Meta 4: Wes Craven Takes Another Stab At ‘Scream’

The tagline for the original Scream is: “Someone has taken their love of scary movies one step too far.”

I’m about to do the same.

This is not a review, it’s a dissection. I’ll be spoiling just about everything about Scream 4 and other Scream films, in addition to the DVD bonus materials. You’ve been warned.

Herein I reveal just how deep my film geek roots go…

I’ve just watched Scream 4 on DVD, and right now, I could cut a bitch.

Why?

Because though the film makes mincemeat out of pretty young things like Anna Paquin, Shenae Grimes, and Hayden Panettierre, one victim has been butchered in far more egregious a fashion than any of these hottie stars, and that’s the film itself.

Whoever is responsible for the final cut of this film should be shot. And then shot again, lest they rise from the grave for One Final Scare, to ruin some other potentially-really-good movie.

It’s a lamentable hack job, and it didn’t have to be this way.

But before I go on, one thing: I do not hate Scream 4. I do not think it’s a bad movie. Overall, I enjoyed it. It’s a stronger entry in the series than Scream 3, that’s for sure, though it doesn’t live up to the heights of Scream and Scream 2. I’ll discuss my love for those films in an entirely separate post at some point, but for now just know that I had the highest of hopes for Scream 4, and when first I saw it in theaters, I was disappointed. There were flashes of meta-brilliance a la Scream and Scream 2, but overall, it felt incomplete. The characters often didn’t make sense, their arcs shoddy and rushed. The killer’s identity is clever, but there’s not much buildup to it. It’s a little out-of-left-field. There are too-jokey moments that take us out of the movie. Suffice to say, there are a few problems.

And like I said: it didn’t have to be this way.

As it turns out, the script was more complete than the finished version of Scream 4 would have us believe. It’s just that they cut out most of the moments that made it all make sense, along with a lot of important materials that tied it to the rest of the franchise.

Thanks, guys. It’s not like these films defined the way an entire generation watches movies or anything.

The film opens with two girls (Lucy Hale and Shenae Grimes) having a Scream-typical meta-discussion about horror movies, defining Stab‘s place in the current “torture porn” climate. Then, the phone rings. Then, they die. It’s a little lame for the opening scene of a Scream film — but that’s okay, because really, it’s just the opening of Stab 6.

And that is an awesome opening for a Scream film. A total “gotcha.”

Next, Anna Paquin and Kristin Bell (the starriest cameos here) also have a meta-discussion about how lame the Stab movies are (apparently, the Stab franchise went on longer than Scream actually did). Paquin’s character complains about how these days, you can see all the scares coming, just before Kristin Bell pulls out a knife and stabs her in the stomach. “Gotcha” again. Awesome again. Technically, this makes no sense — it exists merely for shock value, and goes against all that is Scream. But that’s okay, because this is only the opening to Stab 7. (Not sure where Stab 7 would go from there, but whatever.) That this trick is done twice is a credit to screenwriter Kevin Williamson, always taking the audience’s expectations to that extra level and twisting them back around on us. Here we get the feeling that Scream 4 might just do these Stab openings again and again and again, and we might be fine with that. It’s a terrific way to open the film, establishing that over a decade later, Scream is still slicker than your average horror flick.

Or is it? Scream 4 rarely achieves the heights of that great opening sequence. Then again, great openings were always what Scream did best. (Scream 3 notwithstanding.) Following the fake-outs, two more girls die, for real this time. They’re both hot, blonde, and smart — but it doesn’t help. It’s a decent scene — but the alternate opening is better. (See below for a full run-down of what got cut.)

The murders of Jenny and Marnie (Aimee Teegarden and Brittany Robertson) coincide with the day Sidney Prescott (good ol’ Neve Campbell) returns to Woodsboro for the last stop on her book tour. (Now, I’m not sure why Sidney has to have a book, too; Scream already played the survivor-capitalizing-on-almost-dying with Gale, to much better effect. Couldn’t she be doing something else with her life? I dunno, teaching self-empowerment seminars for young girls or something?) Sidney is also staying with an aunt and cousin we never heard about in any of the other films, but fine. Bloody stuff turns up in the trunk of Sidney’s rental car, establishing that this ain’t no coincidence.

Like we had any doubt.It doesn’t take long for Ghost Face to start menacing the new generation of Screamlets, led by Emma Roberts as Jill Roberts (hmm), Sid’s cousin, and her snarky bestie Kirby, played by Hayden Panettierre and her kick-ass haircut (seriously, I think the haircut delivers at least half of Hayden’s flawless performance). Jill’s got a kinda-creepy, way-clingy ex-boyfriend named Trevor (Nico Tortorello) who is notably reminiscent of Skeet Ulrich’s Billy Loomis, and there are also two film geeks hanging around for old time’s sake — Charlie (Rory Culkin) and Robbie (Erik Knudsen). Oh, and there’s a hot girl named Olivia (Marielle Jaffe) who hangs with them, too — but you needn’t worry about her. She’ll be dead soon.

Meanwhile, Gale and Dewey have hit a rocky patch in their marriage, though we never find out much about it. Here to drive a wedge between them is perky Deputy Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton), who likes to bake lemon squares for Dewey. I have no idea what this character is doing in this movie. We already have plenty of cops, including Dewey (now a sheriff) and Adam Brody and Anthony Anderson. Do we need Deputy Hicks? Not even slightly. Deputy Judy Hicks seems to have wandered in from some other entirely different movie, one which doesn’t feature a woman being stabbed through the mail slot in her front door. Something PG-rated. She’s totally annoying and if her entire character was cut from the film, you’d never miss her. If Dewey really needed to flirt with another woman, why not Alison Brie as Sidney’s publicist? She’s a total bitch, the closest thing we’ve got to a Gale Weathers in this movie. (Our Gale has unfortunately softened quite a bit.) That would be meta. Or maybe a new hot reporter to give us echoes of the first film? This blonde rent-a-cop gives us nothing. Nothing but lemon squares, that is.

Anyway. Olivia dies, no one seems that upset, even though it is perhaps the most gruesome scene of the movie. Everyone gets back to life as usual pretty damn quickly. If Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven are trying to make the point that kids these days are too jaded and detached from reality to care when their peers are slaughtered, the movie never quite gets there. It just feels like lazy storytelling and actors who didn’t want to push themselves too far. (Cry, people!) Remember, the first Scream did a pretty excellent job of having the teenagers react to the deaths as if they actually mattered, even if they did soon go on with their lives and party as teens are wont to do. (Marco Beltrami’s mournful score helped with this.) Scream 3 and now Scream 4, on the other hand, pushed the tone too far in a comedic direction, not quite finding the right balance between keeping it real and keeping it clever. (Witness the scene in which Gale mutters to herself, “I still got it,” after delivering a not-nearly-as-jabby-as-it-should-be jab at Sidney’s publicist. The score basically gives her a “ba-dum-BUM!”, which only highlights a slightly awkward, not-that-funny moment as something that should have been much sharper.)

Gale decides she’s “going rogue” to solve the murders because Dewey won’t let her help, which doesn’t make much sense. Why won’t he? I blame blondie rent-a-cop, who should’ve stayed in some Alvin & The Smurfs or whatever movie where she belonged. Gale has the brilliant idea of asking the presidents of the heretofore-unmentioned cinema club (Robbie and Charlie, natch) if they can give her the names of some suspects who like horror movies. This goes nowhere, because she is asking the two biggest film nerds in the movie. Gee, Gale, don’t you think that if you’re looking for guys who like movies, the presidents of the cinema club might be your prime suspects? They’re also good friends with Jill! Go figure.Robbie and Charlie decide to carry on with their plans to throw a Stab-A-Thon screening even though it is incredibly obviously that somebody, or perhaps everyone, will die there. This is a stretch. One of the greatest problems of Scream 4 is that no one seems particularly concerned that they will die. (Sometimes not even while being stabbed.) Why aren’t these people constantly shitting themselves? They have every reason to believe that a psycho killer will be jumping out at them at any moment, yet no matter how many times this happens, no one takes such precautions as A) not wandering around in the dark by themselves, or B) carrying a firearm. You’d think Sidney would have ponied up for a pistol by now, right?

Anyway, surprise, Ghost Face shows up at Stab-A-Thon! (Take note of the set design — there are visual homages to Drew Barrymore and Rose McGowan’s death scenes, at least one girl dressed as Casey Becker, two guys as Dewey.) We see the hilar-ible opening scene of Stab starring Heather Graham again, then Ghost Face attacks Gale, but not fatally. This is a good indication that all the survivors from past Scream movies will make it out alive — now would be the time to kill Gale, if ever. I was quite adamant going into Scream 4 that Sidney and Gale be spared — it’s never fun when the survivor of a horror movie gets wasted in the next one. It invalidates their survival in the first place! But it might have been effective to do another Dewey and Gale death scene where he actually dies this time. (The Dewey’s-dead fake-out in the sound proof booth in Scream 2 is one of the series’ best scenes.) Because, let’s face it. Aren’t we tired of David Arquette by now? Killing Dewey would have been a much better way of helping us believe that Sidney was actually in jeopardy in the film’s climax. But alas, no.

Meanwhile, the cops played by Anthony Anderson and Adam Brody talk about the lack of rules in modern day horror movies. Movie cops usually die — unless they’re played by Bruce Willis. Naturally, Scream 4‘s movie cops are quickly offed as we know they must in this movie’s worst moment. Anthony Anderson gets stabbed in the forehead and then proceeds to crawl around and utter (directly to camera, no less), “Fuck Bruce Willis.” It’s the kind of line that belongs in a Scary Movie, not a Scream movie. It’s one of several moments in Scream 4 that seems like Craven & co. forgot which they were making.

The cops’ deaths conveniently leave Kate and Sidney vulnerable to an attack by Ghost Face. Kate is stabbed through the mail slot of her front of the door in one of the movie’s best kills. (Mary McDonnell’s facial expression is super eerie — she ain’t phoning it in.) Sidney rushes off to go find Jill at Kirby’s house.

Which brings us to the house party, a staple in all Screams. Kirby is trying to seduce Charlie, Robbie is wandering around drunk filming stuff, Trevor shows up thanks to a mysterious text from Jill, and Jill is searching for her missing phone. (Missing phones in Scream 4 are curiously never blamed on Ghost Face.) Robbie is the first go — stabbed in the chest while wearing a Stab T-shirt, he shouts “I’m gay!” just before the kill, hoping that appeals to Ghost Face’s “rules.” It’s a little too comedic to be believed, but it plays better than that Bruce Willis line, at least.In the nick of time, Sidney shows up. Jill hides upstairs while Kirby and Sidney lock themselves in downstairs. Charlie appears from outside, hands bloody, begging to be let in. Kirby’s smart enough not to do this. (Did I mention yet that Kirby is awesome?) Charlie gets attacked and tied to a chair, a la Steve in the first scene of Scream, and Kirby takes a call from Ghost Face. Horror trivia, focusing on remakes. Yes! Here we go. Hayden Panetierre’s performance here is remarkable — she’s committed to the reality of the situation in a way that few of the other actors (including the returning ones) are. Kirby is far and away the best character in this movie, including the survivors from the original trilogy, and here’s her moment to shine.

Alas, it’s all too brief. Kirby thinks she got the answer right and goes outside to save Charlie. Surprisingly enough, Ghost Face is not out there, waiting. But Charlie is. He stabs Kirby in the stomach with a big ol’ knife and leaves her to die.

Next, Charlie comes after Sidney and another Ghost Face appears. It’s Jill. (A genuine surprise.) She’s got Trevor locked in a closet, intending to frame him for the murders as revenge for cheating on her. She kills him, but not before shooting him in the crotch first. Feminism at its finest! Jill’s motive? Become famous via being a victim, a la Sidney. Charlie and Jill channel Billy and Stu as Jill stabs Charlie — to his surprise, in the heart, not the shoulder. Jill wants to be the sole survivor. Charlie dies. (Rewatching the film, it’s pretty clear that Charlie committed nearly all of the previous murders, because Jill is always otherwise engaged.) “Your ingenue days are over,” Jill tells Sidney just before stabbing her in the gut. (It’s funny/tragic because it’s true.)What follows is a brilliant sequence, the kind of thing we haven’t seen before in Scream, breathing some new life into the series. It’s the killer, Jill, wounding herself and setting the crime scene. It’s over-the-top and delicious — funny, grounded, and gruesome at the same time, as Scream always is at its best. As the police arrive, Jill lies next to Sidney’s body, the “victim” cousins. She’s taken out on a stretcher, with a media storm outside, flashbulbs in her face. We wonder — is this possibly the end of the movie?

Nope. Jill wakes up in the hospital, with Dewey watching over her. Dewey tells Jill that Sidney’s still alive. Bad news for Jill’s plan.

Jill sneaks up to Sidney’s room in the curiously dark, curiously deserted hospital. (Isn’t it always that way in movies?) Catfight! Dewey attempts to intervene, but Jill knocks him out with a bedpan. “This is just silly,” Jill says, truthfully. This scene is riiight out of a soap opera. (But to be honest, once Ghost Face is unmasked, Screams are never scary; the weakest link in every movie.) Gale attempts to stop the madness but only gets herself held at gunpoint. Ditto Deputy Judy Hicks — ah, yes, she’s still alive. Apparently they needed one of the non-returning cast members to kill off in the finale.

Except Judy Hicks does not die. Dammit! Of all the people I was looking forward to being gutted, too. She gets shot in the chest, but she’s wearing a bulletproof vest. Bitch. This is one of those scenes where the villain talks a lot instead of shooting everyone, even though she plans to kill them anyway. It really doesn’t belong in a Scream movie. Why did Hicks have to show up, anyway? Wasn’t Gale enough? But then Sidney electrocutes Jill with a defibrillator (that’s pretty cool) and this movie’s best line is uttered: “You forgot the first rule of remakes. Don’t fuck with the original.” (An idea I wish had been weaved into the script more prior to this, since the whole “remake” idea is mostly lost in the theatrical cut of the movie.) This is way more satisfying than it really deserves to be.The films ends on a chilling note, with reporters still calling Jill a “victim” and “hero,” not yet informed of the truth. It gives you something to chew on at the end of the movie about our current culture climate, even if, again, Scream 4 doesn’t totally earn this. If you only watched the opening sequences and the very end, you might think Scream 4 had a lot to say about the current teen generation. When, in fact, it does not.

So that’s Scre4m in a bloody nutshell. Lots of good stuff that doesn’t totally cohere. Why, for example, does the worst character (Deputy Hicks) survive, while the best character (Kirby) dies? (Along with every single other new character — jeez.) HOWEVER — I am delighted to report that Kirby may not be dead, in fact. Wes Craven and Hayden Panettierre both confirm on the DVD’s Director’s Commentary that Kirby is “still twitching” when we leave her and she might be back for Scream 5.

This better be the case. Or I’ll cut a bitch.

*

There’s almost certainly a better cut of Scream 4 that existed at some point. Certainly one was possible, given the footage shown in the DVD’s deleted scenes. Instead, the emphasis was placed on corny jokes and lackluster kills, excising the sorts of moments that made the original films so great in the first place.

What follows is a detailed account of these deleted scenes and why most of them should have stayed in the movie.

The deleted opening: Marnie gets a call from Ghost Face — but it’s just Jenny upstairs, pranking her. Jenny hears Marnie scream downstairs and rushes to see what’s happened. She finds Marnie, dead on the floor — but it’s a prank again, obviously. The girls banter some more, then Ghost Face appears behind Jenny. “Okay, assholes, real original,” Marnie says, as Ghost Face stalks closer clutching a knife. He stabs Jenny, who screams and struggles, as Marnie just watches, saying, “Jenny, you’ve already had your chance to scare me.” With Jenny dead, Marnie realizes she’s in real danger — but too late. Ghost Face stabs her, and she falls to the ground. “You’re not real,” she says, just before she dies. Cue Scre4m title card. Bad ass.

The opening in the actual film: Marnie gets a call from Ghost Face — but it’s just Jenny upstairs, pranking her. Jenny hears Marnie scream downstairs and rushes to see what’s happened. Marnie is gone. Jenny gets a call from Ghost Face, thinking it’s Marnie. Until Marnie’s body crashes through the window, that is. Jenny runs upstairs, then falls down into the garage with a stab wound. She crawls for her life through the garage, but obviously doesn’t make it. She screams as Ghost Face stabs one last time.

Why the original is a thousand times better: Umm, hello! This entire opening sequence is about the hall-of-mirrors effect with girls commenting on the effect of horror movies. Basically, that “kids these days” are desensitized to them. What more chilling way to demonstrate this than have a girl watch as her friend is stabbed to death, and just roll her eyes and make sarcastic quips? It’s totally real and believable. Then, as she realizes the truth just before she herself is about to die, she whispers: “You’re not real…” And the knife comes down. Brutal. That sets up the whole theme of the movie! Unlike the Stab movies these characters watch, these deaths are real. That’s always been the dichotomy Scream plays with — the genius moment when the victims stop joking around and realize this is real life. And this is sacrificed for a little bit more of a chase sequence (not a great one, at that) featuring a character we know is about to die anyway? The original opening feels different than the Stab opening we started out with — two random girls dying; the version they used is about the same, just two more girls dying. No more clever or original. Besides, Marnie is the smarter, more interesting character, so she should be the last to go. Lame.

*

The scene: Dewey and Gale have a discussion in their bathroom, establishing Gale’s writer’s block and her overall moodiness. Dewey mentions that Sidney hasn’t been back to Woodsboro since her father passed away.

Why it’s important: Sidney’s father is dead? Thanks for explaining that elsewhere in the movie, guys. Oh wait — you didn’t. Kind of an important detail, right?

Putting that blunder aside for a second — without this scene, Dewey and Gale’s marriage isn’t set up at all, and the conflicts that come later in the movie between them feel false. This moment gives us an everyday slice-of-life in their relationship, before people start getting cut to ribbons in Woodsboro again. It shows us that Gale is none too happy with small-town married life, and that’s why she has nothing to write about. She’s traded her career for her relationship — so, when people start dying again, Gale is partially delighted that she has her “old self” and her purpose back. But without seeing that she’s changed and become a bored housewife in the first place, that whole effect is lost. This scene may seem fairly minimal, but it goes a long way in explaining where these characters are coming from. Bad cut.

The scene: Dewey goes to the crime scene, sees Marnie’s body hanging from the ceiling fan, Jenny’s propped up in a chair — not how they were actually killed. Ghost Face did this to mimic the first killings in Scream, where Casey (Drew Barrymore) was hung from a tree and her boyfriend was gutted in a chair. On the wall, written in blood, is “What’s your favorite scary movie?” There’s also a little more Dewey/Hicks stuff.

Why it’s important: You know how I feel about Hicks — the latter part of this scene was totally expendable. HOWEVER. Wes Craven sounds rather sad when referring to this in the commentary: “It eventually went away.” I can see why. Isn’t this whole movie about a “reboot” of Scream? Isn’t the killer’s whole motive to become the victim, a la Sidney Prescott? In order to do this, she’s recreating the original Woodsboro murders.

Except she’s not, in the finished cut of the film. The deaths have nothing to do with the original film, and all of that subtext is lost. Thus her whole plan to “become” Sidney makes much less sense, because we never see it. With this aspect, Scream 4 takes on a meta level of cleverness that the first two Screams shared; without it, it’s a rather rote slasher flick with a few wry moments of self-consciousness (mostly, just in the opening). Way to cut all the intelligence out of the movie, Bob Weinstein. (I am uninformedly but probably correctly blaming this on him.)

Also, the gruesomeness of the crime scene adds a little pathos. It’s a recall of the way Casey’s murder sent shock waves through Woodsboro in the first film — and how her death was actually tragic, to the characters and the audience. Seeing her strung up from a tree was brutal enough to earn the original cut an NC-17. This movie, by contrast, feels too glib and breezy when it comes to murder. Exactly like the Saw films it criticizes in the opening. Awful, horrible, unforgivable cut.

The scene: We see a memorial to Principal Himbry (Henry Winkler) before a longer version of the hallway exchange between Trevor and Jill.

Why it’s important: The Trevor and Jill stuff isn’t that important, but the nod to Himbry is. This is not merely a clever wink to the first Scream, but an important callback to the fact that tragedies really did occur here, and people cared enough to tribute it in this way. We need to feel the history of those other murders for these characters and this story to make sense. Otherwise, everything that happens in Scream 4 feels strangely weightless. Terrible cut! Especially since showing the statue took mere seconds, and it’s totally funny, too.

*

The scene: Jill, Kirby, Olivia, Charlie, Robbie, and Trevor have a discussion about “the rules” of horror movies around a fountain, a shout-out to the original Scream.

Why it’s important: I’m sorry, I thought this was a Scream film. I thought it was key to the franchise to have a scene like this, in which the teens compare their lives to horror movies and talk about the “rules.” I thought that no Scream film would dare excise that out of the film, at least. It’s also the only scene that establishes all these people as friends, which is sort of important to develop the characters and their relationships with one another. Another instance of all the stuff mirroring the original Scream was cut out, while they leave rebooting Scream as the killer’s motivation. (I would raise issue with Olivia’s final line “Time for someone new to die” as being too jaded, except that she is actually the next to die, so it’s a nice bit of foreshadowing.) Bad cut.

The scene: The cops prep Kate and Jill’s house, making sure it’s secure. Meanwhile, Sidney looks at Kate’s photos of Maureen Prescott. Sidney’s publicist asks Sid if she wants to stay in the hotel room she booked for her; Sidney declines. An ominous knock at the door shows the police actually doing their job well, for once — but it’s only Dewey, testing them. He ushers Kirby in.

Why it’s important: Craven says this film was cut for time, and mentions the scene with Hicks lurking upstairs and scaring Sidney as its “replacement.” I guess they kept it to make her seem spooky, and as we know from “Debbie Salt” in Scream 2, it is possible for goofy throwaway characters to turn out to be the killer. But that’s stupid.

The moment with Hicks is awkward. It does nothing except set her up as a red herring, and a pretty bad red herring, at that. All killers in Scream movies have an important motive. We know (or at least pray) that Scream 4 would not be dumb enough to make this random blonde cop who bakes lemon squares the killer. It’s going to be somebody tied to Sidney, or someone who echoes the first film somehow — one of the teens or a family member. That’s all. We do not need blondie cop to lurk around and be all weird about going to high school with Sidney. This character doesn’t matter. What matters is Sidney remembering her mother, who was indirectly responsible for the murders in all three movies. I mean, jeez, you don’t think it’s important to at least mention Maureen Prescott? Or Sidney’s father? Again, the visual callback takes only seconds, yet makes a world of difference in acknowledging the prior films and what these characters have been through.

Also, this scene solves two other important logic problems. One, we learn that Kirby’s parents are out of town and she doesn’t want to be alone. Hey, a character is actually being smart! This would have been a nice way to counterbalance all the other times when these characters are stupid. I know it’s a horror film, and they have to be stupid sometimes, but the other Scream movies had people being smart just as often so wasn’t so annoying. Here, stupidity outweighs intelligence, like, 5-to-1.

Secondly, the police work in this movie feels awfully shoddy. Again, yes, a trope of the genre. But setting up that Dewey and his force were actually attempting to do a good job at protecting these people is actually kind of important to feel that this movie is happening in the real world. Really bad cut.

The scene: Right after Olivia dies and the police are on the scene, Kate approaches Jill and Sidney in tears, apologizing because she had a glass of wine and a sleeping pill and didn’t hear anything while her daughter, niece, and Kirby were screaming their heads off witnessing Ghost Face’s slice-and-dice of Olivia. It’s notable that she’s wearing a leopard print robe, because only a certain kind of mother ever would.

Why this is important: We learn that Kate is a boozy, pill-popping mom. Hmm, might this be a strong motivation for how her daughter turns into a psychopath? If Jill is upstairs being menaced by a psycho killer and her mom is passed out on the couch without a clue, can we understand why Jill might feel the need to do something like, say, stage a mass murder and pretend to be the victim just to get a little attention? It’s also a nice way to recall Maureen — we wonder if both these girls were bad seeds, or if Kate is still numbing the pain of losing her sister. It also might explain why she wasn’t around in previous Scream movies to support Sidney through almost being killed several times, if you want to read that deeply into it. Senseless cut.

*

The scene: Hicks wonders why Olivia’s body had a doggy door around its neck. Dewey has to explain that it’s an “homage” to his sister Tatum, who was killed via garage door in Scream.

Why it’s important: Craven tells us in the commentary that Bob Weinstein “didn’t think this was important.” Clearly, Bob Weinstein didn’t think a lot of things were important, including logic, a theme, and character development. Yes, it’s a bit lazy to explain after the fact that Olivia’s body had a doggy door around its neck, and a bizarre callback in the first place. But it’s better than nothing. Even more importantly, though, is to remember that Dewey’s sister was murdered in the original film. It’s the only mention of Tatum in this movie, yet another way in which Scream 4 is distancing itself from the predecessors, when it should be embracing as many ties to the original trilogy as it could. (Especially considering how the killer’s entire motivation hinges on that.) These are the moments that remind us that these characters aren’t just stock figures in another slasher flick, but survivors who have lost people they loved. Bad cut.

The scene: Gale starts doing her reporter schtick, asking the young cops for the scoop. They dismiss her.

Why it’s important: It’s not. Good cut.

*

The scene: Trevor comes to see Jill in the hospital, where she is suspicious of him since the killer’s call came from his phone. Jill says: “I don’t want to be a victim, I just want to get out of this stupid town.” Trevor says something about lightning striking twice, which makes Jill freak out because Sidney used that very expression in her book!

Why this is important: As Craven says in the commentary, “The upside of the scene is, it gave a moment where you sense that there actually was a relationship, and attraction.” Bingo! Considering that the finale hinges on Jill framing Trevor for the murders, it might be rather crucial to establish this. Also, the echoes of Sidney and Billy here are stronger than elsewhere in the film, and it’s retroactively fun to see Jill planting evidence against Trevor. This scene is a bit long, but I’m sure there was a way to trim it down while still keeping the most crucial moments. Bad cut.

*

The scene: Gale approaches Sidney about finding the killer in the school’s cinema club.

Why it was important: Well, it is kind of random that Sidney pops up up at the movie club the next day, but the film needed to be shorter, this could go. Good cut.

The scene: Charlie and Robbie try to convince Kirby to come to Stab-A-Thon. Kirby flirts with Charlie, ending the scene with, “You like that, don’t you? Suspense?” to which he replies, “Yes. I do” A good moment of foreshadowing.

Why it was important: It adds a little to our understanding of why the guys would carry on with the Thon even though it is blatantly obvious that Ghost Face will show, and also why, knowing that, anyone would go. But Kirby explains it in a later scene anyway. A better scene would have seen Robbie rethinking Stab-A-Thon and Charlie (the killer) convincing him to go along with it, citing that showing up there would be too predictable, or something. But whatever. Fine cut.

*

The scene: Trevor and Jill talk. More business about who’s phone is where.

Why it’s important: Well, Trevor and Jill do disappear for an awfully suspicious amount of time. While this entire scene isn’t necessary, briefly cutting to them would have been nice so that we know where they are and what’s taking so long. Trevor just up and vanishes from the movie as is.

*

The scene: Robbie wanders around, with Ghost Face lurking in the background. He comes across Trevor searching for his phone.

Why it’s important: It’s not, really. Though, again, it does help explain why everyone is gone for such a curiously long time.

*

Alternate ending: A strangely sunny, poorly-written moment between Gale, Dewey, and Sidney in the hospital. More shit about lemon squares. Totally unnecessary. Best cut.

So, in conclusion:

Sometimes the studio is right, often it isn’t. I won’t pretend to know what went on behind the scenes at Dimension, but I am pretty sure Kevin Williamson isn’t satisfied with the results, and that’s because there were some very bad decisions made in post-production (and possibly even beforehand). Ehren Kruger, the writer who did a pretty average job on Scream 3 (inferior to Scream and Scream 2 in every way, including Gale’s haircut), was hired to do some uncredited rewrites, and I have chosen to blame him for most of this script’s hammier moments. After all, he was responsible for a lot of shlock in the third Scream.

And that’s the most meta thing of all. A Scream movie being butchered by the studio. “Cut for time.” Clearly Bob Weinstein thought the kills were the most important thing to Scream‘s audience; they sacrificed the rest of the story to keep all the blood-letting and even went back and re-shot a couple scenes to make them longer. But it was never really the gore or body count that made the Scream films notable — those things can be found anywhere. Such films are a dime a dozen. Scream 4 makes fun of Saw and all the terrible, hack-job remakes we’ve seen over the years, and then what does Dimension do? It loses faith in its audience, and decides to make Scream 4 just like those brainless, soulless movies.

It didn’t have to be this way.

It just makes me wanna scream.

*

4 replies »

  1. Loved this post.

    Especially this line:
    That’s always been the dichotomy Scream plays with — the genius moment when the victims stop joking around and realize this is real life.

    I now, almost, want to get the DVD, to see these other films. But, I more want to rewatch the first two.

    (You didn’t mention your haircut theory, though)

    • Haha. I looked EVERYWHERE for that graphic I made for the Pre-Game… it seems to have disappeared. But I’ll write another post on the entire Scream series and include my theory there.

      I appreciate Scream 4 more now that I’ve seen the deleted scenes. Now I can watch the movie and know that they filled in a lot of stuff and just stupidly cut it out. I want them to do a director’s cut or something. You are welcome to watch my DVD if we are in the same city ever…

  2. GREAT post. Ugh, Scream 4 could have been so much more! I still kinda like it, but still. If it is really the last movie in the original franchise(as there will be a remake/reboot sometime relatively soon, of course…), at least these cuts would have made it feel more, uh, ”natural”. And if it ended 10 minutes earlier, wow, that would have been epic! But then again, Scream 5 would have been a must. The way Scream 4 ended in reality is, let’s say, fine. That is, if it’s the last one.
    Keep screaming. :]

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