What do you do if you've made a horror movie that references previous horror movies, watched as competitors borrowed generously from you -- and now have to reboot your original horror movie?
That's the dilemma that genre maestro Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson face with "Scream 4," the Dimension Films reprise of the 15-year-old franchise that opens Friday after holding its Hollywood premiere Monday night.
Or maybe meta-dilemma, since there is -- in this horror comedy about a suburban slasher on the loose that brings back Neve Campbell's Sidney Prescott and Courteney Cox's Gale Weathers amid a set of new characters -- more self-reference than Kim Kardashian's Twitter page. There are references to the original "Scream" (which exists as a franchise within the franchise called "Stab"); references to the wave of seemingly endless genre fare that's been churned out in the decade since the last "Scream" film ("they keep recycling the same ...," one character says, offering a profanity); references, even, to making a meta movie within the meta movie. Is your head hurting yet?
(Incidentally, all of this also poses a marketing challenge since, with all its jabs at torture-porn, this is a movie that takes shots at the very films favored by its core audience.)
By now, "Scream 4's" production issues are well-known (this Entertainment Weekly interview with Williamson offers a revealing account of the writer's battle with Dimension's Bob Weinstein). Anytime you roll out all this meta-ness, the road is bound to get bumpy. The original "Scream" series had to contend with all the successful horror franchises that came before it. "Scream 4" has to contend with itself.
Craven says he knew he had a bit of a creative challenge on his hands in making this movie. "I think it was just making sure it was fresh and new and not just some sort of a remake or a reboot or something like that," he told my colleague Amy Kaufman on the red carpet (video below).
In fact, the director seems to take issue with the very concept of a reboot. That becomes clear in the film, when Campbell's Prescott, a kind of on-screen representation of the first "Scream" movie, is given a big applause line after she makes a big kill and lets out a "Don't ... with the original." So it's a reboot that doesn't like reboots. How meta.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Never Campbell in "Scream 4." Credit: Dimension Films