It's a sign you're getting old when only half the young actresses making cameos in Scream 4 (of whom there are a lot), you think you recognize, but later have to go to the IMDB to confirm who they are, and the other half, you've never seen or heard of in your life, because they're famous for being on shows called Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide or Life Unexpected. Are these actual TV shows? They can't possibly be.
Remember Scream 2? Sarah Michelle Gellar? Jada Pinkett? Heather Graham? Those were cameos! Everyone knew who they were! Julie Taylor from Friday Night Lights? Meh.
Anyway, Scream 4. I had problems with the beginning and the end, but everything in the middle is pretty great. And honestly, even the beginning and the end weren't dealbreakers. This would be a really great place to end the franchise--or at least wait another decade for new events from which to mine social commentary--but if the rumors about this being the start of a new trilogy are true, this isn't a bad place to start.
Meta humor is incredibly difficult to pull off, and the beginning of the movie, revealed to be a film-within-a-film-within-a-film, including a couple of cheap shots at the Saw franchise, doesn't quite pull it off. The part with Kristin Bell and Anna Paquin, especially, felt really forced. And while I'm usually willing to suspend disbelief when it comes to these sorts of films, the characters conveniently watching Stab 7 just before the killer strikes, was a bit much.
After that, though, it's a fun ride. One of the things I've always dug about the Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Halloween films is how their respective settings--Springwood, Crystal Lake and Haddonfield--almost become characters themselves, and we get to see how they evolve and react to all the horrible shit that goes on with each new installment. So it was fun to see Woodsboro again, especially since Scream 2 and Scream 3 took place elsewhere. I'm one of those people who could never live in a sleepy small town, but for some reason, I think I'd really enjoy it if a killer struck every few years. I'm not sure what that says about me.
The returning characters are a different story, though. I was kind of hoping at least one out of Sydney, Dewey or Gale would get killed off, and I was somewhat disappointed they all survived. Gale, in particular, seemed especially expendable this time around. Sydney dying would have also given the franchise a fresh start. In fact, for most of the film, I thought that the ultimate goal of Scream 4 was to transition Emma Roberts in as the new heroine, so it seemed like there was a decent shot that Sydney would end up as either a victim or--and this would have been really cool--the killer.
In regards to the reveal of the killers, I thought the film handled it as well as it reasonably could have. It didn't have nearly the punch of the reveal in the original, given that by now we're fully expecting two killers in each film, and there were only a few suspects left alive by the end, and I think we all knew it wasn't Jill's ex-boyfriend or Marley Shelton's character (another reason I wanted Gale to die: she and Dewey would have been adorable together). But at least it wasn't like Scream 2, where Timothy Olyphant conveniently disappeared for the entire last hour, and the only real surprise was who Laurie Metcalf's character really was.
So while the Jill/Charlie team-up wasn't exactly a shock when we found out about it, I thought the logic behind it was insanely clever: Their attempting to rewrite the original story, only with Sydney and Randy ending up together. Well, at least, that's what Charlie thought. I was disappointed Jill was just stringing him along. Once again, the film geek doesn't get the girl.
But that's not what really irritated me about the ending. What irritated me is that Jill should have gotten away with it. A recent trend in horror films is that these days, the bad guy often wins in the end. How great would it have been if that had been reflected here, given that the Scream films have always served as a commentary on the horror genre? And are we really supposed to believe Jill wouldn't have even checked to see if Sydney had a pulse, given how meticulous she was about everything else, including beating the shit out of herself? Come on. I also wasn't wild about the film relying on the old, tired "killer reveals a piece of information he/she couldn't possibly have had" bit as what tipped Dewey off.
But other than none of the heroes dying and the killer getting caught, I had a lot of fun. In the very least, it wiped the bad taste of Scream 3 out of my mouth, Hayden Panettiere looks totally hot with short hair, and Anthony Anderson's death scene is one of my favorite in recent memory. Can't ask for too much more than that.