Review: Scream 4 (2011)


I have to start this preamble with a bit of an apology. While I intended to cover all of the Scream movies as a lead-up to the sixth instalment, I’ve decided to hold off on my review of Scream (2022). The reason for this is that I’m seeing Scream 6 as part of a double bill with last year’s movie. I think this provides an invaluable experience to look at the film in the context of it being part of a newer (supposedly) trilogy of films. So, I apologize for that. So, with that said, have you seen Scream 4? Let me know in the comments below.


I adore Scream 4. And that feeling has not changed in the intervening years. In fact, since becoming more familiar with the horror genre, my esteem for it has only grown. For a series that’s had inconsistent sequels, Scream 4 represents a perfect melding of fulfilling drama and meta-commentary.

Taking place 15 years after the events of Scream, the third sequel sees Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) return to Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. Her sentimental visit turns into a vicious bloodbath as Ghostface (voiced by Roger L. Jackson) prays upon a new generation of teenagers, including Sidney’s distant cousin, Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts).

Part of Scream 4’s appeal comes from what it does with the notion of the Final Girl. While previous movies provided shading and a credible emotional context for the concept, the 2011 movie subverts the troupe. This is done in part by posing the question of how the Final Girl leaves a mark on the people around them. In the case of Sidney, how have her traumatic Ghostface incidents affected her family insofar as her aunt and cousin are concerned?

In a way, it’s left a long and lingering shadow for the pair. In terms of Sidney’s aunt, Kate (Mary McDonnell), she believes she’s been scarred by Sidney’s attacks and, by extension Maureen’s murder. In a sense, she feels she’s been left out and quietly speaks from the sidelines of her experiences (via one line where she says, “I’ve had scars too.”).

For Jill, it’s been a burden to live in Sidney’s shadow as she’s often been cited as an omnipresent figure to idolize and be like. To this end, Jill chooses to become like Sidney by taking on the Ghostface persona to stage a series of murders where she appears to be the victim. To achieve fame, Jill believes that messed up things have to happen to an individual, illustrating the all-consuming power of social media fame. In 2011 when the film came out, shows like the X Factor were famed for their performative circus qualities, whereby a bad act was denigrated and mocked. And in a post, Tik Tok era, Scream 4’s social commentary feels even more chilling when fame is presumed to be achieved by jumping on harmful viral trends.

At the same time, the meta and personal combine to create the idea of the horror remake (embodied by Jill) directly attempting to replace the original (Sidney). Scream 4 has many of these instances, whether it’s Sidney’s final line to Jill, “You forgot the first rule of remakes. Don’t fuck with the originals,” or Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) desperately reeling every horror remake during a tense phone call with Ghostface (during the tail end of the movie).

In a film that boasts a lot of excellent performances from the young cast, Hayden Panettiere stands out as Kirby. On the page, the character is a lighthearted and playful horror geek who likes to keep some people on their toes. Panettiere illustrates these qualities with subtle gestures that go a long way to make the character quite appealing. Emma Roberts is equally impressive in a surprisingly physical performance that speaks to Jill’s unrelenting desire to be famous.

David Arquette brings an authentic sense of world-weariness to Dewey without losing his nebbish and hopeful qualities. And Neve Campbell has a quiet intensity that imbues Sidney with a lot of dramatic weight. The most meaningful scene that illustrates this is when she has a catch-up conversation with Dewey. It speaks volumes in what is not said between the characters, the subtle what-ifs and chances that have passed both of them by (throughout the years).

Scream 4 represents Wes Craven’s last directorial effort in the series, and it’s pretty effective. I’ve liked how in previous films, Craven has brought a dreamy European flair to the filmmaking. In Scream 4, there’s less of a dreamy quality, and instead, some sequences are directed as though they would not feel out of place in an Italian horror picture. The most notable is a sequence in a hospital car park. With its use of yellow (via naturally lit car park lighting), insert shots of Rebecca’s shoes and protracted medium shots, the scene plays like a scene from a Giallo movie, as opposed to a conventual American slasher movie.


About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
This entry was posted in 2023, 2023 Reviews, Review, Reviews, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s