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Why Scream 4 Made it Harder for Scream: The TV Series to Succeed

ghostface killer with his killing tool from the successful franchise scream by wes craven.

While the first season of MTV’s Scream opened to mixed reviews, those who stuck around for the second season were pleasantly surprised. I think, personally, that it is a strong show that gives us a new set of characters and new mythology while still giving us everything you need for it to truly feel like Scream. An updated Ghostface mask, a meta self-awareness of the genre, a whodunit structure—it’s all there in the show. Yet still, people are hesitant to jump on board. Even when its fans explain that its updating the concepts of Scream for the 2010s, people still don’t want to give it the time of day.

And while that’s frustrating and I wish that they would at least give it a shot, I also understand. Because that entire idea, updating those concepts, has already been done. We already have something that reinterprets Scream for a new generation and I think that’s ultimately what made the show such a hard pill to swallow for so many.

Scream 4 may have some very, very passionate detractors, but it was met with generally favorable responses. I think more works about it than doesn’t. You can still feel that sense of too much humor that plagued Scream 3, but it’s not overwhelming this time. There’s a legitimate sense of darkness to it and there are some genuinely grisly scenes. I think that balance between the two is what made the original work so well, and Scream 4 at least comes close to recapturing that.

Like the TV show, it gave us a new interpretation to focus on what was currently going on in the horror genre. To be more accurate, the movie was really trying to take a solid look at everything that had happened in horror since the franchise had been on hiatus. Because of that, there are some moments that feel too much like the writers are trying to play catch up, but most of the analysis is spot on.

Courtney Cox in Scream 4

Also very much like the TV show, it introduces us to a new cast of young teenagers who fill those typical Scream archetypes. The main difference, of course, is that we have the original cast reuniting as well. Sidney, Gale and Dewey are all back and it’s nice to see what’s happened to them in the decade since Scream 3.

But the new, teenage characters almost seem more interesting, and that’s where I think the idea of the TV series might have sparked with the higher-ups at Dimension. Ironically, bringing Sidney, Dewey and Gale back almost proved that you didn’t need those characters in order for Scream to work. In that respect, maybe it did help the TV series get off the ground.

Yet it was tough to really hit the right audience when it was giving them something they’d just seen and pretending it was brand-new.

Ghostface, the killer in Stab, as seen in Scream.Ultimately, I do think both Scream 4 and the TV series work well on their own, but it effects the success of both that they were made so close together, which is really too bad.

The movie is smart. There’s more that works about it than doesn’t work, in my opinion. It gives us one of the most well-executed, smartest killer reveals in the series. Not everything in Scream 4’s plan to update the themes of the franchise for 2011 works as well as it should have, but everything in terms of [spoiler alert] Jill’s reveal as the killer works in spades.

She’s the face of the sociopathy and emotional disconnect that can sort of be the ultimate risk of being so tapped into the social media generation. As she says, she doesn’t want friends, she wants fans. There has been some mild backlash, given that she doesn’t paint millennials in such a great light, as she’s basically the ultimate face of entitlement, but it works because most of her friends aren’t psychotic killers.

The ghostface killer in the popular scream movie franchise.The concept of remaking the events of the original murders is genius. That’s the thing that really justifies Scream 4’s existence. The trilogy had been over for a decade and it really needed a killer hook to be able to come back and win over the fans who had grown up on it. I was cautiously optimistic when it was first announced. But when I realized what the plot was, I was completely on board, because the concept is so fitting of the franchise.

Yes, it’s jarring that Scream 4 and the TV series have so many similarities and were made so close together. But I still think they ultimately work and that these similarities are fitting of each. Most of the ultra-current meta stuff in Scream 4 was just window dressing. There was so much going on that they couldn’t really explore it.

But the TV series is awarded the chance to explore every different way a killer can use the technology at their disposal from week to week, while also giving us an unfolding larger story because that’s the benefit of television. I don’t think fans of Scream 4 shouldn’t check out the series because they feel they’ve already seen it. I do think that, for fans of the TV show that have yet to see the films, Scream 4 could actually be a great place to start. It will be different, but it will feel comfortable, and hopefully they can work backward from there.

While I admit that the idea of Scream 5 and could have been interesting, I think things worked out as best as they could under the circumstances. Because while it doesn’t appeal to every fan out there, I think the TV show is ultimately a much easier pill to swallow than the idea of another installment in the film franchise not directed by Wes Craven.

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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