Holy shitting Christ! I can't believe that it is nearly here. If you would have told me after the abysmal letdown that was Scream 3 that in 10 years we would be embarking on another bloody, body strewn journey back to Woodsboro, I would have retorted that I had some magic beans to sell you. This, even in the land of Hollywood, where nothing ever really dies and everything is up for sale, including a critically acclaimed horror franchise's dignity. Maybe that's the metaphor they should have tackled more thoroughly in the third film, as the franchise had definitely lost it's dignity in a rush to meet deadlines and make good on contracts, to the detriment of having a quality screenplay beforehand. Back in 2000, they said that part three in the series was the last, and naively, I believed them. Honestly, after the performance of Scream 3, I was eager to believe them. Though I had been conflicted over the fact that I felt as though the mighty juggernaut that the series had been up that point deserved a better written sendoff than it had received but I also felt that if this was the direction it's quality was going to head in, the better to end it then and there rather than become an increasing embarrassment or a shadow of it's former self.
The Scream franchise needs no introduction of course, whether you are a seasoned genre enthusiast or merely a passing, occasional fan, chances are you are already fairly steeped in the cultural phenomena . Which is why I am skipping past the protracted, drawn out history lesson of everything that the original film, and later it's sequels, achieved (also, a million other media outlets will be doing just that for the next two weeks no doubt). Most likely you don't need to be told about how the original Scream single-handedly brought the horror genre (wheezing and on it's last leg, dieing an in ignoble death ) back to life (a distinction that the "die-hard" horror fanboys are occasionally less than grateful about, which is rather snottish and sad really). Not over night mind you, but steadily over the course of months as good word of mouth increased Scream's box office, slowly but surely (a rarity in terms of movie performances, films typically drop in numbers the longer they are in release, not gain them). You also probably don't need to be told or reminded, how Scream 2 and Scream 3 performed at the box office (amazingly). Nor do you need to be reacquainted with what came in the wake of the success of the original (the ripples of which are still felt to this day). That being more modern slashers than you are likely to remember (including cheap direct to video cash grabs, the numbers are in the hundreds) in addition to opening the door (perhaps indirectly, but Scream did make horror hot again) for other viable scary projects that went on to become smashing successes in their own right (The Sixth Sense, Saw, The Ring...oh lord, there are so many it hardly bears recounting them all). So, in addition to being a trendsetter, a genre rejuvenator, a rollicking out-of-nowhere success story / cash cow and just a damn fine piece of cinema (horror or otherwise), Scream has also gone on to be a permanent staple in the pop culture landscape (the merchandising tie-ins may have died down some, but as certain as the sun is to rise in the morning, come Halloween you'll be inundated with Ghostface masks of every color in the aisles of countless stores nationwide). So as I just said, the Scream spectacle surely needs no introduction and so, we won't waste your time. Suffice to say, it is the return of such a sensational, relevant genre milestone that has us here at The October Country ready to dig in and celebrate it's resurrection at every turn and in every way. Scream 4, whether you like it or not (and there are many who don't), is bound to be a significant benchmark in horror history. For good or ill.
That it took this long for Scream 4 to reach our silver screens and multiplexes has got to be one for the "Too Strange To Be True" history books. That the Weinsteins have restrained themselves from firing up a fourth film of their most profitable franchise before now, most likely bereft of the returning actors we've come to associate with this series, filled it with no-name "stars" and chock full of by-the-numbers plot points is something of a miracle. That they somehow managed to avoid this move and avoid driving the Scream namesake into the ground in a never ending cyclone of forgettable direct to DVD sequels (as the Weinsteins and Dimension has done with every other horror property they own, Hellraiser anyone?) is unimaginable. 10 years isn't all that long to wait really, if it means that what you are (hopefully) getting is made with the utmost care and consideration for quality. I'd take 10 years over 10 more throwaway sequels any day. I mean really, pinch me.
"The police are always off track with this shit! If they'd watch Prom Night, they'd save time! There's a formula to it. A very simple formula!"
Words fail me at the moment when trying to articulate the jumble of emotions and feelings I have been experiencing over it's impending release. Despite my own fanboy jubilation that threatens to run buck-wild if not kept in check, Scream 4 has yet to actually prove itself. From the outset, there are already apparent reasons to both jump for joy and simultaneously chew one's fingernails to the bone. There are the pluses; Stars Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers), David Arquette (Dewey Riley), director Wes Craven and screenwriter / creator Kevin Williamson have all returned. I'm still in shock that they got Campbell, who's been pretty adamantly opposed to participating in the series since Scream 2 (Williamson was initially already prepared to write around her absence, if she refused to sign on) and Cox and Arquette whose marriage was dissolving prior to and during the filming of Scream 4. Then there are the minuses; Scream 3 scripter Ehren Kruger is the one responsible for the rewrites after Williamson's prior commitments and television obligations (legally) required his attention and took him away from completing his duties on 4. Though Craven has attempted to assail the fan's concerns about just whose movie this is, Williamson's or Krueger's, by stating that “Ehren did some great secondary work and some additional scenes that needed fleshing out and I did some writing, too, but this was Kevin’s baby.” Okay, assuming that isn't a bunch of PR bullshit, my worries have been quelled, slightly. Sort of. Initially, another plus was the length of Scream 4's script, rumored to be somewhere around the 138 page mark, which would make for a rather involved story me thinks. However, I did say initially. Scream 4's runtime was revealed last week for theater chains so that they can book and budget session times and it comes in at a very slim 1 hour and 43 minutes, making it the shortest film in the franchise (Scream clocks in at 111 minutes, Scream 2 120 minutes and Scream 3 116 minutes). I find this news worrisome to say the least and here is why. The cast this time around is utterly massive and unlike say Scream 2, which boasted an equally enormous roster of names but whom for the most part were used as either cameos or peripheral characters with no real presence in the plot (Rebecca Gayheart, Portia de Rossi, Heather Graham, Joshua Jackson, Marisol Nichols, Tori Spelling, Luke Wilson, David Warner and Selma Blair, respectively), Scream 4 is involving everybody in the action (judging by the trailers, TV spots and stills). I think I've seen a clip of nearly every billed actor having a run in with Ghostface in one way or the other and taking into consideration that we only have 1 hour and 43 minutes to get to know these new faces (arguably less, if one assumes that the last act is going to be nothing but a protracted climax with little time for character development, as is usually the case), I find it hard to believe that with so many people vying for screen time (in a film with so little of it, comparatively), that their characters are going to make much of an impact, and by extension, nor will their deaths. Which would be a shame, because if there is one thing the Scream franchise excels at, it would be crafting believable, sympathetic characters to root for. Remember the emotional wallop that the deaths of Tatum and Randy packed and the disbelieving hush that fell over the theater when those characters breathed their last?. Yeah exactly, this franchise is better than throwing two dimensional, dispensable fodder onto the end of Ghostface's blade.
With many other fans also nervous about this exact issue, once again Craven piped in with more words to sooth our uneasiness. “The script was never bound to a lean and mean page count. It was always high,” Craven has said. “We shot a script that was a 138 pages or something like that, so we had a lot of scenes that had to go on the cutting room floor. Some were kind of redundant. Sometimes we were pointing too much at a character as a red herring." Again, I'll take a leap of faith and assume that this isn't PR claptrap. However, I can't help but fear that sometimes one's alleged "tightening" of a script is nothing more than making it "more accessible" to a younger generation's easily bored, ADD addled minds. I really hope that that isn't the case, because if you asked me what I thought was the chief offense responsible for sinking Scream 3 like a lead balloon (we're all on the same page here right, you know you thought it sucked too), I would say that it was the characters; every last one of them seemed like a parody of themselves to the point of being either annoyingly grating (Jenny McCarthy and Heather Matarazzo as dearly departed Randy Meeks' sister, whose sudden presence stretches believability to the breaking point), over the top ridiculous (the usually reliable Parker Posey, while an amusing hoot to behold eating away at Gale's last nerve as she does, overplays things so badly you'd think she was in a different film entirely) or just tired (Deon Richmond's recycled "black man in a horror film" comedy routine really was screaming out to be taken behind the barn and put out of it's misery by that point) and so on. The point is, every attempt at comedy and horror (admittedly lame efforts at that) missed the mark because the characters didn't land anywhere near a place of sympathy or credibility. Add to this issue Sidney's reduced presence (Campbell was distracted by prior obligations and was barely available to participate) and everyone just seems...off. Arguably, the only two characters that shone were Dewey and Gale, who both got beefed up roles in Campbell's absence and whose chemistry it should be noted, had never been stronger. Anyway, hence my concern as to what Scream 4's abbreviated length might mean for the characters and the emotional weight they may or may not carry. And as far as I am concerned with this franchise, if the characters miss the mark, the whole endeavor crumbles. Because at the end of the day, if the characters aren't strong, ultimately what one is left with is just another slasher film and Scream, as it turns out, isn't just another slasher film. Blessedly, it is so, so much more.
One thing that I am not worried about, is how Scream 4 is going to perform at the box office. Not to get anyone's hopes up, but box office tracking from Reel Source Inc. and various other expert projections all foresee the fourth film taking in at least $50 million on it's opening weekend - and more than $100 million overall and I'm inclined to agree with those projections (based purely on my own observations of internet hype, a truly telling barometer in this day and age). What this will mean for the franchise and the genre as a whole if this does come to pass (and it will) is anybody's guess. Williamson has already stated on the record that he saw part 4 as the beginning of a new trilogy (hence the inclusion of new, younger blood, er, characters). But that was before the reality that apparently he can't simultaneously run a successful television show (The Vampire Diaries) and script a big screen return to the film series that put him on the map (the exact same issue that vexed his involvement with part 3 actually). When asked what he thought of further adventures in Scream's world of witty zingers and beautiful, dead teenagers, Craven remained noncommittal, stating “You know, it’s so far in the future. It’s gonna be a year [before production would even start on Scream 5] at least, I would think, because even though Kevin sketched out the general notion for 5 and 6, it was not like he had a…ten-page beat sheet. So it’s gonna be a matter of if Kevin is of the mind to write again in this franchise, and when will we write? My approach to [Scream 4] in general…[was] I love[d] the element of Kevin, I love[d] the element of Courteney Cox and David and Neve…I knew everybody had pretty much signed up, but until I saw a substantial amount of the script I didn’t say yes. So that’s my approach: ‘let’s see the script, let’s see what they come up with, and then I will or I won’t.’” The more pressing question however, is what will Scream 4's (inevitable) success mean for big ticket, Hollywood horror offerings? As before, will Scream reignite the slasher craze that dominated the movie landscape in the late nineties? Probably. Am I happy about that? No. Would it be a welcome respite from the glut of continuous remakes that still won't relent (despite nearly everybody screaming in unison "STOP already")? Yes, it kind of would, just as long as it doesn't mean an influx of even more slasher remakes. Though truly, they've nearly run out of worthwhile titles to ruin haven't they?. Yes they have and I can't wait for some smart ass in Scream 4 to take them to task for it.
"If I'm right about this, I could save a man's life. Do you know what that would do for my book sales?"
Whatever Scream 4 ultimately ends up being, good or bad or somewhere in between and whatever its impending box office domination means for our beloved genre, we here at The October Country will be celebrating the franchise's (hopeful) return to it's rightful glory for the next two weeks until it's anticipated release on April 15th. We hope you come along for the nostalgic ride. And ultimately, here's hoping, here's praying, that the 11 year wait has been worth it and that the film doesn't suck. Dear, sweet Jesus Scream 4, please don't suck.
Scream 4, opening April 15th in theaters nationwide, is released by Dimension Films and stars Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Lucy Hale, Shenae Grimes, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Aimee Teegarden, Brittany Robertson, Alison Brie, Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Marielle Jaffe, Marley Shelton, Erik Knudsen, Rory Culkin, Nico Tortorella, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody and Mary McDonnell.
A previous article relating to Scream 4, detailing our gripes with Dimension Films opening the film up to test screenings, may also be of interest to you and can be found here.
Below you will find Scream 4's teaser and theatrical trailer. As if you haven't already watched them dozens of times over, we certainly have.
Scream 4 Teaser Trailer
Scream 4 Theatrical Trailer