“New decade, new rules” proclaims the poster for Scream 4, released in 2011, only 15 years after the original. I was looking forward to these new rules. I loved Randy’s rules of horror movies in the first three films, so I couldn’t wait to see what these rules were. Turns out, it’s not so much the rules or the story that changed. Scream 4 is the same whodunit of years past, except the acting is worse and no one cares who Ghostface is anymore because the plot is tired.
In the new decade, Sidney Prescott is a famous author, having written down her survival stories, and Dewey and Gale are married and living back in Woodsboro. Dewey is now the sheriff and Gale is struggling to discover a career niche now that she’s given up reporting/gossiping/capitalizing off of others’ grief. On the anniversary of the Woodsboro murders, Sidney is back in town on her book tour. While there, local high schoolers beginning dying and the return of Ghostface arrives. Sidney stays at the home of her aunt and cousin while she attempts to prevent Ghostface from murdering the entire town.
A new decade means appealing to an entirely new audience. This film keeps tradition by featuring B-list actors who are young and popular right now. The thing is, viewers who really like Emma Roberts probably weren’t old enough to even watch the original Scream. So, Kevin Williamson needed to write the same Scooby Doo whodunit, but make it appeal to today’s audience. This is achieved in a few different ways, namely by allowing Ghostface to terrorize teens through not only phone calls, but texting and Facebook as well. The movie also has a “Randy-like” character obsessed with horror films and determined to document his entire life via a video camera he attaches to his head. Even Ghostface gets in on the technology upgrade by using camera feeds and video to his advantage. Ultimately, the story is the same though, and no amount of self-awareness can keep the idea fresh. It’s not for trying, though. The film updates the horror movies it talks about to more recent selections and it even pays homage to the first Scream, which is for all intents and purposes, a classic now. As a viewer, though, I felt as though the passion was finally, finally gone.
In each of the previous Scream films, the villain uncovered at the end always had a strong motive for what they were doing. The motives may have been a little far-fetched or seemed too easy, but they were strong and believable enough. This was the first film where I was less than impressed with the killer’s motive. Williamson attempted to save the weak motive by giving it higher purpose and using it to comment on today’s society (typical Scream) but it wasn’t enough for me. The motive was whiney and weak. This film was the goriest of them all, and I appreciated that, but it still managed to be boring. Even Sidney seemed bored this time around; her approach to most of the killing seemed robotic. I mean, I know she’s done this before, but c’mon, put your heart into it.
I will forever admire the Scream franchise for creating a story that not only falls under the horror genre, but also shows respect and criticism for it. Few films can be both a serious (or semi-serious) horror and also a mockumentary. It’s a fine line and you could end up on the other side, i.e. Zombieland, which is too funny to be a horror. That being said, this idea only works for so long. I think even Wes Craven knew it was stupid to keep making this film and knew that he was in essence, destroying the original idea. But, this is what horror franchises do, so why not comment on that? He even gets the last word in, which I think we can all agree with, by having his protagonist yell, “You forgot the first rule of remakes, don’t fuck with the original.”
If you liked Scream 4, you might also like Scream, Halloween and House at the End of the Street.