Scream 4: On Remakes, Reboots and Reality

Written by LiverAlone for Scream-Trilogy

If there were justice in the universe, Scream 4 would go down as one of the great cinema fake-outs.  All along, we were told Scream 4 would be a pseudo-reboot to the series, a passing-of-the-torch tale that would introduce a new generation cast to carry the series onward through a new trilogy, headed by Emma Roberts as Jill, insinuated to be “The New Sidney.”  The trailer directly touted its “new generation” and Roberts herself talked up her role in interviews as the apparent new face of Scream.

Spoiler Warning

…And then the movie came out, and anyone who’s seen it knows the story: Jill was the killer, and every last one of the new kids got put on the chopping block, leaving our OG trinity of Sidney, Gale and Dewey as the main survivors.  All this reboot talk turned out to be an utter sham.

Scream 4 being a false reboot is, I believe, its raison d’être, and as such it’s probably the most memorable piece of cinematic tomfoolery since… well, since the original Scream plastered Drew Barrymore’s face on its entire poster to fool people into thinking she was the star.  But aside from being a nifty twist, why make Jill the villain and kill off the new cast?  What does it all mean?

There are two keys to understanding what Scream 4 is all about: first is when Kirby must answer the killer’s question with a title of a horror remake, and she rapid-fire lists off a seemingly never-ending series of remakes that would be comical if it weren’t such a tense, desperate scene (and, indeed, the trailer used this dialogue as a comic punchline).  This one’s pretty easy: Scream 4 says there are too many remakes.  Virtually every popular horror series of the last few decades has been remade, and according to Scream 4, it’s all just kind of ridiculous.

The second key is Jill’s motivation: she wants easy fame.  Even if you take away the fact that she’s a murderer, Jill would still be evil, because she’s a cheat, a fraud.  “I don’t need friends, I need fans,” she says, and “You don’t need to accomplish anything, you just need to have fucked up shit happen to you.”  Jill covets Sidney’s fame, she wants to be The New Sidney, but she isn’t because she doesn’t do anything to earn it, and rather must scheme and fake her way there (there is a slight right-wing libertarian bent to Scream 4 here that I have no idea is intentional or not).

Reality (and lack thereof)
Scream 4
argues that Jill is inferior to Sidney because she isn’t genuine.  She isn’t ‘real.’  And it’s this un-reality that is at the heart of Scream 4.  Probably the most succinct description of the concept behind the original Scream trilogy is “what if a horror movie happened in the real world?”  This idea could be the basis of its own article (and come to think of it, I might just write it), but the universe of the original Scream is meant to be as ‘real’ as a movie can be.

Not so with Scream 4.  We’re immersed in “Movie Universe” here: the naturalistic look of the original trilogy is replaced with cinematography that desaturates the colors somewhat and has Hollywood bloom lighting throughout (the shines of the blades, for example, are big, soft and fuzzy); the gore is ramped up to unrealistic levels (blood all over the walls in just a few minutes?); bumbling incompetent cops (and why isn’t the FBI involved?) and an idiot publicist that leaves the safety of her vehicle and doesn’t call 911 are characters this time around.  It says a lot that it is no longer easy to tell where Stab ends and Scream begins.

According to Scream 4, the more sequels you have to a concept that doesn’t call for it, the more ridiculous things get, as evidenced by the growing craziness of the in-universe Stab franchise.  And while Scream 4 doesn’t have anything as out-there as Stab 5’s time travel, the very idea of Scream 4 is actually absurd on its face when you think about it: being targeted by seven different serial killers is not something that has happened to anyone in the history of the world, ever.  Hollywood meddling (both the in-universe Hollywood that pumps out Stab flicks as well as our actual Hollywood that made Scream 4 itself) has transformed the universe of Scream into one that simply can’t be reality.

What happens to long-running movie series that are exhausted of sequels?  They get rebooted, of course.  But Scream 4 argues that reboots really aren’t any better, because like Jill, they’re not any more real.

It’s important to note, though, that Jill is specifically a bad, inferior reboot: she’s a soul-less cash-in trying to capitalize on the original’s (in this case Sidney’s) name.  There can be good remakes: John Carpenter remade The Thing because the original was one of his favorite movies and he wanted to have a take closer to the short story it was based on; the producers of The Fly remake genuinely wanted to see what would happen with a more modern take.  But A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010, for example, was made entirely because Friday the 13th 2009 had a splashy opening weekend and so the new Krueger pic was put on the fast-track in order to capitalize.

The message, then, is that not only are there too many remakes, but that they’re being made for the wrong reasons.

It’s interesting that the end of Scream 4 suggests that Jill, for a short time at least, will obtain the fame she was looking for.  Much like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 had an impressive opening weekend (much more so than Scream 4’s, sadly), but ultimately that remake hasn’t had a very good reception and a year later the studio seems reluctant to carry on with that series further.  It would seem that Scream 4 is correct in that what is real, what is genuine, is what has staying power.

“Don’t fuck with the original,” indeed.

By LiverAlone, a freelance writer who runs the site Watch Night of the Living Dead

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59 Responses to “ Scream 4: On Remakes, Reboots and Reality ”

Reader Advisory: Comments may contain SCREAM 4 SPOILERS
  1. Well said. Kudos.

  2. See!! SCRE4M is much more than your standard horror-slasher! IMPRESSIVE!

  3. and the self awareness of not trying to succeed the original is what makes 4th so good!

  4. I really appreciate this. I still cannot stop thinking about Scream 4. I haven’t been able to process it through all the different gears that are out there. It is just something so complex and this post makes me think even more about it. Thank You.

    Your talk goes along with my recent post on the Drew 2.0 thread. I think Scream 4 IS DREW BARRYMORE.

  5. I love how everyone pretends Scream was perfect. It was not. The movie dragged on in parts and had plenty stupid scenes. Like Casey Becker not running in the field instead deciding to stay close to the killer in her house. Or somehow there not being anyone but a weird janitor when the principal was still in school.

  6. Speak for yourself, Mike. I thought it was perfect. How am I pretending? That’s my opinion as a (barely) sentient human being.

  7. 4th one sucked. fans deserved better than this cheap junk. s4 is a joke.

  8. MarkyMark: I liked your article and would have commented, but wasn’t sure if I was 100% in my understanding of what you were going for: I would have submitted Emma Roberts as “Drew 2.0″ for the reasons above. :)

  9. @ TBJ9, I couldn’t agree more.

  10. Ooops! I misread MarkyMark’s comment to mean he had written the “Drew 2.0″ article, I checked and it appears that’s not the case. XD Sorry!

  11. Finally! A post that isn’t all “doom and gloom”!

    Well written and intriguing!

  12. this made me love it anymore, really good points, I love the jill Idea, She was a symbol of reboots, a cheat she wanted only the fame like the remakes only want money, amazing love it more now, lol :)

  13. Outside of the overly long opening, very little about Scream was that special. The fact that anyone accpeted the retarded notion that Billy and Stu were killers when they were the most obvious is ridiculous. It was not surprising in the least. Gale and Dewey carried the film. Like Scream 2 and Scream 3. Scream 4 got into some boring territory when Dewey had little to do and Gale was MIA for half of it.

  14. Don’t know if it was Ehren or whoever, but digesting Jill as the killer wasn’t going so well, then she made a good point about who gets fame today and how they carry themselves:”You don’t need to accomplish anything, you just need to have fucked up shit happen to you”,and the better: “What am I supposed to do? Work?”. I’m still mulling it over if I liked Emma as a killer, she did give good effort.

  15. Scream 4 clearly explains that reboots are done for the GREENS.
    And if they remake Scream, there will be no thrill anymore, you know that Billy Loomis is the killer. it just don’t fit together.
    Scream is far too great to be remade.

  16. I thought all the points mentioned here were brilliant. Specially the way he semi-bashed Scream 4, lol.

  17. This is what I thought people were missing when all they could say was “What the f**k was that?It was soooo stupid,Who are all these dumbass teens….etc.

    Once you realise it’s an exmination of the current trend it’s actually a pretty good little film.

    It’s never going to win any awards but it did what it set out to do…which is comment on how ridiculous remakes&reboots are.
    It’s one of the better Black Comedies I’ve seen in recent yrs.

  18. Love the assessment. And LOVED the movie.

    I love how so many of the rest of you come to the site every day for the articles and news, just to talk about what a terrible movie Scre4m was. If you hated it then get a life and go somewhere else. (rolls eyes) I think everyone’s pretty much sick of hearing all the whining and nit picking at this point.

  19. @ MJSLawrence

    I completely agree with you. I, for one, have better things to do to visit sites about things I don’t like just to hate on it. I don’t mind arguing with someone who didn’t like the movie but comments like “s4 is a joke”, without further explanations, are just useless.

    I love the article, by the way, good or bad, it just shows that Scream 4 tried at least to be cleverer that this endless wave of cheap remakes which have invaded cinemas for years now. In fact, it’s probably too clever for its own good.

  20. @LiverAlone & MarkyMark – both really interesting comments on how Jill & Scream 4 actually ARE Drew 2.0 respectfully. In my article on Drew 2.0 I was examining it more obviously, therefore naming Kirby as the new Drew, but yeah, both your ideas are definately interesting, I like them.
    This is a great article – its funny how I went to see S4 thinking that Jill was taking the lead and that some of the new cast would cross-over into a S5 – but even though that didn’t happen at all, I didn’t really care. I thought Jill being the killer was genius and am glad that Sidney was still very much the heroine of this film and will hopefully go onwards should there be another movie.

    Also, your points on the lines being blurred between the world’s of Scream & Stab – couldn’t agree more. And although I get the self-reference, they need to be very careful with this if they continue onwards to a 5th film – otherwise it all becomes a bit of a joke. I remember guessing that Sherrie & Trudie would be Stab girls simply from how the dialogue was going in that scene, it just seemed a bit too flippant; similarly with the Stab 7 scene. When Jenny & Marnie appeared, I didn’t feel there was enough distance between the Stab girls and the Woodsboro girls – and this is where furture installments need to watch out.

    Like I said at the end of my Drew 2.0 article – if future films come out, they need to really think about the roots of the series and get it back to that. They almost need to stop poking fun at themselves now and get back to serious horror. Make it all a bit more tragic. Loose the comedy. That could be the new method to refreshing the genre.
    And I think a way to do this would be to now forget all about the world of Stab. As much as I literally adore the whole Stab thing, it has been a heavy focus now in Screams 2, 3 & 4; in fact Scream’s 3 & 4 have almost centrered themselves around Stab. The only movie that had nothing to do with the Stab movies was S1 and I think if there are to be more Screams then Williamson needs to drop the Stab concept and get back to the rawness of the slasher without it. Time to re-re-invent…

  21. As much as i would love to see another entry i think we can safely assume it’s done. I was torn on my first 2 viewings of S4 and then came to really enjoy the film after the second 2 viewings. But, one can clearly tell the script had major issues and severe changes. Put that next to the weak opening it had and i believe it’s over. I guess we’ll never know what Kevin and Bob fought over…but in my opinion it was killing off Sidney.

  22. Amazing read!
    That’s why I believe there won’t be Scream 5.
    Scre4m feels so direct and clear in the message they want to give, that a sequel looks pointless and impossible.

    I know many people thinks that the ending was not Kevin’s plan, and by changing it, it made the planned trilogy impossible. I don’t believe that. That ending is integral to the story they were telling. And I can’t see other than Kevin coming up with such a great idea (same as fooling us with the Jill’s reveal, that was the Casey-Drew “cheat” of this decade).

    Scre4m, even with a few bad things, was amazing. And after this, I don’t want another sequel if they don’t have to say anything new.

    I’ll miss them, but after four times, it’s better to left them on this HIGH note. And if they want more movies, then don’t call them Scream, and give us Stab! 

  23. Finally, someone who’s noticed what I’ve been noticing.
    I’ve said that “Scream 4″ was basically a mock of itself, your choice of words and research are much better and deeper than my own, though. Definitely kudos to you for finding the proper choice of English to blurt this out, the read was amazing and should definitely open the eyes of even the dumbest individual ranting about how poorly the movie was done.
    I recently got into a hilarious screaming dual with a 17y.o. about “Scream” because she tried to compare the success of “Scream” and “Harry Potter” by saying that “Scream” sucked because it didn’t bring in as much as “Harry Potter”. I justified it by pointing out to her the decrease in Potter’s income and how “Scream” took an 11yr. break, came back, and STILL is doing big numbers. Let us see Potter pull this off.
    The thing about “Scream” that most people dislike is how it goes RIGHT over their heads. If you don’t understand it, fine, say I don’t understand it. But, don’t go on a rant about how “OK” or “POOR” it was. The movie is definitely too smart for it’s own good. “Black Swan” for example, people hated it, but the movie was PERFECT! If you didn’t understand it, fine, and I think the same about “Scream 4″. It’s made to such perfection, you really can’t complain about it – the movie did it’s job, and if they make a 5th installment, it’ll include even more self mutilation, which is why I think Jill harmed herself so much – she was being “Scream 4″ and showing people how the movie itself was only looking in the mirror and doing the same exact thing. SELF MUTILATION! I love this post.

  24. Wow. That was such an insightful article. You guys are just amazing. Lol :)

  25. @Liveralone, I loved this article, I’ve written much the same elsewhere but in a stumblingly ineloquent fashion. All of those people (critics, fans et al) who criticized Scream 4 for not being “new” miss the point. Yes, there are definitely some flaws in the writing and film-making but the central concept is strong. It would have been the predictible thing to do to betray the character of Sidney by killing her off (or making her the killer) while making the new young cast analogs for the originals in order to “reboot” the series in order to supposedly to appeal to a new generation (who the studios assume to be thick, tell ‘em it’s new, stick some blandroids in it, then replay in a bad xerox fashion). It was refreshing and interestingly “dangerous” to overturn expectations, dangerous because there are some who WANTED Sidney, Gale, and Dewey to die. And as they didn’t get THAT blood, they were disappointed or pissed off.
    Liveralone’s pinpointing of how 4 plays with reality and fantasy is brilliant and actually makes some flaws work better. Those moments of Screamish reality featuring Sidney perfectly embodied by Neve, or poor Kirby’s death still have impact. The movie walks a tightrope unsteadily but at its best keeps its balance.

  26. Another fan of the article, great job and now I have a way of putting all my thoughts into words after reading this. Brilliant and Scream 4 is awesome!

  27. Kirby lives!!! Stop saying she died! Why dont u write an article on Kirbys fate!

  28. I for one thought Scream 4 was brilliant in the sense that they lead you to believe that Jill was going to be the new heroine then turn the tables on you just like Drew Barrymore in the original.
    I love these movies I think are a lot of fun to watch, Id be happy if they did a whole new story all together and went up to Scream 20!
    Ok thats pushing it, but I would happy if they ended it the way they did and leave it at that.
    However considering they were talking a new trilogy, either that too was a set up (which again would be brilliant) or we will get a new set of movies with a whole new look. Im satisfied either way.

  29. wow …. reading this article i actually now like the ending of scre4m… props to the writer!!!

  30. VERY well said.

  31. I loved this article soooo much!!! I really looked at SCREAM 4 in a different way. I always loved SCREM 4 but this made mw understand it a whole lot more. Ive been readimg some of the comments and someone said that they dont know where the story can go but lets remember, Marley Sheltons character lived, randys sister is still alive, detective kincaid, the two sassy girls in S2 . . . I think Kevin Williamson can do a lot with what he has. Oh and one request, please please please dnt kill off an entire new cast cuz i would like to develop feelings for a new person/people

  32. @MJSLawrence THANK YOU i am getting very tired of people saying how much scream 4 sucked…..if u dont like it stay off a site that has to do with it!!!!!!!

  33. I think the knife comment is spot on. During both of my viewings I couldn’t help but think that knife is portrayed differently- it even looks bigger and more brandish than in the first movies. There is a huge amount of this sort of subtlety. Scream Four may not be the best of the franchise but it feels like it could be the smartest of the sequels.

  34. The only problem I’ve had with drew berrymore in Scream. Was that she didn’t throw the phone at her mom. And that it didn’t show guts..

  35. scream 4 does suck. anyone that thinks otherwise is just trying to stay loyal to this franchise. but seriously it’s such a letdown from the original 3. the bond between sid, gale, and dewey doesn’t seem the same. the new people can’t act, especially that jill girl. very unconvincing killer. the other 3 movies didn’t need an article to be written to explain it and clarify why something was done. my buddy saw this one before the originals. after it was done he was like “were the originals this lame?” After he saw the originals he said “good thing these were made first, otherwise people would never stick around”. wanted to like s4, but I couldn’t. reason I post this is because I want people to explain to me what makes it good? so far i’ve only seen excuses.

  36. Waah Waaah Waaah. (wipes the tears for you)

    I wish I had such little REAL problems that relentlessly complaining about a movie I couldn’t possibly make better myself could be my main priority too…(rolls eyes)

  37. @TBJ9 Excuses? The only excuses are negative ones towards why some people such as yourself apparently didn’t like scream 4. Like how you think that the three main characters didn’t bond the same way as the first three movies, the fact that you think none of the new generation actors and actresses can act, how you found the entire movie annoying, and the weirdest thing is you are annoyed by an article explaining about some things in a movie (which is something every movie has). Those are all excuses am I right lol because yes they are not in a positive way obviously but negative. Scream 4 is awesome and is not a let down by any means and is by far the best sequel in the series as of now and no I’m not just trying to stay “loyal” to the franchise.

  38. @MJSLawrence u know whats really funny bro, the only reason I’m online is because of my health right now. If I was healthy like hopefully everyone else here then I would be out living instead of on a stupid computer. and I know that I or maybe some people on here could have made this much better.

    @Matthew why was scream 4 so good to you? I’m curious

  39. This is exactly why I loved it so much: the story it told. It was making fun of all the reboots and remakes out there that have failed, and the purpose of Scream 4 was to show that you can’t outdo an original, it never happens. Brilliant article. I’ve seen SCRE4M 3 times in cinemas, and I loved watching it everytime.

  40. come on guys, the only reason TBJ9 is expressing the way he does is cause probably he has a dull, boring, loveless, dreamless life…

    i mean, why else would someone put so much hate (or love) into something? it’s just a movie. some of us enjoyed it, some of us didn’t.

    give the guy a break, come on.

  41. @tr do me a favor. 1 month from today picture me with the biggest smile on my face. cause I will get a huge steel bar taken out of my chest and will finally be able to breathe normally. so u were pretty far off trying to guess about my life. 2 surgeries in the past year(1 more 2 come), one the doctors fucked up which could have killed me, and I’m still standing. this isn’t the place to talk about it, but when little boys like you describe me wrong, I have 2 correct you.

  42. see?

  43. then you should really enjoy the little things in life dude, peace and good luck

  44. believe me I’m trying everyday. it will be unbelievably easier this time next month. just getting my opinion out there about this, and trying 2 get my mind off hospitals and this chest pain. thanks for wishing me luck bro.

  45. @TR what a completely unnecessary, childish and offensive post. This forum is about discussing peoples opinions, so just because you don’t agree with TBJ9 you decide to insult him? Disgusting.
    Idiots like you need to stay off forums in general because you just bring the whole vibe down.

  46. @Renee, didn’t you see we made up? we’re all friends here.

  47. and i’m truly sorry for the childnishness.

  48. “the other 3 movies didn’t need an article to be written to explain it and clarify why something was done.”

    Oh really?

  49. Such a great article! Some comments are worth reading too…

    Some films actually really need to be “explained” a little bit to really appreciate them plainly, and SCREAM 4 is certainly one of them, so thanks for having doing it!

    Talking about the knife, I noticed too that it seemed to be bigger and bigger, it’s obvious when Kirby gets “killed”…

    Anyway, I wished someone translated this into french so that I can show it to some friends of mine…

  50. @TBJ9 Its basically the opposite of why you think its not so good lol. I’ll use some of the things you we’re talking about as an example starting with the opening scene. You found it very annoying while I think it was very well done and really creative and yes when it was the actual woodsboro girls they could of done a better job making that part of the scene more intense and suspenseful but I still liked the way it played out. You thought none of the new generation actors and actresses in the film were good while I think they were all excellent especially kirby (Hayden Panettiere) she is definitely a new fan favorite. Plus I think it was a good mix of older and younger generation actors and actresses. You also said something about it not being scary at all and while its not really scary in particular you have to admit the film has many good jump in your seat moments. There is so many more things I can list about why I think scream 4 is so good lol yes everyone has there own opinions and I admit scream 4 isn’t perfect none of scream movies are 100 percent perfect in my opinion. I really liked it in fact I enjoyed scream 4 so much I saw four times in theaters lol

  51. I have a hangover so I’m not going to get all intellectual on this like I normally do. Ill sum it up.
    I thought this was reboot, I was wrong so was we all, we dumb, kevin clever, scream 4 good, want scream 5

  52. @ liver alone things may have been written, but we DIDN’T NEED to read them 2 understand the movie.

    @ matt respect ur opinions I just think differently

    last thing I’ll say is that I just can’t take the killers seriously, mainly jill. Sid is like Michael Jordan in his prime. Jill is like a high school benchwarmer. when they play 1 on 1 is there any doubt over the winner? they should have had a killer that could really push Sid and make her fight. after 3 movies I just thought that would be the case. Did any of you guys really think that jill had any chance to kill Sid?

  53. I don’t think Scream and Scream 4 are any harder or easier to understand than one another. They’re both not hard movies to figure out.

  54. @ TBJ9, I completely agree with you again. I knew way before the reveal who the killers were, it was so damn obvious to me. And I also knew that Jill had no chance to kill Sid. And to the people complaining about people complaining how bad it was. You all most likely was doing the same damn thing with H2, F13, & NOES. So give me a freakin break!

  55. I just want to say Scream 4 SUCKED. Yeah Emma Roberts was brilliant as Jill, but the script was worst piece of shit I had ever seen. And the dialogues? American Pie movies have better dialogues! I am gonna put my blame on Kruger and Weinsteins for ruining the movie.

    Seriously the movie had great actors doing and saying most ridiculous things throughout the movie. Scream 1 also had flaws but it is Godfather considered to this crap.

  56. @J, Jill, like her or not is written by kevin Williamson and it does feel like Williamson’s cynicism coming out from Jill, but unfortunately Emma Roberts had difficulty portraying the character fairly. Her acting is not so good. I’m not sure she would have roles or work if she wasn’t Julia Robert’s niece. I think Emma should have played one of the girls who were murdered in the STAB 5 opening, and cast one of the ABC family “Pretty Little Liars” actress for the role of Jill. Thought she was prettier and have depth than the boring Emma Roberts.

  57. I thought Emma was great as Jill and I have yet to read someone really give a good reason to why they thought she wasn’t very good as Jill.

  58. @jill roberts fan she wasn’t believable @ all. I could tell she was acting the whole time. she was forcing herself to look like a psycho unlike the other actors who were killers especially skeet ulrich and matthew lillard. she only belongs in teen dramas on abc family, not in respectable horror franchises like scream. Her as the killer is a huge letdown. s4 is like watching a sequel to halloween and finding out at the end that the man behind the mask wasn’t michael myers. I mean after 3 movies I thought they would award the fans with a real psycho, not a fragile teenager whining about her boyfriend. Neve Campbell looked more like a killer in the hospital than emma did, and when the main character is stronger than the killer, it destroys the movie. The other killers really made sid fight 4 her life. emma was just fake.

  59. Has everyone forgotten the reason Sid couldn’t fight was that Jill stabbed her pretty deeply after she got away from Charlie? LIke I said before if it had been a fair fight Sid would have won but that was what made Jill great she was smart and made sure she had wonded her badly and she was suffering where she couldn’t fight. As for Emma I thought she was great but that JMHO.

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