WHAT YEAR IS IT?! “Scream” has been trending a lot lately, and especially today because it was just confirmed that Neve Campbell will be reprising her role as Sidney Prescott in the upcoming “Scream 5”. With both David Arquette and Courteney Cox also lined up to return, we’ll get the whole gang will be together again (if only Randy was still alive…). It feels like it’s been a long time, but it’s really not that long since we last saw this trio reprise their roles. They all returned for 2011’s criminally underrated “Scream 4”.
This film opened 11 years after “Scream 3”, so it could be argued that it falls under the “sequel that came too late” category, but I would argue that it would be a mistake to believe that. By all intents and purposes, “Scream 4” came at the exact right time to make a timely parody to the horror genre in the early 2000s.
We’re now going through a great time for the horror genre thanks to films like “The Conjuring”, “The Babadook” or “It Follows”, but things were really different in the early 2000s. Studios were mostly greenlighting remakes of the horror films of the 70s and 80s, trying to bring back icons of the past and make them relevant for our times (a trend that continues happening in every other genre, unfortunately). It is because of that and that alone that 2011 was the perfect time to bring “Scream” back.
“Scream” was not a simple horror film. It was a new and modern way to tell stories that was substantially different to everything that came before, even if it was “another” slasher film. The genius of “Scream” is how it manages to parody itself without losing focus and walking the line between horror and comedy with undeniable style. You’ll be scared when you watch “Scream”, but you’ll also be laughing a few seconds later (as is intended). It is this charm that the original had that was lost in the second and third film in the series.
Because as much as I enjoy “Scream 2” and “Scream 3” for their silly fun, they both face the same problem that some other sequels struggle with. It’s the same thing that happened to “Shrek”, which was a parody of fairy tales while being a fairy tale, and it worked really well in the original film and the sequel – but there’s a limit to how many jokes you can make about fairy tales, which is why the third and fourth films in that franchise felt so tired. You can’t parody the same thing 20 times and expect for the joke to be just as funny as it originally was, and the “Scream” franchise also learned that the hard way. But then came “Scream 4” in 2011 and it completely change that perspective.
The screenwriter of the original film, Kevin Williamson, returned to write “Scream 4” with a clear idea and the knowledge that it was time for another intelligent horror parody. Unlike the second and third films in the series, the fourth film feels like a story that needed to be told because the world and the horror genre was begging for a satirical take. Unbeknownst to most audiences who failed to catch it in theaters, “Scream 4” was the right film at the right time.
Perhaps one of the best parts of the film is the opening. It’s a cleverly written and cameo-filled sequence that makes fun of the repeated trends of the “Scream” series itself, before moving to other themes in the horror genre (the abovementioned remakes) and of culture in general, where people value fame, likes and clicks above many other things. Our culture is now at a place where many see their own sense of value in the number of likes their photos or posts receive online. It’s a terrible trend for the psychology and emotions of younger people, and “Scream 4” takes it to the absolute extreme by making the villains’ motivation derived from that. In so many words, the logic of the villains of the film is that you’re not a serial killer if you don’t trend in social media.
I don’t understand why “Scream 4” failed to resonate with audiences, because it’s a great film that shouldn’t be missed. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Think of it as a satire of our times, and enjoy it for the smart horror and the fun tone. That should get you ready for part 5.