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“What’s your favorite scary movie?” Fifteen years ago, that phrase struck fear into almost anyone within teenage years, horror fan or not. Why? Because this five-word euphemism was usually followed up with a 12-inch blade thrust to the gut of any unlucky soul who heard it. Such is the (short) life and times of an adolescent living in Woodsboro in Wes Craven’s SCREAM 4.
Following the events of 2000’s SCREAM 3, where heroine Sidney Prescott faced off with the “final” Ghostface on the sets of Hollywood, the series’ fourth installation finds the newly-minted author making the final book tour stop in her old hometown. However, with the return of Prescott comes the reemergence of a deadly force imbued with a tenacity of the Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger the SCREAM films so often poke fun at—Ghostface. He (or she) is back, and they want Sidney.
Reuniting cast members include the loveable Neve Campbell as Sidney; Courteney Cox, playing a married Gail Weathers-Riley, who is forced to cope with a massive writer’s block and the dawning realization that she isn’t the journalist she used to be; and finally David Arquette as bumbling Sheriff Dewey, wed to you-know-who. But with the current decade come new rules—and a new cast. Emma Roberts plays Sidney’s cousin, Jill Roberts; fans of the HEROES’ television series will get to see Hayden Panettiere here, along with SIGNS’ Rory Culkin. SCREAM has always had fun with its audiences, giving subtle winks here and there. But one of its best inside jokes of all, and certainly the most ironic, is the appearance of Anthony Anderson in the latest slayathon; the actor played a character in two of the SCREAM-spoofing SCARY MOVIE films.
When a fourth SCREAM entry was announced, any doubts were assuaged once it was revealed that Craven would be back directing, creator Kevin Williamson scripting again and Campbell toplining once more. “I’m a huge fan of the franchise and a huge fan of Wes Craven, and the fact that he was coming back to direct this one meant it was going to be good,” Roberts says. The actress, a newbie not only to SCREAM but the genre as a whole, was drawn to the movie because, she says, “I loved the part. I read the script, and it was an interesting role. I’ve never done a horror movie so why not?”
Though her portfolio consists of mostly drama and romantic features on the order of VALENTINE’S DAY, her experience on the SCREAM 4 set bodes well for future endeavors into the fear biz. For Anderson, being drawn to the film was for more facetious purposes. “Well, being the only person of color in a horror film, I would stand out,” laughs the actor, who also appeared in URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUT. Anderson goes on to mention that, although he was in a parody series that spoofs SCREAM, he is still a fan of Craven’s brainchild.
What gives SCREAM 4 such a foothold in the franchise is the length of time that has passed between the third and fourth films, thus allowing for new thematic explorations and references. “To be the sole person of color in a horror film, you might think you know what my demise would be in this, but it’s a new decade and new rules, so I might make it to the end of the opening credits,” Anderson says. ”You never know.” Panettiere adds, “It’s a sequel, but at the same time a remake, but it’s a combination, and yeah, it’s a reboot.”
In addition, Panettiere comments that virgins can die now. In the trailer, his Randy-like character also adds that the kills are much more extreme, “unexpected” is the new motto and the killer records his murders. “It’s cleverly remembering where it comes from—the clichés, and really using them to our benefit, growing with the audience, because the generations go on and become harder to scare,” the actor says.
So coming into the SCREAM saga, were the freshmen anxious at all by the three seasoned scare veterans or by the story itself? “I don’t think I was intimidated coming into it, but I was definitely excited, and I didn’t know what to expect,” Roberts says. “So I kind of relinquished expectations and just went into it thinking, ‘I hope I have fun, I hope everyone’s cool and I hope we make a good movie.’ ”
The established performers also seemed determined to help the younger cast feel a part of the team, with Campbell renting a cottage for the cast to meet up at for barbeques and get-togethers “[That’s] where Anthony and David almost set the trees on fire,” says Panettiere. “We all got to really bond, and it was very much like summer camp.” And bond they did, with Roberts’ castmates making an astute observation of the 20 year old. “She is a full-on nerd. She reads a book in like an hour. No, she is a nerd,” says Panettiere. “I would see [Roberts] and be like, ‘Damn, is that an encyclopedia?’ ”
Concerning the story itself (sorry, specifics embargoed!), Culkin explains what makes Ghostface such an enduring icon in the fright field. “He’s always a different person, with different motives, and you don’t really know why they’re doing this,” the actor says. “It’s also weird, because the whole town sort of celebrates this massacre that only happened like 10 years earlier.”
It could also be said that the mask itself is what brings terror to the SCREAM universe. “I never went near the mask,” Panettiere says, not without a tinge of fear. Anderson speculates about maybe trying the mask on. “No way, not me,” he laughs. “My head’s too big for it.” Culkin goes on to speculate that the town itself is an icon not unlike Ghostface, because everyone in it is twisted, reflecting Dewey’s sentiments from the preview when he says, “One generation’s tragedy is the next one’s joke.”
When it comes to remakes, reboots and sequels, most people will probably sneer at you and go into a fiery rant if the subject is broached. Some actors are even wary of them. Not the case with SCREAM 4, which has a notoriety that precedes it in a way that hasn’t been seen in a long time. Panettiere sums up the mood with, “It’s exciting, and an exciting thing to be a part of. It’s a very cool movie. Who wouldn’t want to be in SCREAM?”
TO BE CONTINUED
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