Eleven years has passed since the previous installment in the “Scream” franchise. The teens that the Weinstein Company is hoping to entice to see the new sequel were probably more keen back in 2000 on watching SpongeBob SquarePants chillax in an underwater pineapple than Ghostface bloodily terrorize Woodsboro.
Yet the challenge facing “Scream 4” is hardly unique in Hollywood. Nineteen years passed between “Indiana Jones” flicks, and “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” still raked in nearly $800 million worldwide in 2008. Will audiences still care about the ongoing tale of Sidney Prescott and a knife-wielding psycho? We have a feeling they will. MTV News certainly does, which is why we’ve been closely watching the production since word of the project first surfaced in 2008 and can now present our “Scream 4” cheat sheet: everything you need to know about the new horror flick.
Sharpening the Knife
News of the fourth film broke in July of ’08, and shortly after, MTV News revealed that Wes Craven, who helmed the previous trilogy, was in talks to return to the director’s chair. But guess what? Not just one new “Scream” was in the works, but an entire trilogy — again masterminded by Kevin Williamson. David Arquette and Courteney Cox were reportedly in talks to re-join the franchise, though early word suggested Neve Campbell had dropped out. Cox, it turned out, would eventually sign on.
“The fourth one is an ensemble,” Williamson told us in November ’09. “It’ll take place right now, 10 years later, and it’s going to take place in Woodsboro. We’ll have our three main characters, and we’ll be introducing several more.”
Craven officially signed on to direct in March 2010 and production kicked off early that spring. Joining the familiar faces were Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Adam Brody, Kristen Bell, Anna Paquin and others.
Returning to Woodsboro
Eleven years after “Scream 3,” would the next installment have enough in store to both satisfy and surprise theatergoers? “For an audience that is so well-versed in ‘Scream’ [films] and in what happens and who becomes the killer, blah, blah, blah, it’s trickier to throw them a curveball,” Panettiere admitted. “I think they’ve done a really cool job with the script. We’ve had a blast on it.”
The first footage for the film popped up in September, thanks to “Entertainment Tonight” — not that it revealed much of anything about the plot. But story details had already been emerging over the previous months. As Craven explained, the film would play off the idea of “sequelitis,” referring not only to the many “Scream” films but the fictional “Stab” flicks within the “Scream” mythology.
“[Sidney] has been off by herself and living her own life, and she’s even written a book that has gotten a lot of critical acclaim,” he added. “She’s kind of put her life back together in the course of these 10 years. But, certainly, there would be no ‘Scream’ without Ghostface, so she has to confront him again, but now as a woman who has really come out the darkness of her past.”
The trailer debuted in October. Culkin’s character stepped in to explain the new rules: the kill has to be more extreme (cue woman plummeting to her demise atop news truck), virgins aren’t safe (cut to Ghostface chasing scantily clad virgin around bedroom), and the killer should be filming his handiwork (see Cox discovering camcorder prior to run-in with Ghostface). A second trailer arrived in January, giving us more screams and more near-kills. The question, of course, remains …
Who’s the Killer?
No one in the cast will cop to the murders just yet. “My character is not the killer, because she knows horror movies too well,” Panettiere argued when we caught up with her recently. “She knows how they work, and she’s too terrified in that scene in the preview.”
“My character is not the killer because she’s Sidney Prescott,” Campbell added.
Said Aimee Teegarden, “Why am I not the killer? I’m not the killer because I have great hair in the movie. And if you have great hair, you don’t die — bottom line.”
Whoever the killer ends up being, we have not seen the last of Ghostface. “Scream 4” is only the first flick in the new planned trilogy. So where does the franchise go from here?
“It’s a process that I think all of us go through, trying to stay fresh and not repeating our last acts,” Craven told us. “What is next? What thoughts are in my mind that are original, thoughts that even surprise me, as opposed to looking up and going, ‘Oh, I guess I can do one of those. I guess I can make a zombie movie!’ We just need to keep it fresh and, in a sense, inspired. The thought that you can’t even intellectually sit down necessarily and come up with something, but then a thought comes and hits you in the middle of the shower — that’s your deepest subconscious creativity talking to you.”