Over a decade ago, director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson breathed new life into what had become a very stagnant horror genre with the release of Scream. The film was a clever twist on the killer-on-the-loose theme that had dominated the genre since the 80s and scored huge with audiences who loved the twists and turns of the film as well as the characters who quoted rules for surviving a horror film. With the huge success of the film, two sequels followed. But by the time Scream 3 was released, the series had lost its momentum and was becomeing the very cliche of a horror film that the series had originally made fun of.

Now in 2011, Craven and Williamson have returned with Scream 4, which is the planned first film in a new trilogy for the series with hopes to breath new life in a genre that has once again grown stale with ghost films and the so-called torture porn of the Saw films. Scream 4 is set 10 years after the events of the first film, and with a new book to promote, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), has returned to Woodsboro as a best-selling author, thanks to her book on self-empowerment, a direct result of her experiences in the previous three films.

The return of Sidney is a happy moment for Sherrif Dewey Riley (David Arquette), but not so much for his wife Gale (Courtney Cox), who is facing a bad case of writer’s block and is not exactly thrilled with her fade from the spotlight and life as the wife of the sheriff in the small town. Things get shaken up when a couple of gruesome murders are discovered and before long Sidney is being targeted by a killer who seems to be repeating the pattern of killing that had haunted her in the past.

When the killer strikes again and taunts Sidney with a disturbing phone call, Gale sees the chance to regain her former glory and despite the wishes of her husband Dewey, sets out to solve the mystery of the killer before it is too late.
What follows is a twisting and turning plot that has you seeing suspects everywhere as the body count piles up.

The film introduces some new faces into the series and Hayden Panettiere and Emma Roberts make the best of their roles and actually bring some depth to their characters. Of course there are numerous horror and pop culture references in the film which not only lighten the tension but help with the plot. The killings are graphic and the mix of comedy and horror is in good balance. As usual, people are really dumb just before they get theirs and do not do things like phone for help, take a safer route, and so on, but the film is still enjoyable from a horror fan’s perspective.

There are some nice celebrity cameos in the film and while the film did drag a bit in the final act before the conclusion, the film did redeem itself in the end. While it is not in danger of being cited for a deep plot, original story, or deep characters with wide character arcs, Scream 4 knows who its target audience is and what the audience expects. Some may say the series stayed away top long and has lost its edge and simply repeats the pattern and plot lines we’ve seen in the previous films. In the end, despite some issues, Scream 4 delivers a welcome return to the franchise and paves the way for future sequels in a manner which should delight fans of the genre and franchise.

3 stars out of 5