I am a huge fan of Scream. I first watched it when I was (probably) too young and did not have permission to see it. As I aged and my love for horror waned, then came back, Scream remained a consistent one for me where others did not. In fact, it’s safe to say I actually am a huge fan of Wes Craven in general and his odd blend of meta, horror, and comedy. I completely understand why Scream was the opening movie into the new world of slashers, and the ones that I mostly grew up with. While I don’t hate the sequels, I thought they were a far cry from the original. With that as the intro, I was very hesitant to ever watch Scream 4. I did finally see it and fell in love, I recently re-watched it and thought I would share my thoughts.
Scream 4 exists in an odd world of not exactly sequel and not exactly reboot. It is considered in the reboot realm because it’s so long after the last one and does try to modernize the series and also makes a lot of references to reboots. The critical difference between it and most other reboots is that it does not attempt to reset the canon, but rather bring the old canon and introduce new stuff and let it all work together. In fact, it seems to almost goof on the idea of rebooting a franchise. This, on the surface, seems like it could be a recipe for disaster, but in reality, it is brilliant. It manages to bypass significant issues that people have with remakes because it’s not just that. In many ways (as far as tone and formula) it is indeed a remake of Scream, but its unique approach to the idea of a horror remake puts it in its own category.
We start with the cold openings, only instead of having just Drew Barrymore as our early killed star, we have multiple ones before finally jumping into the actual Casey Becker moment. Then we have troubled Jill (Sidney), her popular but slightly weird best friend Kirby (Tatum), Jill’s leading man (Billy), and an odd blend of two characters that fit both Stuart and Randy’s roles at once. They are familiar faces, but they take on different enough roles not to be too repetitive, but still very recognizable. Yet, simultaneously we even actually have Sidney, Dewey, and Gale.
There are several recognizable scenes and locations, from the school to random moments like “Billy” trying to gain “Sidney’s” trust, also several moments in the actual killings themselves. The movie has the formula of the people knowing what is going on, complete with Robbie and Charlie taking on the role of Randy. But still enough new scenes and modern take on slashers that we aren’t ever exactly sure what is going on.
To me that is the brilliance of the movie, Wes Craven manages to recreate the “feel” of Scream, almost perfectly, and even the replicate parts of the formula. Yet he understands the shift in horror from when he first made Scream to what Scream 4 needed to be over ten years later. It is actually exceptionally done. It’s a reboot, a riff on reboots, and a sequel all in one. Something no other movie has quite done, and that’s what makes it so Wes.
It is not as well developed of a story as the original Scream, and the reveal of the killers (which is always an essential part to these movies) didn’t shock me as much. However, in comparison to Scream, this is hands down the best in the series. The killers make sense, the story doesn’t struggle, and as much as Scream 3 amused me, this one isn’t a joke. It’s easily the scariest, most entertaining, and best developed of the franchise since the original. It also has excellent references, some subtle some less so, without entirely depending on you needing to love the first to love this one. It strikes a balance between being for us older fans, but still being able to attract a new audience, as long as they have some knowledge of Scream.
But aside from being the best sequel/reboot/remake/whatever it could possibly be to Scream, it’s also just a solid slasher flick. It has great kills, good effects and gore, solid enough suspense (though it does depend more on surprise), and likable characters. I don’t just enjoy it as part of the franchise but as its own movie.
It also has the thing that I love the most from the last Wes Craven, the odd blend of absolutely horrific moments followed by others that make you laugh. I have talked about this before, and will without a doubt talk about this again, but Wes Craven was a master of making people jump, cringe, and laugh all in the same movie. The problem/brilliance being you never knew exactly how to feel about the fact that you are laughing. Am I supposed to giggle at the puns of the sexually assaulting killer that is murdering teens in their sleep? Am I supposed to be amused by the guy declaring, “Fuck Bruce Willis,” as he dies, because I am and… well, I kind of love it. I never really felt like Wes did horror comedies a la Shaun of the Dead, but he does add comedy to his horror movies.
So what’s my bottom line? If you don’t like the original Scream, you probably won’t like this one. They are clearly linked so a dislike of the one would likely lead to a dislike of the other. That being said it is, to me, the second best in the franchise without question. It’s also a now sad reminder of how brilliant Wes Craven was. Once again he managed to reinvent, redefine, but still maintain what made him, him. I cannot overstate how much I think this was the smartest way for him to take an older franchise of his and bring it into the modern era, or how much it proved that he could change with the times. It is far from his best movie, but it is a shining example of what he could do with horror and how he always managed to fit into what audiences wanted while finding his own way to give it to them.
It’s been a while yet since this movie came out, and sadly awhile since us horror fans lost one of the best voices. I think it’s worth taking the time to revisit some of his works though, and when I do get nostalgic for Wes Craven Scream and Scream 4 usually manage to find their way on to my “must watch” list.