Scream 4 - Alison Brie, Marley Shelton, Adam Brody, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette and Anthony Anderson
Scream 4 - Rebecca Walters (Alison Brie), Deputy Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton), Detective Hoss (Adam Brody), Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers-Riley (Courteney Cox), Dwight 'Dewey' Riley (David Arquette) and Deputy Perkins (Anthony Anderson) © 2011 Weinstein Company

Fifteen years ago, Scream began with a terrifying phone call that changed horror movies forever. Director Wes Craven, writer Kevin Williamson and stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette are back with Scream 4, which honors the franchise’s fans with a sequel as irreverent as the original.

In Scream 4, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), now an author of a self-help book, returns to Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. Unfortunately, her re-appearance in her home town brings out Ghostface, putting everyone in danger.

I spoke with Wes Craven about his return to the popular franchise at the movie’s press day.

Were you worried about doing another Scream?

Scream 4 - Director Wes Craven and Drew Barrymore
Director Wes Craven showing a knife to Drew Barrymore while making the first Scream film

You have to come back with something worthy of coming back. You’re addressing a generation of young fans, but also the generation that has gone with you for three, as well as a decade worth of other films. You have to be as good as or better than those films.

What drew you into horror genre?

I could be making any kind of film. It just so happens that the first time I got a chance to make a movie somebody wanted a scary movie and that’s how I got into it. Nobody asked me to make a romantic comedy or anything else after that.

It was an opportunity to make movies. I started watching other horror movies. I hadn’t seen one before. Then there was a period where I felt somewhat trapped and then there was a realization that, ‘No. You’re working. You’re directing. How many people get a chance to do that?’

You obviously have a shorthand with the original cast. Did you feel that you were directing them differently than maybe the new cast who’d never done this type of movie before?

Scream 4 - Dane Farwell and Courteney Cox
Ghostface (Dane Farwell) and Gale Weathers-Riley (Courteney Cox) © 2011 Weinstein Company

I think we do definitely have a shorthand, and certainly the characters are established. But the interesting thing about the characters are that they are always changing.

Obviously, Neve was a teenager, her character and everyone else was quite a bit younger.

They’ve all gone through these enormous changes in their lives and I think that’s part of what makes Scream so unique in that people actually have lives that actually change.

I think we’re all amazed that we’re in this drama that has taken place over fifteen, sixteen years. It’s just extraordinary. I don’t know of another film that has done this. So I think we’re all pretty damn excited about being a part of it.

Every new one has this extraordinary young cast as well that we all get to watch ourselves as if we were younger, or just watch these great young talents blossom in front of us. It has a lot of rewards. I don’t think any of us just think of it as a horror or slasher film. It’s a very interesting and complex, funny, smart drama.

When you started this franchise, what was it about Neve that made you believe she was the right actress for the role of Sidney Prescott?

Scream 4 - Director Wes Craven and Drew Barrymore
Director Wes Craven while working on Scream 2

I think that Neve embodies everything that we all want to have, that sort of substance, honesty, lack of pretense and that’s in her character, intelligence, refusing to just go along with whatever the fad is at the time.

At the same time she had a real delusion about who she was insofar as her family and mother was, which makes it really fascinating in the first one when she finds out that her mother was a slut-bag whore as is said in the film. She’s had all these incredible adjustments that she’s had to make to what the reality of her life in this small town is, and that is a fascinating character.

There’s so much richness in this and I think that Neve just has those qualities. Plus, she can really kick ass.

She’s a real athlete. In this film she trained for it and injured her foot, a severe fracture of her foot and she did the entire movie with a lot of action without any complaints even though she was in excruciating pain a lot of time. She’s tough and beautiful and wonderful. I think she embodies what everyone likes to think is the best of America.

When Scream premiered in 1996, it was a phenomenon and the sequels were made in rapid succession. How has your perspective on what the film has meant to you changed during this ten year break?

Scream - Courteney Cox and Director Wes Craven
Courteney Cox and Director Wes Craven working on the original Scream

Just personally I felt like we needed to bring it back up to par a little bit. I thought that Scream 3 was a little too goofy, and we didn’t have Neve as much as we did in this. She wasn’t as available and was a little bit more in the background.

So I think we all wanted to come back and not make up for that, but we just wanted to definitely come back and do one. I’m sure that all of us felt that it had to be really, really good. It just deserved to be good and the audience deserved it to be good.

Frankly, from hearing the response at the screening last night I think we all feel really good because we put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it, believe me. It’s been going on for a year and a half and it’s not something where we didn’t give our all for it.

You don’t get an opportunity to do that in life and come up with something that good that often. So it’s a good feeling.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.