"New Decade. New Rules." That's what we were promised by the influential horror franchise Scream when the fourth chapter (Scream 4) debuted exactly a decade ago.
The fourth chapter brought back the franchise-trio of Sidney, Dewey, and Gale for yet another battle with the killer we know as Ghostface, amongst a cat of fresh blood to merge two generations. The film was ahead of the curve for its social media commentary and execution of the reverse "final-girl" trope, but Scream 4 simply didn't get the attention it deserved. In a franchise like Scream, it's pretty common to overanalyze the details of what worked and what didn't, but looking back on Scream 4 after 10 years, why exactly does the film hold up?
Signs of Growth for Sidney
Sidney Prescott is often considered to be one of (if not the best) final girl of all time, and she's gone through the wringer in the cinematic story of Scream. In the first Scream, Sidney is newly coping with the murder of her mother, in the sequel, she struggles to trust, and the third film has Sidney completely isolated herself and is on the brink of a breakdown.
By the time we pick up with Scream 4, Sidney has written a novel, found some success, and has probably the most level-headed outlook on her life we've seen. Sidney doesn't look to blame her mother's past on her life and openly rejects that she's viewed as a victim anymore. The film doesn't bother delving into her personal life as an adult whatsoever (no mention of friends, a partner, or her father) and that would have been something interesting to include, but nonetheless, Sidney has finally found a little place of happiness. Isn't that what she deserves after three films of non-stop loss?
The Genuine Struggle of Dewey and Gale (and potential for Scream 2022?)
In the upcoming film Scream, we're following the ongoing narrative of each previous Scream film that came before. Because of that, it's interesting to watch Scream 4 back and take in different relationships that could impact the future of the franchise — most notably being Dewey and Gale.
In the Scream films, Dewey and Gale have gone from dating to hating, to married. The evolution has been a rollercoaster due to their different values on work, but they've always come together in a crisis. To some capacity, the relationship between the two was the most strained in Scream 4, with Dewey showing Gale very minimal respect. Gale is put on the back burner for a lot of Scream 4 because of Dewey's tunnel-vision about solving the crime (which was also solved by Gale mind you).
At the time, I recall feeling that the film made it hard to root for Dewey and Gale as a couple, which still, unfortunately, stands regardless of if there was another Scream film happening or not. Now knowing that we'll be getting to see the two on-screen together again a decade later makes this relationship even more important, and it'll be interesting to see if all these years have helped or hindered the couple. I for one, hope to see them repair their bond before the bloodbath begins…
The Love For Kirby Remains
When Scream 4 was released in 2011, I don't think that the creatives involved realized how much fans would love the character of Kirby Reed, played by Hayden Panettiere. After the heavy loss that fans felt when Randy was killed in Scream 2, there was a void for a new character to take on the horror movie-buff mantle, which felt like both Kirby/Panetierre were perfect for.
One of the film's most recognizable moments comes from Panettiere rapid-fire delivering each and every horror genre reboot title without pause. The scene is a meta-awareness of the reboot obsession Hollywood was seeking out, but also fulfilled the slasher-ready character that genre fans are drawn to. Her "death" was later confirmed to be up-in-the-air by Scream 1-4 mastermind Wes Craven on the film's DVD/Blu-ray commentary, and now a decade later, fans are still talking about Kirby.
We should note that Panetierre isn't actually said to be in the upcoming film, but the fact that 10 years have passed and there's still an outcry to address that ambiguity shows that Scream 4, if anything, gave us a new potential scream queen, and that's a daunting task for any film to succeed at.
Sidney's Line Feels Very Relevant
In Scream 4, Sidney doesn't pull any punches on the commentary of horror films, telling her murderous cousin "Don't fuck with the original."
That's pretty much an accurate statement when it comes to horror, and looking back, it feels like Craven/Kevin Williamson wanted to appreciate the film that started it all — with respect to bringing it into a new audience. The choice to keep Scream continuing on with a fourth film was a marginally risky one considering that horror sequels were hit-and-miss, but they chose to bring what they created into a new story, merging the idea of a reboot and a sequel in one.
It also helps now knowing that the new Scream is titled that due to the relationship and respect for the first film, creating an idea in our head that the original, and will always be the core of the Scream universe. Even if they pass the franchise on to another lead, there's something about the first story that's impossible to keep closed.