April 15th, 2011, marked the end of an eleven-year, 2 months, and 6 days wait for horror fans. A wait that made us scream louder with each year that passed. And when April 15th, 2011, hit, we began a different scream: a scream of excitement, a scream of fear, and a scream of celebration. Wes Craven’s Scream 4 hit theaters that very day.
Whilst we waited and screamed our waiting screams, the landscape of horror (and life) shifted and turned. We knew that an eventual Scream sequel would take a look at all of those shifts and turns, and do some shifting and turning of its own. As the previous three entries proved, there would be a niche that Scream 4 would address, and in that gap we saw an uptick in horror movie remakes. “Screamakes,” if you happen to be a character in the world of Woodsboro.
The fear in the air was that the next film would be an actual remake of Scream. Leave it to Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson to rise above that trend though. As it turned out, Scream 4 would not be a remake but instead, focused on and ribbed remakes in only the best satirical way possible. A part of Scream’s legacy is to present a set of rules that one must abide by in order to survive a given installment of a franchise film. Thanks to the remakeapalooza that was the aughts, there was plenty to draw from.
The Unexpected Is The New Cliché
The previous 3 films are famous for their cold openings in which big-name stars or a previous film’s characters are murdered. The norm for the original trilogy was a linear cold opening…but not Scream 4. Instead, we got a montage of openings from the fictional Stab films (now 7 entries deep). It was a brilliant move, and one that had to be done given how many subsequent slasher films had reused the template from Scream (1996). It was chaotically nonlinear, but totally in line with the film’s response to the current horror landscape.
When we heard that we should expect “the unexpected”, many had assumed that one of the original three characters (Sidney, Gale, or Dewey) would die- something that is feared with each new entry. While Gale did get stabbed, it wasn’t fatal although it could be said that was unexpected because it’s usually Dewey (David Arquette) on the receiving end of a knife. It could also be said that a rule of remakes was actually applied here. Everyone who survived the original also survived this “screamake.”
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The Kills Have To Be Way More Extreme
The Saw and Hostel franchises stretched the limits of how much violence and gore could be shownm theatrically. Platinum Dunes returned to the grizzle and nasty of 80s yore with their remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and Friday the 13th (2009). The expectation was the Scream 4 would be absolutely brutal, if not on par with the gruesome acts seen on screen throughout the aughts. But that wasn’t exactly the case. This is a rule the movie itself sets up and breaks, but there’s likely a very good explanation for that.
In 2011, mass shootings across the United States were beginning to increase. According to research done by The Mayors Against Illegal Guns, between 2009 and leading up to the release of Scream 4 in April of 2011, there were a total of 42 mass shootings. This could have affected the reason why the kills in Scream 4 didn’t live up to that one rule. Aside from the brutal bedroom attack and gut displaying aftermath of Olivia (Marielle Jaffe), it was all knives and slight displays of blood. And, well, that one part where Jill (Emma Roberts) shoots Trevor (Niko Tortorella) in the crotch.
You Pretty Much Have To Be Gay
Horror movie watchers know that being gay does not guarantee you a surviving role. In fact, until recently, it’s a nearly surefire death sentence. Perhaps queer writer Kevin Williamson was poking fun at the trope. Having Charlie (Rory Culkin) and Robbie (Erik Knudsen) scoot away from each other after mentioning it sort of backs that theory.
Up until this point, any inclusion of the queer spectrum was never mentioned in a Scream film. There are theories and assumptions that have been made. Whilst not outwardly queer, this was a step in the inclusion in the series. The queer community are hardcore fans of the entire franchise so it was about time.
The Killer Should Be Filming The Murders
In the age of emerging social media, being famous was – and still is – idolized. Sidney’s niece Jill, the supposed Final Girl of this story, wanted that fame. She was willing to kill for that fame. Even if that meant killing her own mother.
Ten years later, this aspect of the film is still relevant. This showed how ahead of its time Scream 4 was. Social media stars today do whatever it takes to keep them in the mainstream. By placing the acts of murder on the internet, people would understand the path that Jill had to take to become the final girl. Without the proof, the impact would not be as effective. With the proof for everyone to see, the impact would catapult her above and beyond her predecessor Sidney Prescott.
Don’t Fuck With The Original
Sidney’s rule for remakes comes through in a line so fiercely delivered that it was like being shocked with 10,000 watts of electricity, and having been delivered by the life and breath of the entire franchise gave the line so much power. It was a sentiment that was shouted to the heavens all decade long after the announcement of any classic horror remake and with social media’s rise throughout the aughts, this conversation took place daily.
Sidney’s right too. You don’t fuck with the original. She also proved something that flows with the side of the fans who are okay with remakes. No matter how many times the story is retold, you will never get rid of the magic of the original. It will always be there.
“No matter how many times the story is retold, you will never get rid of the magic of the original.”
Within the last 10 years, the landscape of horror has created new tropes, retreaded previous ones, and expired others. As for the slasher genre, it’s a pretty barren landscape. Scream 5 doesn’t have a lot to pull from within that subgenre. As the title reverting back to just Scream shows, it will most likely pull rules from the newish resurgence of legacy sequels like Halloween (2018).
Whether you’re a fan of Scream 4, or not, let’s all take a moment and give thanks to Wes Craven for continuing to deliver a franchise with steady, unrecasted performers in an incredibly linear storyline. And while you’re at it, why not give thanks to Wes Craven for ALL of his legendary contributions to horror cinema.
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