After a decade from Woodsboro, Sidney Prescott (NEVE CAMPBELL), now an accomplished author, finally returns to her hometown ready for a book signing session. She learns with dismay that the town has not forgotten the series of grisly Ghostface killings and that the masked murderer has achieved a cult status with many of the residents.
Dewey Riley (DAVID ARQUETTE) is now town Sheriff and happily married to former journalist Gale Weathers (COURTNEY COX), much to the consternation of Deputy Judy Hicks (the lovely MARLEY SHELTON). Sidney stays with her aunt, Kate Roberts (MARY MCDONNELL, in little more than a cameo) and cousin Jill (EMMA ROBERTS).
Almost on cue, Sidney, Jill and her friends begin receiving terrifying telephone calls from someone claiming to be the Ghostface killer, now back in town and out for revenge.
Local school horror fans Charlie Walker (RORY CULKIN) and Robbie Mercer (ERIK KNUDSEN) decide to coincide Sidneys return with a marathon showing of the six acclaimed Stab films based on her book. Many of the Woodsboro teens attend, including Kirby Reed (HAYDEN PANETTIERE), while Gale decides to launch her own observation on proceedings to see if Ghostface appears.
The film screening is interrupted by the masked killer, who viciously wounds Gale before being driven off by Sheriff Riley. With the murderer still on the loose, Riley puts the town on alert and gives police protection to both Sidney and Jill - but will it be enough to keep them alive?
Directed by horror maestro WES CRAVEN, I admit to being somewhat disappointed by SCREAM 4. While actually not bad, the film falls into pitfalls set up by the franchise and at times tries to be too clever for its own good. Some of the characters are merely dagger fodder, to be massacred while doing silly things, while others, such as Deputy Hicks, seem purely for comic value.
There are several shock moments but veteran horror fans are likely to see them coming and the film just tends to drift through the usual motions of the genre. Credibility is stretched further in the finale at the Hospital, a building which seems to have no staff on duty, and many viewers are likely to feel let down at the final reel.
Perhaps Ghostface has massacred the Special Features, too, as the only extra present on the disc is the Original Theatrical Trailer.
While I can never claim to be an ardent SCREAM fan, I wonder how many more instalments there are likely to be. Further additions to the series will need fresh ideas. As things stand, SCREAM 4 can be enjoyed even if none of the others have been seen but is not likely to be remembered as a classic in the long-running franchise.