Classic Craven With A Twist: Scream 4
For years, I put off watching the Scream franchise. I saw the first one many moons ago and wasn’t much of a fan so I figured the rest of the series wasn’t worth my time. But ‘tis the season. And last weekend I used that time as an opportunity to dive deeper into the franchise.
While Scream 2 may be my favorite of the bunch, I cannot stop thinking about Scream 4 and how the series continued to evolve up to that point. The original Scream was made in 1996 and gave the slasher world a new face. Ghostface, the titular villain of the series, ascended quickly to horror icon. The mask hadn’t just punctured the horror world, but popular culture itself. And there is something special about 2011’s addition to the long-running franchise. 15 years after the original and 11 years after Scream 3, Wes Craven was back with a vengeance to rehash a tale we know and love. I was hesitant when I found out that Scream 4 was made so much later than the rest of the franchise, and yet, here we are. I loved every second of this movie.
Ten years have passed and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has returned to Woodsboro yet again, this time to promote her new book. Not long after she returns, Sidney reconnects with Gale (Courtney Cox) and Dewey (David Arquette) who we know and love from films prior, as well as her Aunt and cousin Jill (Emma Roberts). Unfortunately for Sidney and company, Ghostface has returned as well, ready and willing to terrorize the teenagers of Woodsboro for one last scream.
For me, Scream 4 has one of the best openings in the franchise. Yes, the first in the series is iconic because it’s the original, but the multi-layered opening in this one is what the whole movie is about. Scream 4 isn’t simply a deconstruction of the horror genre, but a deconstruction of reboots as well. That alone would justify its existence but like any great franchise, Scream 4 is also evolving its story to compliment (or perhaps denigrate) the millennial, computer-literate audience. It horrifically illustrates how all-encompassing technology has become for the younger generation. Characters talk about Facebook and Twitter, and are connected to their phones at the hip. And while the characters here are just as film-literate as characters in the original were, their reaction to movie violence has changed. Wes and his writer Kevin Williamson are no fools. These cookie-cutter characters, purposely disconnected and distanced from the violence they’re seeing on screen, are really a larger metaphor for the film (and world) as a whole. The tagline for the movie is “New Decade. New Rules.” and we get exactly that.
At the time when Scream 4 came out, the slasher film had come and gone, the fad had passed and Ghostface had descended back into relative obscurity, so Craven and his screenwriter took the opportunity to use this sequel as both a reboot and remake. Craven molded his new addition to fit the wants of the audience while also taking the time to poke fun at what he accomplished in the past. “You do a remake to outdo the original” we hear from one of the teens.
By film’s end, we’re left with classic Craven. The plot twists are shocking and unexpected while your perception of who the killer is changes from person to person as the movie progresses. The big reveal hits you like a Mack truck and just when you think it’s over, Scream 4 continues to impress, only to leave its audience with a ghastly grin on their face come credits end.
Scream 4 is a Halloween gift of horror and comedy, wrapped up in a pretty blood splattered bow with a kitchen knife through it. But it’s also a warm blanket of nostalgia that reminds fans of the prior films. I truly believe Scream 4 to be underappreciated and it deserves recognition for reinventing the original in interesting new directions. Near the final moments of the film, Sidney Prescott utters “Don’t fuck with the original”, but Craven doesn’t. It’ll always be there to love on multiple rewatches, but Scream 4 deserves credit. It’s a shame we didn’t get more from the franchise, but Craven sure left his mark on the slasher genre, not once, not twice, but three times.
Scream 4 is available to watch on Netflix.