Nearly 15 years after the original "Scream" debuted and 11 since "Scream 3" was released, star Neve Campbell said she's thrilled how fourth installment changes things up in the horror franchise -- yet admires how the film's screenwriter and director have remained true to their ideals.
"I'm happy that Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven didn't feel the necessity to play into this torture film genre that's come into being in the last 10 years -- those sorts of horror films really aren't my taste," Campbell said in a recent interview. "They've kept in mind what the original 'Scream' films were about."
That's not to say franchise's villain, the knife-wielding Ghostface, has gone soft on us. In fact, Campbell pointed out, there are more kills by the Ghostface in "Scream 4" than ever before. But with the kills, she added, remains the all-too-important element that precedes it.
"You're not going to get scared unless there's some sort of suspense first," Campbell said. "You have to be engaged by the characters and care whether they live or die. The scares are obviously going to be greater if you feel something for these people you are watching."
"Scream 4" finds Sidney Prescott (Campbell) promoting a self-help book and still healing from her traumatic past. But when Sidney returns to her hometown of Woodsboro, Calif., on the last stop of her book tour, her horrifying past follows her. With her arrival, Ghostface returns, too, and the bodies start piling up again.
As the central character of the entire "Scream" series, Campbell said it was tantamount that audiences had a reason to connect with Sidney's character, and making her recount that harrowing past seemed like a logical place to start.
"Ten years have passed and she's come through horrible amounts of trauma -- but she's come to a place where she's finally overcome that and wants to share how to do it for other people who have suffered as well," Campbell said. "It makes her more relatable to the audience. I wanted the character to be as realistic as possible, so the audience could understand what she's been through and what stage she might be at now. Since 10 years have passed, she's going to be older, of course, but she's also more mature and stronger. She's less of a victim because she's overcome so much."
New Faces, Familiar Faces
A resident of London for the past six years, Campbell, a Canada native, said she was pitched the idea for "Scream 4" by Williamson, who penned the original and first sequel under Craven's direction.
Naturally, Campbell was impressed by the same sort of killer writing, so to speak, that's kept "Scream" fans excited all these years; but furthermore, she was impressed with how Williamson worked modern sensibilities into the script. After coming this far, the last thing Campbell wanted to see pervading a fourth film was a group of typical horror film teens that don't have a clue of what's coming next.
"What was wonderfully intelligent on Kevin's part was how he updated the idea to mirror what the kids of this generation are going through today with social media and the shifts in the way how we communicate," said Campbell, 37. "He even touched on reality television, and the fame and fortune that comes with making the quick buck, and even put in a little bit of the hopelessness that kids feel today as well. It's more special than just regular horror films -- all of the 'Scream' films have felt that way."
Smart teen characters notwithstanding (the film's young stars included Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin and Emma Roberts), Campbell said the return of some key veterans in the franchise made her final decision easy.
"It was very important that Courteney Cox and David Arquette be involved again, along with Wes Craven directing," Campbell said. "Audiences have a great love for Gail Weathers (Cox) and Dewey (Arquette), and also for the way Wes directed these films. We had to do it the right way."
Not Screaming For Spoilers
While "Scream 4" works the advances of the digital world into the plot, Craven, ironically, had to absorb some shocks during the production and postproduction processes thanks to the burgeoning era of the Internet. A medium in its infancy when the "Scream" films began, a lot more buzzing goes on about the production of films now, and the director has been hard at work trying to contain spoilers online.
The need for bloggers to give away vital twists in "Scream 4" especially annoys Campbell, who doesn't use Twitter and is an infrequent Facebook user under an alias.
And while she's fully aware that there are huge benefits to online buzz leading up to the release of a film, Campbell just wants them to be experienced naturally without people trying to ruin the fun for others.
"It's too bad that people want to spoil it because these are fun films -- and the reason they are fun is because of the twists, turns and the unexpected," Campbell said. "For my part, when I speak to my family and friends about the film -- even if they do ask me about it -- I say, 'I'm not going to tell you anything because you'll enjoy the film better if you know only what you know now.'"