By the time Scream 4 appeared, over a decade after the original trilogy began, the horror genre had moved on from the ironic, winking mode the series popularized. A character in Scream 4 complains that most horror movies traffic more in outright gore (“I hate that torture porn shit”). On television, The Walking Dead characters are so divorced from pop culture that they don’t even know the word “zombie”. How does the usual tone of the Scream movies play to today’s audiences?
In this context, Scream 4 would seem old fashioned throwback to the ironic 90s, were it not significantly more cynical than its predecessors. Scream 2 overtly critiqued sequels, Scream 3 deconstructed trilogies, and now Scream 4 openly uses the word “franchise”. Movies are more the product of big business than ever before, and now that’s the subject of the movies themselves.
Scream 4 does make a few half-hearted stabs (sorry) at relevance by roping in social media (one kid liveblogs the whole thing), and celebrity culture. The murderers’ motivation has moved on from sex and revenge to desire to the kind of instant celebrity enjoyed today by the likes of teenage murderers and socialite drunks.
Amusingly, Scream 4 self-mythologizes itself with the movie-within-the-movie Stab, amusingly credited to Robert Rodriguez. Actually, I think I’d rather see that movie.