I feel like I should preface this review by saying that the first Scream is the reason I became a horror geek. Before Scream, I couldn't handle even the tamest of horror movies. For whatever reason, seeing Scream opened the flood gates and ignited my love of horror. To this day I still consider it my favorite genre, despite how bad the current state of mainstream horror movies are. The interesting thing is that it seems the makers of Scream 4 feel the same way. The first Scream felt like a love letter to the slasher movies of the 80s, whereas this film is more a profanity ridden rant about the current crop of remakes and reboots. Consider Scream 4 the antithesis to what I thought the movie would actually be, which was "Scream 4: The Next Generation."
There were lots of paths Scream 4 could have taken. I fully expected it to focus equally on the reboot, torture porn, and found footage crazes that have plagued the horror landscape for the past few years. So it was interesting to see the movie speak so little to the latter two and instead focus most of its energy on reboots and remakes. Sure, they added a few lines of dialog here and a couple of small scenes there in order to open the discussion about the other two (re: torture and found footage), but since they never properly delved into either, these small scenes simply ended up feeling gratuitous. Having said that however, I really ended up liking what the film had to say about these remakes.
Unfortunately, the movie didn't leave me with a lot else I feel the need to discuss. It features some cool sequences and kills, along with moments of eye-rollingly faulty logic. There are some definite standouts in the new cast (specifically Hayden Panettiere and Alison Brie) but unfortunately I felt that the stronger characters were not given enough to do (whether due to an untimely death or simple lack of screen time). The "opening kill" tradition is still intact and I'll admit to finding it pretty entertaining, but I can see people being annoyed at the stream of fake-outs they must endure. Lastly, I have to congratulate Anthony Anderson on having the worst one-liner in the history of the franchise. It's so amazingly bad that it ruins what was probably my favorite kill scene.
*Fairly Major Spoilers from here on in (as in, I'll be discussing the ending, but without giving specifics). If you are still unsure of my opinion, simply know this, I liked Scream 4. It's not the best in the franchise but it certainly isn't the worst. If you enjoyed any of the previous 3, this one will entertain you. OK, now time for Spoilers, so stop reading if you want to know nothing about the last act.*
Scream 4 of course plays out like the previous 3, in that it is a murder mystery. The entire movie is about introducing red herrings and trying to make you think that (to quote Randy from the first Scream) "Everybody's a suspect!" While it can get a bit tedious at first with so many random "side glances of doom", I was actually surprised when the true killer was revealed. By the way, when I say "surprised", what I really mean is that I slapped my forehead and let out a hearty "What the hell?" followed by an eye roll. Of course, that was until I put together what the film actually was. You see, that's when I realized Scream 4 wasn't about real people, or even real characters. It was simply a metaphor on the current state of horror, no more, no less.
The killer(s) in Scream 4 are the personification of remakes and reboots. Obviously this then makes Sidney, Gale Weathers, and Dewey the personification of the "original" franchise. To me, the message of Scream 4 is that while bad remakes exist, no matter how bad they are they can never harm or kill off the original. Scream 4 is throwing a big middle finger to all remakes, declaring that they can never take down what has come before it, and that when all is said and done, it's the legacy of the original that will be the only survivor, no matter how harmed it may be in the process. This is where I think Scream 4 really succeeds, despite my indifference to most of what precedes the final act. Sure, it's not exactly a subtle approach for a movie to take, but then again, subtly never was the strong point of the franchise.