I had pretty low expectations when I first watched this movie. I love Scream and Wes Craven in general. However, I felt the series took a very clear downturn after the first movie. Scream 2 was ok, but lost a lot of it’s intelligence to fit more into a standard slasher flick. Scream 3, while funny, went off the rails. Much to my surprise Scream 4 not only went beyond my low expectations, but to me was nearly as good as Scream.
I think what makes this movie such a success is it goes back to it’s roots in a sort. It manages to embrace the modern shape of horror, with remakes and reboots to horror series. However it does so by taking on the tone of the first movie. The blend of new and old shapes the entire movie, but instead of clashing they come together perfectly. You have the adult Sidney (it is after all her story) but the movie also goes “back to school” with her cousin in high school. It brings back in the idea of “the rules” and the victims being aware of them while being hunted. This worked well in Scream, however started to feel forced with 2 and 3. In 4 it once again feels more fresh, largely because of the new rules for the new generation.
In the end it is a welcome addiction to the series. It’s smart and clever like the first and retains that interesting blend of horror and dark comedy that Wes Craven seemed to do so well. It is still gory, even commenting on the fact that modern horror has to be more than it’s old school counter parts. The story is well built, and pacing is solid. It manages to be more suspenseful than a lot of modern horror instead of just depending on the shock factor. It is hardly the best in the entire horror genre, but it is one of the top in the slasher sub-genre. If forced to pick my heart still belongs to the original Scream. But Scream 4 puts up a solid fight, and is a welcome inclusion in the series.