When it comes to meta horror, it’s typically very hit or miss. So many films struggle to find balance between horror and comedy as it is, and then have to walk a fine line between self awareness and just being over the top for the sake of it. The Scream series has been that rare case of film that knows exactly what it is, what it wants to be, and executes the final product. It’s been a defining series in the slasher genre since 1996 and with the newest instalment coming out in less than a year, I’m thrilled to be able to talk about my personal favourite in the series on its tenth year anniversary, Scream 4.
There’s no denying that the original Scream is the best of the bunch. It redefined a genre that was becoming very tiresome after a decade of camp slashers modelling themselves after Friday the 13th and Halloween. One of the main reasons this series works is because it acknowledges those films that came before it; paying tribute to its influences. The meta horror from the first one was done brilliantly in a way that it never quite took us out of the plot, like the third instalment did. It also redefined the final girl and removed all expectations going in within the first fifteen minutes of the film with the death of Casey (Drew Barrymore). What Scream gave us is exactly what we crave and miss in slashers now which is, great chase sequences, good character development, brutal kills and unpredictability.
Now, I’m aware that Scream 2 is a top tier sequel and I absolutely love it; but the one I revisit the most – even over the original – is Scream 4. After a lousy, but still beloved, third instalment I was extremely excited for a fourth. A bonus to this fourth film was that not only were the original trio announced to be returning, but Kevin Williamson (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer) was set to write the script with Wes Craven directing. This being Craven’s last film before his passing. It had all the makes to be a memorable reboot to the series already and Scream fans as well as genre fans alike were freaking out in anticipation for this movie.
Scream 4 follows the return of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) who’s coming home to Woodsboro to promote her newest memoir while staying with her aunt and teen cousin Jill (Emma Roberts). Upon her return, Jill’s classmates and friends begin to be killed off one by one in brutal ways, following the pattern of the original. With the help of Dewie (David Arquette) and Gale (Courtney Cox), the trio try to stay alive long enough one last time to solve the murders.
In my opinion, this sequel has the best storylines and new characters. The way it came off was that this was a sort of passing of the torch; an introduction to a new generation of Scream and while it certainly was a new and updated generation, it definitely didn’t pass the torch. The way they bring the internet and influencer fame seekers into the mix was great because that is the world we were and still are living in. Everything is caught on camera for everyone to see and everyone wants to be famous. Nowadays, fame is at the tip of your fingers with TikTok, YouTube, etc. So when it’s revealed that the killer is documenting the murders in an attempt to make their own horror film, that’s pretty believable and not far-fetched at all. And of course with a new generation comes a spew of new characters and teenagers, which leads us to the hands down best Scream side character in the series, Kirby (Hayden Panettiere).
Before I talk about my love for Kirby, I gotta put some respect on Tatum’s (Rose McGowan) name. Tatum is the original bad bitch, don’t care, supportive girl boss best friend; it really goes without saying. But when Kirby’s chaotic energy entered the chat, I fell in love. The way she carried herself, supported Jill first and foremost, had the horror knowledge that is only ever mansplained by the “nerdy” boy in the group and an emotional arc? She did that. Hayden Panettiere is fantastic as Kirby and even her short haired sort of butch feel and look was all around everything the huge gay following of Scream wanted. I’m a firm believer that Kirby didn’t actually die and she remains the teen final girl of this film in my head, even if her screen time was cut too early.
When it comes to the returning cast, they’re still badass, fun, and all around great characters. Each of them is given new and different material and storylines than the other with a lot to work with. I loved Gale’s arc of dealing with writer’s block and being pushed out of the front of the media, trying to make a comeback for herself with the help of two high schoolers who run the movie club at school. Sidney’s side of the film with her family and protecting the ones she loves as well as feeling guilt over the newest murders is great too. Also I have to mention, Neve Campbell has never looked better than in this film and she’s still got it.
As for the killers revealed in this one, this is very unpopular but I truly think it’s the best motive and reveal. As I say this, I know Stu and Billy was such an incredible twist and their psychotic secret love villain story was fantastic; but there’s something about Jill being a fame obsessed psycho teenager who will do anything to sneak out of the shadows of Sidney that just does it for me. Maybe it’s just the pure craziness of her completely messing up her body to complete her framing the boyfriend plot along with just how scary good Emma Roberts is at playing the mean girl psycho, but this was just the most out of left field, whack, hilarious execution and is a huge reason I come back to this entry the most.
I will always love what this series has done for horror, representation and overall pushing the boundaries of slashers and giving us what we want from slashers. As sad as it is that Wes Craven is no longer with us it’s also incredible that this is part of his legacy, being one of the many reasons he’s a horror icon, I’m so incredibly excited to see what the directors of Ready or Not (if you haven’t seen it go watch that right now), Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, have come up with. It’s already got a killer cast and is currently shaping up to be the best sequel and maybe the best one to give the original a run for its money. Bottom line, Scream 4 is incredible meta horror slasher fun and I’ll die on this hill and stand by my statement that this is the best sequel in the franchise.