Scream 4, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb

Written by Liver Alone for Scream-Trilogy

So I’m casually browsing the web when I hear that Paranormal Activity 3 garnered a smashing $50 million opening weekend at the North American box office, and as a Scream fan, all the bitterness and swallowed pride from six months prior came rummaging back up.  You see, in the run up to Scream 4‘s release I had gotten my hopes up that the movie would bring back the series’ box office glory days and be the first unambiguous horror movie to smash the $50 million mark on its opening weekend.

It didn’t happen.  It really didn’t happen.

In fact, Scream 4 became arguably the biggest surprise disappointment in recent box office memory.  What’s worse, it seemed like the movie would always fall just short of any kind of silver lining, as if there were nothing we could point to in which we could say, “well, at least it’s doing that well.”  Maybe it’ll at least get a $20 million weekend, that still sound somewhat impressive, right?  No, the estimate turned out to be $19 million.  Well, at least it’s practically $20 million, right?  The actual number turned out to be $18 million.  Well, maybe it’ll have legs like the first Scream!  Instead, the film wound up closing at $38 million, which is about how much most people predicted for its first weekend.

The three films in the Scream trilogy are still the biggest slasher films ever at the box office.  Scream 4?  #20.

The aftermath is almost as bad.  When films bomb, support gets pulled, and Scream 4 is no different.  Despite a generally favorable critical reception, Scream 4 was passed over in awards it should have been up for (the recent Scream Awards snub being the biggest sting, I mean come on) and generally wound up being quietly dropped from the media consciousness.

Paranormal Activity 3‘s success may have brought back these bitter feelings for a bit, but it helped when I recalled what helped me get over them in the first place.  First off, it’s good to have a bit of perspective: as disappointing as its takings are, Scream 4 was still seen and appreciated by millions of people worldwide.  Even more than that, though, there are possible good things to come out of even this situation:

Scream 4 has the makings of a cult hit.

It’s weird to think of the most mainstream horror series having an entry that could be considered a ‘cult’ favorite, and perhaps it’s not the best descriptor.  But it has the qualities of a film whose reputation in the long run overshadows its tepid box office reception in its infancy: think Blade Runner, The Thing, or The Shawshank Redemption.

The majority of reviews for Scream 4 were positive, and what’s more, the positive reviews were a lot more enthusiastic than the negative ones.  Add in that the negative reviews seemed like they weren’t sure what to make of the movie (the most common complaint was that in the end, the movie hadn’t really shaken things up cast-wise, even though that was kind of the whole point of the movie).

Generally, when a film gets mixed reviews, the most passionate response is the one that sticks.  Believe it or not, Star Wars Episode I was not nearly as poorly received as you might think: it’s just that the portion of the audience that was disappointed was much more passionate in their opinion than those that liked it.  The result? Years later, Episode I is mostly remembered as a near-disaster.

This bodes well for the future of Scream 4, as its advocates are a lot more fervent than its detractors.

The Scream saga is fine as it is.

I never really needed a Scream 4. I was happy that we got one, and a part of me always assumed that there would be one someday in a Halloween: H2O fashion, but it wouldn’t have bothered me if it didn’t happen.  The story of Scream had wrapped up in the prior trilogy, and we got to see our characters enter “happily ever after.”

Had Scream 4 been a smash, the Weinsteins would have immediately greenlit a Scream 5.  But if I didn’t really need a Scream 4, I really don’t need a Scream 5 or 6Scream 4 is a fine reunion movie, an epilogue to the series.  What place is there for a Scream 5?  Where do you go from here?  How do you justify the same events happening over and over again without it getting ridiculous?

It’s telling that a lot of casual moviegoers’ first reaction to the Scream 4 marketing was, “Scream FOUR?”  I think for many people Scream was the “smart” horror movie. It’s the series that knew better than to overstay its welcome: no characters came back as a zombie, Sidney and friends didn’t get launched into space, and–this one a fact celebrated and flaunted by Scream 4 itself–it didn’t get rebooted.  Even Scream 4 was a bit much for many to swallow, let alone a fifth or sixth iteration.

Especially considering Wes Craven’s ideas for the future include possibly killing off the main characters (because dumping on a prior movie’s ending worked well in other series, right?), it seems, now more than ever, we should leave Scream be with its dignity intact.  If it takes Scream 4 bombing in order to achieve that, then so be it.

Scream‘s coronation

My favorite thing about Scream 4‘s release, beyond even the film itself, is that it brought about a collective cultural retrospective of the original trilogy, especially the first film.  Not only did we get two awesome documentaries about the series, the plethora of marketing for Scream 4–the TV interviews, the magazines, the blogs–doubled as a look back at the movie series that redefined horror and shook up the film medium 15 years prior.

The veneration of Scream is something that isn’t marred by Scream 4‘s box office upset.  In fact, Scream 4‘s release helped bring it about even earlier.  I think Scream fans had always known the film would one day be considered a bona fide classic.  That day has come.

“Liver Alone” is the alias of Scott Kessinger, who is the author of the book Scream Deconstructed: An Unauthorized Analysis.

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42 Responses to “ Scream 4, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb ”

Reader Advisory: Comments may contain SCREAM 4 SPOILERS
  1. Considering I was very disappointed with “Scream 4″ (the original cast all surviving in the end NOT being a factor or complaint for me personally), at this point I would have preferred if they would have left it as a trilogy.

  2. I have to respectfully disagree with this article. You can look at it from any perspective, but Scream 4 was a mistake – not the fact that there was a fourth film in the series, but the final result. The Weinsteins NEVER should have never chosen a release date before the movie started filming. This movie should have been done around Kevin Williamson’s schedule and should have never come out until he was 100% happy with it. That’s what made the original so good. With the Weinsteins butting in and Ehren Krueger and Wes Craven stepping in to do rewrites, the movie was destined to be a success. Promotion for the movie was a joke. I didn’t see a TV spot for it until a week and a half before its release. They should have been hyping it up for months. So many mistakes were made, but the biggest mistake was creating a new trilogy to begin with. With the way Scream 4 ended, they HAVE to make a Scream 5 and 6.

  3. *destined to be a flop.

  4. I do believe they should make a new one. This one ended good, for me, but I think it really has some bad things in it. The “remake” of the original, it wasn’t developed well, the cuts sure. The police, still coming late.
    I hope they do the opposite of the movies right now, or poke fun of it not doing the same as them without the poking.
    I want a more Scream movie, though I like Scream 4 very much.

  5. Great Article! I love Scream to death, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a Scream 5 or 6, but I’m like LiverAlone- when Scream 4 was greenlit I was actually really mad. Personally, I loved Scream 3, and I loved that it ended happy. Scream 4 acts a good ender to the series as well, if only for the sake of the characters being in positions where they can still live happily ever after. So with that said, if Scream 5 and 6 were to be made they’d have to be very delicate about how to handle the characters. Also I too was more than enraged when PA3 made $50 million- Scream 4 was MUCH more deserving. Scream 4 wasn’t made for the sake of profit.

  6. I think Scream 4 is only the starting point. To be clear, a lot of people I know who haven’t watch the original trilogy enjoyed Scream 4 and they instantly watched the first three films – and enjoyed it. Scream was dormant for 11 years and audiences were like “What the..” – the reason of the box office disappointment. But I do believe that Scream 4 opened the public’s consciousness again about the Scream franchise. So if they are going to make a 5 and 6 – then I think its box office would do better.

  7. @Steven, i Agree with one hundred percent. The reason why PA3 did so well is because the new genaration of the teen audience already have it established in there head. Scream was made 15 years ago and most of the teens who wach horror movies wern’t even born. This generation from the year 2001-2011 only know what came out in the past ten years. When scream 4 hit theatres most of the teens barley knew what it was, what got there attention was the 4. Teens were shocked at horror movie they never seen before.

    Scream 4 may have not done well at the box office but the orginal trilogy DVDS made more money this year, and its halloween costume is now sold in almost every hallween store. Scream 1 may reinvented horror but Scream 4 reinvented Scream. So if The Weinsteins reading this, if you greenlite a Scream 5 you will draw in more veiwrs just because its a cult fallowing. Just look at Jenny and Marnies death scene.

  8. I agree with everything mentioned here. I used to work at the movie theatre, and I started seeing trailers for the film only a month before the film actually came out. And mind you, the trailer was only attached to one film rather than EVERY film we had. The poster was also put up about a month before as well, and the reaction most people had were “WTF?” Personally, I think the release date of SCRE4M was bad. They SHOULD NOT have released the movie during the Easter period. It was better off being released around the October-November mark (even though I would have been waiting longer for it lol). And, although I loved the film to death and thought it was better than 2 and 3, I felt the film was wayyy too rushed. We’ll see where things go for Scream 5 and 6. Hopefully the Weinstein’s can pick up their game and be smart with the next two

  9. All i ask is for nothing in the making of SCREAM 5 & 6 to be rushed

  10. I wouldn’t mind for this version of Scream to end, but there’s no way this franchise is going away for too long. Despite Scream 4’s horrible turn out because of it’s mediocre film, the trilogy made lots of money( this including Scream 3 which was released in February 2000), and I doubt the Weinsteins will let this property be put to rest.

    They will eventually re-invent the property for a new generation. I just hope Wes Craven stays as far away from the new films as possible.

  11. You guys just need to calm down and watch this:

  12. The marketing for Scream 4 was really lackluster. I barely saw any TV spots before it’s release and the TV spots that were shown pretty much spoiled certain death scenes. I have to admit I was a little surprised at the midnight turnout on opening night. Despite the lack of promotion I still believed Scream 4 would be a sold out show and have a packed house but instead only us diehard Scream fans were there which filled only half the seats. Which means the promotion of the film failed to gain the new generation audience by its lack of promotion. Had they advertise the hell out of the movie and advertise it months before its release (not just the month of its release) I’m sure the new generation audience would have become interested and probably would have been able to catch up on the franchise with early promotions.

    However, despite the box office results and lack of promotion, my feelings for Scream 4 is all that I cared about at the moment and I honestly love Scream 4. I didn’t “love” it at first. At first I liked Scream 4 but after multiple viewings my like grew into love. I slowly started to see the genius and clever storytelling. Scream 4 cleverly touched on the new generations love for media, technology and social networks and Hollywood’s love for remakes and reboots.

  13. Call me crazy but maybe Scream 4 Washington a flop because it was…BAD? Yeah, it was lackluster and boring.

  14. I don’t see part 5 happening now. KW is busy as a bee. He could barely juggle 1 TV show and S4. He’ll never be able to handle 2 shows plus a script. It just feels like nothing is happening.

  15. I’m sorry if there are haters of Scream 4, but I thought it was a great way to end it. Could have easily replaced the god-awful Scream 3, which, besides the opening kills, did not feel like a Scream movie at all. Granted, the circumstances revolving around Columbine forced it to be toned down. but really. Alot of people missed out who shouldn’t have. I think it was released at the wrong time of the year. If they waited til now to release it, it would have been the blockbuster it should have been. My vote-LIVER ALONE! No Scream 5.

  16. Scream 4 would have done a lot better if it was released in January. There’s not a lot of pressure and competition to make the film’s money back.

  17. Im happy either way more screams or not, frankly im happy with scream 4 as an ending,i thought apart from a few underdeveloped characters who died crappily, i think its much smarter than people give it credit for, i always wanted a smart enjoyable throwback ending for scream and it was mainly their in 4. For me i loved scream 3 for years when young, then in the build up to 4 i rewatched and after seeing 4, agai rewatched scream 3 to realise how much it resemble’s poorly plotted cheesy horror, that became to pg_13 for my taste’s, honestly i can enjoy on a fun passable horror level, but in the league of 1,2 & 4 its dumb as hell and very poor. for me 1,2 & 4 is the scream trilogy. and a damn good trilogy at that.

  18. i think scream 4 has helped the entire scream franchise especially with the new generation because now i see ghostface,scream merchendise everywere from halloween costumes to the movies when not to long ago i couldnt find nothing to do with scream prior the 4th film. It also helped the older films out because when the younger generation hears about
    scream 4 and like it of course ther going to want to watch the other ones.

  19. I have my doubts. Scream 4’s ending was very open, we still have our main trio, we can do more with Judy Hicks & we still have no idea if Kirby is alive or dead. I think maybe they can make another despite it’s unsucessful box office rates. I have friends who had no interest in seeing Scream 4 when it hit theaters but now that’s it’s been out on DVD & BluRay for about a month now, they’ve all watched it & they got pretty into the movie, that they’d pay to see a 5th one. Promotion for the movie was terrible, I didn’t see any trailer till a week before the release date. SO they went really wrong with the promotion. People love Scream and love Wes Craven, I’m sure if Scream 5 were to come around the promotion for the film should be better. Psycho, Halloween and Scream being my favorite slasher films is the reason I bought a ticket to see this film. I still see hope in the franchise. I would like to see it end at 4 but I hate when things are left open or left into interpreation. I want a solid ending that closes and ties it all up. Saw and Final Destination are dead, those are ridiculously redundant, nothing you can do for those movies to save themselves. Never understood how audiences prefer to see horror movies that are repetetive and dumb rather than something really good. I notice that, the really good horror movies that get favorable reviews from critics & audiences don’t make a lot of money than the one that are either PG-13 and are panned and hated by critics. Hello! The negativety towards those movies didn’t warn you to save your money and watch something better.?!?! WTF?? Prom Night, When A Stranger Calls, Disturbia, Stay Alive all got crap reviews and still managed to make #1 at the box office there opening weekend. Scream 4, Last House on the Left, The Crazies, Piranha all got great reviews but bombed at the box office, not even #1 on there opening weekend. I don’t get it, it’s sad. Guarantee upcoming The Devil Inside will be stupid & people will still see it and will make more money than hell, Prometheus or something made by a director who is known to make good horror movies like Wes. I want to see another Scream movie happen, at least one more. If Kevin has laid out ideas I’m sure it’s great Halloween H20 was great, The Faculty GREAT, Urban Legends Interesting, I Know What You Did Last Summer Great, Scream Classic! & I couldn’t have wanted a better Director to direct Scream other than Wes Craven. Big fan! & will stay that way! SCREAM 5!!!

  20. To semi quote Mickey: ” The Paranormal Activity movies are the biggest bunch of Fucking….”

  21. Great article. I actually don’t get how so many fans are so excited about the idea of a possible Scream 5. Honestly, Scream 4 wasn’t exactly necessary and as stated in the article, there’s no more story to be told.

    Considering that all the Scream movies follows the exact same structure (and the 4th one was basicaly a ‘more of the same’ thing), I can’t see this keep on going without avoiding ‘deja vu issues’.

    The 4th movie was fun, it was good mix of sequel and reboot and for me it gave a great nostalgia feeling, but could’ve definetly benefit from a better screenplay and less unecessary characters.

    I actually considered part of the box office failure a good thing, because I thought maybe it would make the Weinsteins realise they should leave the series rest for good. But from I’ve heard, they are already planning a 5th movie…

    I really hope they drop the idea of continuing the franchise, because frankly, I really don’t how this would work anymore.

  22. Btw also scream 4 opened in japan on the 29th october and its nowhere to be seen in the charts, which would mean it didnt even make enough for the equivalent of $65. i dont see how ghostface as a horror classic is known over their, it was called Scream:the next generation. Im wondering if it hasnt been released?? or pulled altogether due to lack of promotion/interest.

  23. Please give me these next two films. The fans are still loyal and that’s what counts. These are amazing films! Who cares about critics when you have got fans on your side. I love these films so much (they are my favorite) and i really want these next two. Please :) :) :) :) :) I will be so disappointed if i don’t get the next one or the one after! :(

  24. Here’s something i keep seeing people say but i dont understand, that scream 4 tanked, horribly failed, disastrous turnout’s,mainly boxoffice failure….It was a disappointment, a disappointment, compared to the previous installments, a failure at boxoffice no way, a horror movie making just under £100m is no failure, its better than most with exception to any 3D horror that is final destination or saw and paranormal activity, apart from that its beaten all other slasher franchises/remakes that were all considered boxoffice success’s for horror (halloween, friday the 13th). And scream 4 compared to all those films is a much smarter film that will hold up in 10 years unlike the rest that’ll just be cheap and cheesy.

  25. Re: Seb,

    I think they probably just didn’t report the Japanese results or something. From looking at the Scream 4 Japanese blog, it sounds like the movie had a limited release at about a dozen theaters and although that’s not a lot, I have to think it’d make more than $65 from it! lol

  26. @Seb, Well said but the people who say things like that deny anything that can be considered decent/positive about Scream 4 but whatever let them think what they think. Scream 4 is good and it did do decent at the box office not as good as the first 3 but still decent.

  27. @Liveralone i was thinking it must be a small release but in terms of what it made on boxoffice mojo for japan boxoffice, it wasnt even top 19 and the film at the bottom was the smurfs that only made $65 that weekend thats why i said it must of made less than that. Sucks i was hoping it was a wide release get the few remaining millions for that 100m mark.

  28. @seb
    Yeah I’m thinking the Japanese numbers for Scream 4 just weren’t available or weren’t disclosed for whatever reason. Notice some of those movies on the chart have blank for “Last Week” position even though it says they’ve been out for a while, so it seems they don’t have access to every movie’s numbers for every week over there.

  29. @Liver Alone,I have a question for you what do you think is the biggest reason Scream 4 didn’t do as well in the box office as the first three Scream movies? For me I think the 11 years in between Scream 3 and Scream 4 was what hurt it the most I mean that’s a long time gone by in between sequels and of course that’s not the only thing. Great article by the way.

  30. Scream 4 was not “decent” at the box office, it didn’t even make it’s money back. It wasn’t even well received overseas. Using that word for Scream 4 is an understatement.

  31. @stephon irvin what are you on about, it more than made its money back, it only cost 40m and the advertising was obviously very cheap as it had a quite poor media campaign. it made 97m it made its money back and then some. almost 100m for a horror film is good. And it made more money internationally than domestically and was popular in the uk, france, germany. It’s not a smash hit like the original 3 but decent more than sums it up, Weinstein himself said they’d of liked more but it had done good enough.

  32. The main reason I think this movie failed was because it wasn’t scary in the slightest. They tried sooooo hard to comment on sequels, remakes, etc. that they forgot this is a horror movie. Scream 1 provided a lot of social commentary but it was very suspenseful and had really scary moments. Even Scream 3 was scarier than this and that says a lot. If you’re an intellectual, this movie is great. But if you’re a true horror fan and looking for a really scary film, this one fails. To me, this movie is a dark comedy not a horror movie.

  33. @Matthew: Oh man, that would be too long a post to outline everything that went wrong box-office wise with Scream 4, it might as well be its own article. I’ll think about writing one, though I dunno if people are tired yet of hearing about Scream 4’s box office. Stay tuned

  34. @Liver Alone, Yeah it probably would be a long post to talk about everything I was just curious to know what you think is the biggest reason Scream 4 didn’t do as well in the box office as the previous three. Id read that article if you made one about it.

    @Seb, See there you go lol.

  35. the answer to making the sequels good?/??? NOT FUCKING PUSHING KEVIN WILLIAMSON OUT!!! he created the fucking franchise- the weinsteins should work around his fucking schedule. omg, i will puke on a harvey weinstein if i ever meet him. i am still mad about him changing the scripts- YOU ARE NOT A FUCKING ARTIST OR WRITER, KEVIN WILLIAMSON IS!

  36. i disagree with all ya haters. this was my favorite one yet. alright, the original trilogy structures were better but the kills were better and hey, 38 million is better than anything below it. they still have money to make another scream film, and hopefully that one will earn money to make a new trilogy which is the plan. kevin williamson is a very talented writer. screw the weinsteins!

  37. and everyone, i know it was a long time for the 4th to come out, and it was, but its a remake trilogy. remakes come out a lot later than the original, 4 isnt a sequel, its a first part of a trilogy. thats probably why they waited.

  38. Oh wow, congratulations on the article. It is very well-written and embodies pretty much all of the feelings I myself had felt during Scream 4’s run in theatres. It was very disappointing for me as well, I secretely hoped it would also open to $50M+ and surprise everyone, but I guess we were the surprised ones after all.
    But we have to focus on what we have – a fine damn movie. For me I guess it IS the best since the original.
    I’m fine if S5 never comes to be, especially since I really liked S4, but, I have to confess, I would really really like to see it happening. S4 brought back all those feelings I’d had in the past towards the series, which had remained dorment… if at first I would have said “no” to 4, now I want 5 and 6. Sad but true.
    But, like you said in the article, maybe that’s a good thing, surely much better than having a “scream-resurrection” type of sequel.
    Anyway, thanks for the article. it’s great.

  39. @Liver-Alone, I only read this article today as I returned to Scream-Trilogy on a whim so uh I can only comment now. This was really an excellent balanced post, Mr Kessinger. I thought Scream 4 was a pretty good but flawed film that didn’t *really* have a pressing reason to exist. I liked it conceptually very much but the execution left something to be desired tho at least this time there *was* a neat concept behind it which is more than can be said for Scream 3 which was notable for Parker Posey and a nice performance from Neve but not much else but like I said you have to have more than just a concept and 4 didn’t *quite* have that with Mr Craven being off his game and Mr W’s script being lacking. Perhaps more development time and less meddling would have improved it perhaps not. There doesn’t seem to be a good creative reason to return to the well again or to try to squeeze the last bit of juice from the carton but that’s not to say someone won’t attempt to, this is the early 21st C after all. 3 and 4 do have their moments and the original is as good as it ever was with 2 having some of the wittiest and scariest scenes, still I don’t think there’s a need for more. Also tho 4 may not have been a b.o. attraction the Pirates sequels were and *they* were Real Crap so commercial success doesn’t prove anything! (Then again I didn’t even like the first Pirates heh heh heh)

  40. I loved Scream 4. I honestly think people just like to complain.

  41. yeah, it sucked and I’ve accepted that now. I’ll just have to pretend like it didn’t happen.

  42. Well it looks like Craven has said he will only direct the other two if the scripts are finalised and hopefully due o him being a legend in the horror genre the weinstein’s should not want to lose him and make ure the scripts are final before filming either.

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