Scream 4 - Robbie Mercer (Erik Knudsen), Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin), Olivia Morris (Marielle Jaffe) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) © 2011 Weinstein Company

Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) was seven years old when Wes Craven’s Scream was released, but when she grew up she caught up with the franchise. She’s now one of the stars of Scream 4.

In this installment, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has arrived back in her home town, Woodsboro, fifteen years after the Woodboro Murders, to promote her new self help book. She is greeted by her younger cousin Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts), and Jill’s high school friend, Kirby Reed, played by Hayden Panettiere.

Of course, things don’t go smoothly, as slasher/murderer Ghostface reappears, killing off Jill’s friends one by one. Can Sidney and her friends, Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and Gale Weathers Riley (Courteney Cox), stop Ghostface before he reaches Jill?

Had you’d seen the original movie before you did this film?

Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) and Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts) © 2011 Weinstein Company

I waited until a little bit later in life to experience Scream. It was something that I was a big fan of. It’s got that Halloween aspect with the masked person but, at the same time, it’s got that very realistic aspect of the fear of somebody breaking into your house.

That’s a terrifying thing.

What was it like working with the original cast?

It’s always a little bit nerve racking when you come into a family. It was a family that was already established. They’d been through so much together. They’d been through these films together and you really have to tread lightly on that and have respect for that and find your way into that group, that family and where you fit in. But they were always great with that.

They really had an interest in knowing us and including us and really made that effort and it made it a great experience.

Your character is spunky and fearless. How similar to her are you?

Well, I’d like to think of myself as those things, but it goes both ways. I was drawn to her because she’s not like anything that I’ve ever played before. She’s very dry and sarcastic. She’s got that tomboy aspect to her which I can relate to, but she’s a horror movie buff under it all which is not what you’d expect from her.

Then it’s a really cool element to her personality that’s unexpected and kind of clever. I can’t say that I’m the same in that way, but it’s a fun character to play.

Was the ghost mask scarier in person than on screen?

Ghostface (Dane Farwell) © 2011 Weinstein Company

It’s scary. You’ve got the horror mask nowadays and a lot of them are very gruesome with blood and scabs, but there’s something so scary about that mask. It’s so simple and even the painting that it’s based off of, it’s just eerie. It’s done in a simplistic and non-exaggerated way, and it really can make you scared.

I believe that Wes Craven Tweeted that he had Ghostface scare you off camera.

Yes, he did.

Can you tell us what happened?

Well, we were doing a scene in the bedroom and we think he might be in the closet and we open the closet. He’s not there. Then all of a sudden he was there, but he wasn’t supposed to be there. There was this prop guy who scared me half to death and he disappeared and I didn’t see him until the next day.

I was looking around for him and I didn’t see him until the next day. He said, ‘Dude, I wanted to come back, but I felt so bad. You were so scared.’ So he definitely got me. You try to act like you’re tough and then something jumps out of the closet and that was the end of the story.

Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) © 2011 Weinstein Company

What was Wes Craven like to work with?

He’s a mastermind. It’s kind of like what you would expect Stephen King to be.

But you expect them all to be weird. You expect them to have that creepy aspect to them and be an odd duck.

It was very interesting because Wes is kind of shy. He’s very quiet and then you get to know his sense of humor, these amazing one liners and you’re like, ‘Dude, that was really funny,’ because you don’t really know how to take him in the beginning.

But he makes you feel very at home, very comfortable to try different things. He throws different things at you and when you’re coming into something that’s so established like a Scream franchise sometimes to step outside the box you get a little bit nervous to try your own thing. You’re waiting for somebody to escort you down this path and tell you exactly how it’s done.

What’s amazing, too, are the little nuances that go into making a horror movie, things that you don’t even think about doing. Wes would come up and go, ‘Add a little jump there.’ It doesn’t feel right to you then. It feels odd and out of place, but you know that when it’s all pieced together that it’s such a big part of having the audience come with you on this journey and really feeling that fear that the characters are feeling.

Have you successfully scared anyone else?

I have a little brother. So, that’s a given and vice versa. I got it back as he got taller than me.

It’s dangerous to scare someone. You see on America’s Funniest Home Videos, this guy pops up on the porch and the guy [gets scared and] just nails him on the face. He’s apologizing afterwards, but it’s never a good idea to scare people.

Judy Sloane

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