Andy Bockelman: Fourth ‘Scream’ movie can still shock just as well | CraigDailyPress.com

Andy Bockelman: Fourth ‘Scream’ movie can still shock just as well

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

When Dorothy chanted "There's no place like home" at the conclusion of "The Wizard of Oz," it served to remind people of all the coziness and warmth that comes with your hometown. For the heroine of "Scream 4," the old adage has a slightly different implication.

It's been 15 years since Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) survived the Woodsboro murders that catapulted her to an unwanted celebrity status. But, rather than hide from her fame as the subject of countless bad horror movies, she's decided to accept it, writing a self-help book about getting through hard times.

First stop on the book tour is her high school haunt, but returning to Woodsboro brings back more than just bad memories, as a double homicide puts Sidney on alert that somebody wants to celebrate the town's sordid past. Having been through such an ordeal so many times, she quickly aligns herself with old friend Dewey Riley (David Arquette), now the sheriff, married to former newshound Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), who's eager to find the culprit.

As more people turn up dead, Sidney comes to realize that whoever has donned the Ghostface mask this time is not only targeting her but also her teenage cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her friends in an effort to completely re-create Sidney's traumatic high school experience.

Campbell doesn't seem to miss a step in coming back to her biggest film role, although she must be getting pretty tired of seeing people slain before her. But, as her book says, she's a survivor.

Cox looks quite comfortable returning as Gale, whose years of small-town life may have her out of touch with her media contacts but not her determination to break a story, especially one as big as this. The actress's tenuous relationship with real-life husband Arquette also plays well as she and Dewey bicker over the investigation protocol.

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Arquette's taken a lot of physical punishment in the "Scream" flicks, but his latest has to be the most embarrassing as he gets bludgeoned with a bedpan. Still, he takes it with good humor.

With her fresh face and doe eyes, Roberts has the ideal look to be Campbell's younger relation, with Jill uneasy about the return of her cousin, whom she refers to as "The Angel of Death."

Jamie Kennedy may not be around to give us an analysis of what's happening in the story as it relates to the tenets of the horror genre, but he has some good replacements with Rory Culkin and Erik Knudsen as a pair of film buffs who are ecstatic to see such action play out right in front of them. Hayden Panettiere is great as Jill's friend, Kirby, who's equally well-versed in the ins and outs of slashers and how to stay alive in them.

One way to survive of course is to suspect everyone, whether it's Dewey's lovesick deputy (Marley Shelton), Jill's possessive ex (Nico Tortorella), her mother (Mary McDonnell), Sidney's cutthroat publicist (Alison Brie), or even Sidney herself.

With the door literally left open at the end of "Scream 3," you had to know Wes Craven planned to return to his masterpiece once again. With the return of screenwriter Kevin Williamson to the franchise, the two concoct something that's not quite a remake and not quite a sequel — herein known as "scream-makes" and "shriekquels" — but a little of each.

As someone who's inspired plenty of both, Craven has no trouble navigating the intricacies of Williamson's script, which goes to insane degrees of meta-humor dissecting the action even as it's happening. But, you can't just whine that a killer isn't following the rules, especially when he's right in the middle of stabbing you.

The new generation of "Scream" characters and older fans also get a healthy lecture about the amount of sensationalism involved with serial killers and mass murderers, as well as a cluck of the tongue regarding how Twitter, texting and other modern conveniences only make the new Ghostface's job easier.

He doesn't even have to go to RadioShack for the costly voice modulator required to recreate the iconic voice (Roger L. Jackson). These days, there's an app for that.

Considering "Scream 4" heaps onto what was supposed to end as a trilogy, it works fantastically as a new addition and a recap on the original story. However, Craven and Williamson best keep in mind not to get too greedy and start making "Scream 5."

If the movie-series-within-a-movie-series "Stab" is any indication, the fifth movie is where things really start to go bad.

Now playing at the West Theatre.

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‘Scream 4’

3 out of 4 stars

111 minutes

Starring: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox and Emma Roberts.

Now playing at the West Theatre.

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