s good to see the original cast, who all inhabit their characters like no time has passed. But the focus is instead shifted to Sidney’s young cousin, Jill (Emma Roberts), who also finds herself a target of the killer.
From its tongue-in-cheek pun of an opening and until its final 20 minutes, “Scream 4” moves along with genuine fear and a grimacing sense of self-effacement.
But in its final sequences, the movie gets lost in its own internal logic, a confused diatribe that tries to be something clever. The final moments of “Scream” movies have famously taken the story to outright loony levels for the sake of campiness, but here, it doesn’t quite work. All said, go see “Scream 4,” stay until you find out who the killer is, then leave.