SCREAMtober: ‘Scream 4’ (2011)

A whole decade has come to pass. Saw was the big franchise at the time. Torture porn and gore horror were in. Supernatural horror was in and out of popularity with ghosts aplenty. M. Night Shyamalan had his ups and downs. Someone let Rob Zombie remake Halloween

Enter Scream 4 (aka SCRE4M) to come in right as everything you knew and loved was getting rebooted or remade. A Nightmare on Elm Street got the boring treatment. Friday the 13th got a ton of hate (now a darn cult classic). Someone let Rob Zombie make a sequel to his remake of Halloween

Scream 4 was ready to take on modern horror conventions.  Wes Craven returns to Woodsboro to capture Ghostface’s return. The cast is all newcomers outside of the core trio. The kills are more brutal. Courtney Cox’s hair is not a travesty this time.

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is on her book tour with a stop in Woodsboro. Jill Prescott (Emma Roberts) and her pals Kirby (Hayden Panetierre) and Olivia (Marielle Jaffe) call her the “Angel of Death.” Wherever Sidney goes, Ghostface lingers ready to attack. So, good ol’ GF shows up to murder two teens (Britt Robertson and Aimee Teegarden) the day before Sidney’s visit. Ghostface is looking to start from where it all began and build a new killstreak for today’s audience.

Ghostface (voiced by Roger J. Jackson) says “Hello” to Sidney (Neve Campbell) once again. Source: Paramount Pictures

Dewey Riley (David Arquette) is now the town sheriff and married to Gale Weathers (Cox). Both get wind of the murders as does Riley’s new deputy Judy Hicks (Mary Shelton). The trio (plus Judy) reunites at a book signing as Ghostface leads them to the bloodied trunk of Sidney’s rental. Sidney hides away, Riley is on the case and Gale is ready to get back to restart her dwindling journalism career.

Newcomers to the franchise include Allison Brie as Sidney’s agent. Adam Brody and Anthony Anderson as Deputies Hoss and Perkins. Also, including two film geeks this time around with Erik Knudsen as Robbie and Rory Culkin as Charlie Walker. With all the pieces in play for a reunion, it’s time to revel in the ‘whodunit’ once more. 

Scream 4 is a damn good Scream movie.  I heard people did not enjoy it when it came out in 2011. Some even told me to skip it outright. That’s a shame because I did avoid the film until now, yet stumbled upon a good horror film. It lives up to the franchise and does a good job combating the horror that was the style at the time.

Out the gate, this Ghostface is ruthless. The person as Ghostface must have studied the other ones to be deadlier and more cunning. Heck, this Ghostface even avoids bumping into furniture for the most part. Yet, the stairs remain their absolute enemy.

Gale (Courtney Cox) remains unmoved, even if Ghostface (voiced by Roger J. Jackson) is coming in for the kill. Source: Paramount Pictures

The kills, while brief, adds to this. There’s a disgusting gutting of Olivia after a sneak attack from the closet. A stab to the forehead with Deputy Perkins is unforgiving and haunting. The most unnerving death comes with the death of Jill’s mother at the hands of Ghostface. She falls to the floor in front of a door mail slot, only to fall victim to a stabbing in the back of the neck. Kirby’s death is quite brutal due to the sudden nature given the romantic subplot set up.

The reveal of Ghostface is well-thought-out with an actual purpose. The surprise is there, but when it happens, it makes sense. Spoilers for a film from 11 years ago, but it turns out it’s Jill and, in a great twist, Charlie. 

I knew Roberts was the killer in this film (thanks Google), but didn’t know the character. As for Charlie, it works because he is Randy, but if Randy used his horror knowledge to his advantage. They wanted to stage a story to be the ones that stopped the new Ghostface. The duo was hoping to frame Jill’s ex-boyfriend Trevor as the killer with Charlie and her living. Yet, Jill being a dick stabs and kills Charlie to frame him too and be the final girl.

Jill (Emma Roberts) subverts the expectation of being a “final girl” by being the killer all along. Source: Paramount Pictures

Jill is jealous of her aunt by wanting the same attention as Sidney and done playing the nice girl. This motive makes way more sense than whatever the hell Scream 3 was. To seal the deal is that she not only killed her mom, but she also stabs Gale in her arm and stabs Sidney in her abdomen. Roberts does a fantastic job portraying Jill’s jealous and ruthless nature.

[Sidenote: There were real-life events years later that make Roberts being the killer harsher in hindsight. Depending on your opinion of the incident in question, your mileage will vary on this performance. I have my own thoughts on the matter given personal views on the incident. I am separating art from the artist here.]

The meta-humor here is strong, albeit a very hit-and-miss beginning. The double fakeout of Stab 7 with a film-within-a-film kicked off the film with a sour note. It was also a waste of Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell’s talents. It had me worried that the humor was going to be silly. 

Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell make a terrible cameo in an otherwise good film as characters in Stab 7. Source: Paramount Pictures

The good thing is that is the one bad joke or metarule in the film. There are moments where it can be cheesy with Sidney delivering the “Don’t fuck with the original” line. Yet, Campbell delivers that line straight with an assertiveness that feels natural.

The observation of how horror works in the 2010s plus the new broken rules is great, foreshadowing the crimes coming about. It also makes complete sense that Charlie would be in on it having known the rules of horror due to his obsession with the Stab franchise and horror as a whole. 

[Sidenote: Any movie that craps on the Saw franchise are also A+ in my book.]

What is also great is that it also averts the sequel trope of someone coming back only to die. None of our heroes from the previous films die only to be replaced by another character vaguely filling in a void. Double with turning the would-be “final girl” into the actual killer as mentioned. It’s a great change of pace by twisting the formula (and our perceptions) on its head.

Scream 4 is a magnificent addition to the franchise going back to the roots that made it so strong. It embraces the past, tackles the present, and gives hope for a brighter future for the series. Too bad we’ve had to wait 11 years once again for a proper return. See you next October for a special post on that film.

[Sidenote: The MTV show doesn’t count. Nor does the Scream Resurrection on VH1. I’m not going to do that to myself, even if Ghostface returns. Nor am I going to cover the Call of Duty: War Zone appearance because that’s hella weird and I don’t play COD.]

Final Verdict: 4.5 out of 5
SCREAMtober: 4/4 Complete
Second Sequence Complete

Next time, after two R-rated franchises from the ’90s, let’s get G-rated. We’re going to infinity… and beyond. November is all about Toy Story. Till the next sequence.

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