By Caitlin Gardner
Readers who have never known the Scream movies beyond Ghostface’s mask and all of the instantaneous parodies are probably wondering how we are now at the fourth film, released 11 years after the third one.
I could go all horror nerd on you and say it all began with Wes Craven’s meta commentary on the pressure to make more Freddy Krueger with New Nightmare that arguably triggered the man’s fixation with commentating on the state of horror films with the Scream franchise. But instead, now onto the actual Scream series.
What made these films work to get strong box office returns, a loyal following, and a fourth movie all these years later? Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson (better known these days as the show runner for The Vampire Diaries) created a great balance of actual horror and humor.
It all started with the devastating opening scene of the first film and continued in its commentary to all of the trends of horror films, establishing the central characters of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Dewey Riley (David Arquette), and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox). The franchise then followed the rules established in horror films to make sense of why horror fanatics take on the Ghostface mask and stage murders after calling victims with the question, “What is your favorite scary movie?”
The two films that followed Scream dealt with the murders in the characters’ hometown of Woodsboro, inspiring its own film series, books, celebrities, and, yes, murders that follow the rules of horror sequels and trilogies.
Scream 4 takes on the remakes, as Craven probably reached his breaking point seeing his classics A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes, and Last House on the Left remade with horrific results.
In the latest installment, the Woodsboro murders suddenly start happening once again, to the degree of point by point copycatting of the original murders on film. And this all occurs as Sidney Prescott returns to promote her book about coming to terms with being a ‘celebrity victim.’
While the big three of Sidney, Dewey, and Gale are very much a part of the film, Scream 4 depends upon whether or not you care about the younger group of kids at the center of the murder case. Williamson’s script makes sure these kids (Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin and Hayden Panetierre among them) are just as savvy, just as funny, and just as untrusting of one another as their older counterparts.
Craven does not wag his fingers just at the remakes of his movies, the state of mainstream horror films, and at the voyeuristic nature of the internet. He even manages to comment on the tropes of his own films from the ‘final girl’ to his hotly anticipated openings of the Scream films.
Everybody’s a suspect and while there are no new ‘rules’ in this new rendition, seeing it happen again in Woodsboro makes Scream 4 funny, heart-pounding and clever for viewers who love the series and even for those who are seeing the films for the first time. If there was ever a film franchise that is remake-proof, it is this one.