BurtonMacReady’s review published on Letterboxd:
I distinctly remember seeing SCREAM 4 in a theatre on a date in high school when it first came out and finding it solid enough considering I was a huge fan of the first two even then. But rewatching it now, that was actually not enough praise. I found it pretty great this time around and certainly far closer to the second film in quality than it is to the weak third.
I have to agree with the film’s most ardent defenders that this did set the formula for the modern slashers that have come since. Having Kevin Williamson back after the fine but straightforward and unintelligent SCREAM 3 does wonders. Him and Craven smartly realize what can be done with this franchise but double down again and again on the self-referentialness until almost every character is commenting on the action and trying to predict what happens next. Combine this with the film’s softly bright day scenes and dramatic night scenes and constant pop and indie rock soundtracking and it is the basis for so many popular films that have come since from HAPPY DEATH DAY to the new HALLOWEENs to stuff like HAUNT. It’s cynical eye towards burgeoning reboot culture and especially its matryoshka doll opening even do a lot of what people are praising THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS for now.
And more broadly, this also predicted much of modern influencer teen culture. That can sometimes be exaggerated on the internet but this correctly gets at a desire of the young to constantly curate and project a recorded image of themselves and the way being digital natives since birth have given them a deep but random pop culture knowledge in a way that’s truly impressive (there’s even a nice joke about the kids knowing what “meta” means and the older characters having no idea).
The mystery itself is pretty efficient, the cast (which was more stacked than I remembered) is mostly great, and Craven once again sneaks in a couple truly bravura sequences (namely the aforementioned opening and a scene in the climax where the killer beats themselves up) but it does get a bit stale in parts. For as much influence as this has had, it does show some of the problems those films have too and it runs a little long. I don’t think I could quite bump this up to four stars but it’s close and I would implore those who have written it off or not thought about it much to give it another watch. At age 72 and making his last film, Wes Craven was once again ahead of the curve and reset the genre in a way no one predicted. What a way to cap a decades long career who’s impressiveness cannot be overstated.
Also no better way to take me back to my high school days than to end a movie with an Ida Maria song.