Scre4m, which is a more cleverly presented title than you might initially think, is a return to form for the Scream series, managing to find the near-perfect balance between horror, comedy and satire that the first in the series established, and the other two films attempted but couldn’t quite get right. It’s the best in the franchise since the first, and if this is the new direction that it’s going, I’m all for it. I thought I was done with Scream after the third one, but after seeing this, I’m a fan again.

This time around, the target of the parody is two-fold. On one hand, we have horror franchise reboots — something that Scre4m is attempting to be, which leads to some humorous moments — and on the other, we have self-aware horror films, which is something that the Scream series has always been about. The smart dialogue has returned, and with it the laughs that were brought about in the first film. Unlike what happened in Scream 3, where the humor seemed forced, it all feels natural here and is much more enjoyable as a result.

Scre4m begins with more than one opening kill sequence, which is already switching things up. There was finally a comment on the unrelated opening kill as well, something I was waiting for since the first film. There are a couple of fairly high-profile cameos in these kills, too, two of which I certainly enjoyed. Long story short: Ghostface is back, 15 years after he originally started causing trouble in the small town of Woodsboro. Coincidentally, star of the first few films, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is back in town as well, making it the first stop on her new book tour.

So, Ghostface starts wreaking havoc, the two other characters who survived the first three films, now-Sherrif Dewey (David Arquette) and now-married-to-Dewey-and-no-longer-a-reporter Gale (Courteney Cox) meet up with Sidney, and it’s time to get scared. Again. These people really can’t catch a break. Unfortunately, this time, the supporting cast is made up of Jill (Emma Roberts), Sidney’s cousin, and Jill’s friends.

Most of the film has the adults trying to figure out what’s going on, while the teenagers continue on with their lives while being picked off one by one. Everyone makes references to horror movies and tropes in these horror movies, and pretty much everyone is a suspect — even the people who appear in the same scene as Ghostface. This might be the most straightforward killer reveal in the franchise, but I’ll admit that it still managed to fool me. And there’s actually a lot that happens after the reveal, too, with about fifteen more minutes of film after we find out who is killing everyone in sight.

Onto the title, which I’ll defend after having seen the film. See, Scre4m wants to have it both ways, functioning both as a sequel to the previous three films and a reboot of the franchise. Keeping the “4” in the title, replacing the “a” allows you to take it both ways. I laughed at the title when I first saw it, but after watching the movie, I no longer have a problem with it. It was chosen very deliberately and with purpose, and I’m okay with it.

Scre4m really is the best movie since the first, in large part because it’s genuinely thrilling, but also very funny. The self-awareness continues and is very prominent, but that and the other obvious parody never gets in the way of the fun. It is pretty much a perfect balance between the three, and I had a blast with Scre4m as a result. It’s pretty much the follow-up that I wanted after the first, and I’m happy it’s here even though fans had to wait 15 years to get it.

There are a few new things in Scre4m, all of which I’m happy to see. Ghostface, the killer who primarily uses a knife to stab his victims to death, actually uses a gun at one point. It’s nice to see that changed up a bit. I also didn’t mind the running time. The previous three Scream films all felt overlong — yes, even the first one, which is still the best in the series — but Scre4m felt like the perfect length. And there are also a few quiet character moments scattered throughout, which is always a nice touch, allowing for some character development in the process.

At this point in their careers, you shouldn’t expect the returning cast members to turn in poor performances. You might expect them to be awkward, jumping back into characters they haven’t played in a decade, but rest assured that it’s a seamless transition. They’re professionals, after all, and they’re just fine. I was impressed with some of the more youthful actors as well, even though none of them are necessarily big stars yet.

Scre4m is a very enjoyable film, and the best Scream film since the first. It surpasses the second due to its near-perfect balance between humor and horror, while throwing in a nice dose of satire for good measure. It’s genuinely frightening, oftentimes very funny, and always enjoyable. It didn’t feel too long, it made the main villain slightly more interesting, and it even paused for breathers and character depth. It’s a very enjoyable slasher film, and if it’s the start of more Scream movies, I’d be completely fine with that.

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