Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette
Runtime: 111 mins
Rating: ****

Almost inevitably, more than one ditsy teenager answers the door seconds after having hung up on an evil-sounding caller who’s just told them “my face will be the last sight you see”. It defies all logic, of course, but then no-one watches the Scream films thinking they’re a depiction of anyone’s reality. Wes Craven evidently knows that. We know Wes Craven knows that and, frankly, he knows we know he knows that. It’s an incredibly self-aware film because of it.

In fact, what Craven does is make this awareness the new twist in the story – ten years after the original killings in the town of Woodsboro, we see the inhabitants celebrating this gory anniversary. The next generation glorify the tragic story of Sidney Prescott, Gale Weathers et al. Plus, they’re even better schooled in the conventions of horror films, desperately clinging to the belief that knowing what should come next will keep them one step ahead: there’s plenty of skilfully executed creeping past darkened doorways, but even that can’t save an inordinate number of attractive teenagers meeting their ghost-faced maker.

The Scream tripartite of Campbell, Cox and Arquette all turn in solid performances; not much new ground is really broken with their characters but that’s probably a good thing. The fresh feel comes from a new crop of young Screamers: Emma Roberts (Julia’s niece), Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin amongst them. They all do rather well frankly, striking the balance just right between frightened and together, between seeming coolly immune to the killer’s prowess and secretly knowing they’ll be sliced in two a couple of scenes down the reel.

At times the characters appear unmoved by the horrific events that surround them, they don’t resort to shrill, hysterical wailing – well, you just would wouldn’t you? – even when their ‘friend count’ is so apparently in free-fall. I suspect that two hours of blubbing messes would become very tiresome though, so prepare to let that one slide for the sake of your eardrums if nothing else.

The original Screamis still, arguably, the best and most iconic scary movie of the past twenty years though the series appeared to lose its way by Scream 3, which didn’t take itself seriously at all. Kevin Williamson (who scripted the first two, but not the third) returns as screenwriter for the latest incarnation, and has clearly made all the difference. Scre4m gets the franchise right back to having the magic ‘tongue-in-cheek/ knife-in-back’ formulae that made the first and second instalments so good; jump-inducing and chillingly humorous in turn, it’s essential viewing for all Scream fans and a half-decent watch even for those who aren’t (yet).

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