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Just when the people of Woodsboro thought it was safe to
enjoy horror films, SCREAM 4 brought the iconic figure of Ghostface back to
carve up more of the town’s residents. Also returning for the sequel (on DVD, Blu-ray and assorted digital platforms today) was director Wes Craven, updating his successful saga to
address the significant advances in communication technology over the last
decade while still indulging in good old-fashioned bloodshed.
SCREAM 4, being released on disc by Anchor Bay
Entertainment and also available for digital download on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Xbox and PlayStation, sees Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) arriving in Woodsboro to promote a
self-help book she has written, and reuniting with now-married Gale (Courteney
Cox) and Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette). Her arrival seems to trigger a new set
of murders, with Ghostface targeting Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and
her friends. Craven spoke to Fango about revisiting the scene of his past screen
crimes, how the MPAA has changed since Ghostface first started spilling blood,
the much-buzzed-about departure of longtime series scribe Kevin Williamson
midway through the making of this installment and more…
FANGORIA: One of the notable things about SCREAM 4 is how
effortlessly you and the returning cast get back into character after 10 years.
It’s kind of like you’ve never been away.
WES CRAVEN: I know; it was pretty remarkable on the set. It
wasn’t like I to coach anybody on, “You have to talk like this.” It just came
back immediately. It was pretty amazing how we all fell back into it.
FANG: How easily did the newcomers to the cast adapt to the
tone and approach of the SCREAM saga?
CRAVEN: Well, they’re all really gifted actors and
actresses, and everybody came in primed and ready, and they’d done their
homework. Usually with younger actors, there’s a bit more directing and
technical things involved, but by and large, all of them, because of the
prevalence of TV programs now that are built around young people, they had
their working chops up to a very high level already. Really, it was no big
struggle to get them to hit the mark.
FANG: In the decade prior to this film, were there any
serious talks about doing SCREAM 4; had anyone else proposed another storyline
before Kevin Williamson came up with this one?
CRAVEN: Not that I know of. I mean, I didn’t even know this
one was underway until Kevin and Bob [Weinstein] had reached an agreement on
this concept. Bob tends to keep it all very quiet until he actually has Kevin
lined up with a concept he likes. So my first knowledge that it was going to
become a reality was a call from Bob saying, “I got Kevin, I think he’s got
something good. He’s not going to send it right away, but I think he’s gonna
have a first act in two weeks [laughs].” That’s how it starts. Then you wait
around till you have enough pages to know it’s really good. After reading the
first act, I felt Kevin was in fantastic shape and signed up to do it.
lass="MsoNormal">FANG: Was it difficult to adapt the issues of modern
communication into the SCREAM paradigm?
CRAVEN: No, we’re all very familiar with all the technology,
just by the nature of our jobs. I know Kevin and I, and Ehren Kruger, make it
our business to know what’s going on in that area. I don’t think any of us are
on Facebook all the time, but we certainly know what the procedures and various
platforms are. Both Kevin and Ehren had a very firm grasp of what the world was
like out there, and devised the script complications around those devices and
that reality. It does become more and more difficult to create those situations
where…you know, the classic horror film is, you’re in a house and the lights go
out and the telephone doesn’t work, and you’re screwed and now you have to
fight the killer. But we had to worry about, what if somebody has a cell phone?
There are all these devices now that make it so easy to make a call or transmit
pictures and things like that, so we had to dance a finer dance in terms of
making it believable that people could be in the situations they’re in.
FANG: By the same token, there have been any number of films
in the post-BLAIR WITCH era that presented their events via first-person video
footage. Was that something you were conscious of, trying to find a different
approach to that sort of thing?
CRAVEN: Yeah, but to us it seemed videotaping was obsolete.
No one’s running around with little video cameras anymore; it’s like, the phone
is everything. It’s all digitized. We liked the idea that you have a phone
that’s a fantastic way of transmitting or recording images and sound, and
getting information resources. That was kind of the richness of it, taking a
step beyond BLAIR WITCH or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, where it’s just a person
walking around with a camera.
FANG: You mentioned Ehren Kruger—how much did he contribute
to the SCREAM 4 script?
CRAVEN: He contributed a great deal. He’s very smart, he’s
very technically acute, and from about halfway through the shoot he was very
much the writer. He was the person solving the problems of the second part of
the film, as far as the story goes—exactly what happens at the bar and at
Hayden Panettiere’s house; who did what where, and who got knocked off and who
FANG: Can you talk a bit about what led Kevin Williamson to
depart the project?
CRAVEN: Well, the honest answer, as far as I know, is that
his television show [VAMPIRE DIARIES] just became more and more pressing. He
needed to be there, and I believe he was legally obliged to be there, and the
writing of the SCREAM 4 script had taken much longer than he thought it was
going to take. It went much further into the year than he thought it would go,
and I think at some point the other studio even threatened to sue him if he
didn’t get back and spend full time on the series—because it was already
shooting, and he was trying to do all these things at once. Basically, at a
certain point, Kevin’s schedule just made it impossible for him to stay on
FANG: There was talk when this one was announced that it
would start a new trilogy, and that we might see SCREAM 5 and 6 at some point.
Has there been any forward motion on those?
CRAVEN: You know, I haven’t called Bob and said, “What’s
going on?” My wife [producer Iya Labunka] and I did two pictures [MY SOUL TO
TAKE and SCREAM 4] back to back, and we just felt like we wanted to take this
summer and fall off, and not pursue business and work, and try to be human
beings for a moment. Usually, the process for me is that until Bob picks up the
phone and says, “Look, we’ve got something going,” there’s not much I can do.
Well, I could bother Bob with calls, but until he’s got it worked out to his
satisfaction, it’s not going to happen.
FANG: To this day, some critics insist on referring to the
SCREAM films as spoofs, when they’re really serious horror pictures that happen
to have a satirical take on the genre. How do you feel about the fact that
these movies aren’t quite understood in certain circles?
CRAVEN: Well, they’re not FUNNY GAMES or SAW or something
like that, where there is no humor and they’re merciless with the audience. The
SCREAM series has always had humor and social commentary, and an articulate
character or two who can speak about what’s going on in the culture of the
time, going back to Randy and the video store. That’s what makes them enjoyable
as well as scary. If I could cite one thing that creates a chance for that
misperception, it’s the SCARY MOVIE series, because that took the basic
character of Ghostface and made him entirely comedic. Everything about him was
being satirized for a number of years, so then when I came back and tried to do
something serious again in SCREAM 4, I found myself having to pull back on
Ghostface doing anything that could be thought of as cute or silly or anything
like that. I was always trying to outrun the ghosts of that other series, which
was all spoof. We tried to make this scary and hard-hitting and seriously
violent without going overboard.
FANG: On that subject, the original SCREAM had to lose some
gore to get an R rating. Where there any scenes in SCREAM 4 that had the same
CRAVEN: You know, SCREAM 4 was one of those situations where
I worried about it and worried about it, and when is the guy gonna call to say
what we have to cut, and then we got the word that we had an R. So there was
FANG: It does seem that the ratings board has become more
lenient toward blood and violence since the days when you were struggling with
them. Movies like the HOSTEL and SAW films are getting R ratings for violence
that would have been unheard of in an R-rated horror film 10 years ago.
CRAVEN: Yeah, I think that has happened. There’s been a
change at the head of the MPAA, and also, when a series such as SCREAM goes on
for a certain amount of time and they see that it’s being hailed as something
that’s making social commentary, and it’s funny and people like it and they’re
not damaged [laughs], you don’t get that sort of craziness that can go on when
the ratings board sees a film for the first time and they’ve never seen
anything else like it, and they can freak out. It seems they have backed off a
little bit and allowed more room to stretch with scary and/or violent films.
FANG: Are you working on any projects right now?
CRAVEN: We’re in the final stages of making a deal for a
series of three comic books that we would then have the right to make into a
movie. I’m also finishing the first draft of a children’s book about
nightmares. Other than that, as I said, we’re trying to relax and do things
with our families and so forth.
FANG: Can you share any details about those comic books?
CRAVEN: Nope, top secret.
FANG: You did quite a bit of television earlier in your
career; would you ever go back to that?
CRAVEN: If there was the right show, yes. I would certainly
have to deal with the fact that I would not do anything else almost 24 hours a
day. Television, because of the nature of essentially having to come out with a
feature film once a week, is a tremendously demanding thing, but there’s some
great stuff on TV now. I certainly would never feel, having witnessed what’s
gone on with THE SOPRANOS and everything that’s followed in the last 10 years,
that television is a step down. I think, quite often, it’s better than what’s
been in the movie theaters.
FANG: Any chance Williamson might bring you in to
guest-direct an episode of one of his series?
CRAVEN: [Laughs] That could be, I don’t know. The phone has
not rung in that way yet. I think he’s got his hands full with his own work. We
ended on very good terms on SCREAM 4, by the way; there was never any
contention between Kevin and I.
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