Scream 4 [10 Year Retrospective]: I Don’t Need Friends, I Need Fans
The Scream franchise is iconic in Horror circles, loved amongst fans and often credited with being not only the introductory film of a lot of fans but also a genre game changer. I know for me it was definitely one of the first Horror movies I watched that kick started my journey into Genre. Of course at the time of watching the original I wasn’t fully aware of just how fresh a take it was on the genre, as I hadn’t yet explored it, so, as I built my Horror knowledge Scream stabbed deeper and deeper into my heart with every rewatch. That was the beauty of this series of meta slashers that foregrounded Horror aware characters, smart, well thought out plots and some brilliant kills, it just kept getting more and more relevant with each watch.
Many fans of the film series will have their own ranking of the films but there’s definitely a pattern to most of the ones I researched. The trend seems to be Scream 3, almost unanimously, as least popular, Scream 4 and Scream 2 flitting between 2nd and 3rd place, and Scream taking the top spot. Of course, it’s hard to beat the original so Scream consistently winning the crown makes sense. Scream 3 seemed to be a drop in the franchise’s quality, it ‘jumped the shark’ and gave Gale one of the most talked about haircuts in Horror history. Yet, as divisive as it is, a lot of it’s sins have been forgiven, and even embraced, on rewatch.
Scream 4’s place on the list seems to just come from it being the last film in the franchise, so far at least. Scream may have initially been designed as a trilogy but in the world of reboots and remakes it just made sense to bring back this self aware postmodern series. It has been ten years since this installment premiered and it’s time for a rewatch and a re-appreciation of how it revived this Slasher series.
Straight away we get that magic Scream energy with not one, not two, but three openings that barb modern trends in Horror and remind us that this is a franchise that doesn’t pull punches when it comes to dissecting tropes. Trudie (Shenae Grimes-Beech) and Sherrie (Lucy Hale) kick us off, discussing how gross Horror has gone with the Torture Porn phase before being quickly disposed of by Ghostface. It’s revealed this is just a scene from the in-universe franchise entry Stab 6, poking fun at long running series in the genre. Rachel (Anna Paquin) and Chloe (Kristen Bell) finish their viewing and Rachel goes on another rant about how overdone the Scream tropes are and how sequels just recycle the same bullshit, before a surprise stabbing from her couch buddy. But, it’s another fake out with the title card for Stab 7 popping up on the screen and revealing two more eager viewers on their couch, Jenny (Aimee Teegarden) and Marnie (Britt Robertson). After some playful teasing of each other through creepy phone calls the first real murders of the film occur, with Jenny’s feeling like an homage to Tatum from the original film. That’s a lot of meta packed into the first ten minutes that proves Scream 4 knows what we expect and exactly how to twist it, like a blade in the gut.
We’re welcomed back to Woodsboro with the return of our long standing, ass kicking final girl, Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell). Her old stomping ground, and scene of a lot of her trauma, is the final stop on her book tour. Her best selling book ‘Out of Darkness’ is a reinvention of her media ascribed victim narrative. The word victim is used an awful lot throughout this film, with survivor only being sprinkled in occasionally. This is the difference in what the world wants to hear and what Sidney wants to tell. With cultures increasing interest in films, TV, documentaries and podcasts about true crime there’s clearly a captive audience for these macabre stories of the deranged and deadly, but a lot are making a push now to talk about the victims and survivors, to have their names ring louder than the infamous killers and this seems to be a point of this film.
“In the same way that Sidney is attempting to reclaim her narrative so is our new ‘victim’. Jill isn’t waiting for a Hollywood creation based on her stories, she’s taking control of her own and recording it herself.”
This approach to a survivor’s story is an interesting dynamic in Scream 4, shown through our female leads. Sidney wants to escape the moniker, stop being known as ‘that girl’ and take back her life and the trauma she has suffered. Gale, who’s fiction writing career doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, jumps at the chance to comment on the events, telling another story of a mask wearing serial killer. She’s jealous of the success Sidney has from moving past, instead of revelling in, the torment of the Woodsboro murders and wants another slice of relevancy. Beyond her is Jill, the teenager who understands the delicate balance at work in telling her story. She must fit the mold, the perfect victim, whilst still feeding the appetites of those who want the gory details. It’s all about the way a story is told.
In the same way that Sidney is attempting to reclaim her narrative so is our new ‘victim’. Jill isn’t waiting for a Hollywood creation based on her stories, she’s taking control of her own and recording it herself. This is modern media. She gets to be the behind the screen villain and the on camera victim, cementing her place in the pop culture canon of serial killers and their survivors. Jill is an anti-final girl. The one who has watched Sidney’s life and only seen the fame and recognition, not the scars and trauma. It’s scathing in it’s look at ‘quick fame’ and the desperation to be a name in a world that is overrun with names. The film ends with press reporting on Jill’s bravery in defeating the killer, not knowing she was the mastermind behind it all. That discovery doesn’t happen on screen but we can only assume that it will do nothing but boost her infamy and cause even more obsession with the ‘lone survivor’ turned serial killer.
Mixing the original with the new was a great way to keep the franchise fresh and comment on the drastic changes in the world since the original. Landlines are becoming a thing of the past, social media is stronger than ever and internet fame is at the top of many ‘dream job’ lists. It could be a risk to introduce new players to a long running game, but it really pays off in Scream 4 especially in the case of Kirby (Hayden Panettiere). Before this we had Randy, our sweet nerd who knew the rules of surviving a Slasher. In this modern retelling it’s inverted with a strong female Horror fan being our knowing character. The world has more Horror hounds now and they know the new rules, which seem to be to take the old rules and flip the hell out of them. It also ups the ante on the kills, going for a little more blood and some nasty utterances down the phone that prove Scream hasn’t lost its edge.
The world was ready for another Scream. With the changes and influence of social media it was ripe for satire, and it manages to keep the original formula of a whodunit Slasher whilst adding something new and relevant, which is exactly what the Scream franchise does best. Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson came back with force and evolved their original concept with this latest installment. It’s super smart, layered with meta references and twists that cater to a modern, media drenched audience. It understands the modern Horror audience, especially the inclusion of the Stab drinking game, which has led me to googling Scream drinking games as I finish up this retrospective and getting very excited about a marathon.
The legacy will continue with Scream 5 in the works. A lot of the original cast are slated to be reappearing and the creative team Radio Silence are behind it, giving me hope that they can bring their own dark comedy stylings to it and say something about Horror in the 20’s. Who knows, maybe it will end up just like Scream 4, an entry that deserves a few more watches and a bit of time to truly be appreciated.