By the time Wes Craven’s SCREAM 4 takes film audiences on their final ride through the terrifying streets of Woodsboro, fans across the world had come to regard Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and Gale Weathers-Riley (Courteney Cox) as if they were old friends. Watching the surviving cast of the SCREAM series reunite after ten long years seems briefly reassuring but it is only a matter of moments before the last stop on Sydney’s book tour brings about the return of Ghostface and puts everyone back in danger!
The original SCREAM film debuted in 1996, bringing plenty of celebrity firepower to the Christmas opening and an overall box office total of over $173 million for a scant $15 million dollar film. Based on writer Kevin Williamson’s fascination with real life Florida serial killer “The Gainesville Ripper,” SCREAM marked a significant shift in the way horror movies were cast when the lead role was originally given to A-List movie star Drew Barrymore. Shortly before shooting started, Barrymore shifted to a smaller role but on the strength of her involvement, Director Wes Craven was able to secure Party of Five’s Neve Campbell, Friend’s Courteney Cox, and David Arquette in the pivotal role of crime stopper Dewey Riley.
Wes Craven’s four part slasher series SCREAM (1996 – 2011) reignited interest in the genre by casting established actors in principal roles. Combined world wide box office numbers for the four films topped $600 million, a figure that still plays a significant role in the way many motion pictures get green-lit, crafted and marketed. While traditional “B-Movie” horror filmmaking often combined unknown actors and a high degree of craft to compensate for shortfalls in budget, Craven’s success can be credited to his use of recognizable faces in each SCREAM film.
SCREAM 2 was slated for production even before filming started on the first installment so many of the original cast members had contracts for the sequel already in place. Neve Campbell reprised her role as Sidney Prescott (the plucky survivor of the Ghostface killer) as did David Arquette, Courteney Cox and Jamie Kennedy. Having such significant marquee names and startlingly high box office numbers for the original movie made it easier to secure top talent for the second film. New cast members included Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Sarah Michelle Gellar, Roseanne’s Laurie Metcalf, Jerry O’Connell, Jada Pinkett Smith and Omar Epps. The shooting budget nearly doubled to $24 million dollars and box office receipts matched the first SCREAM at nearly $173 million worldwide.
By February of 2000, what was slated to be the third and final installment of the SCREAM trilogy was readied for release with most of the returning cast members now movies stars in their own right. Surviving castmates Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox (now David’s bride) were joined by Emily Mortimer, Parker Posey, Jenny McCarthy and Patrick Dempsey. The film’s budget escalated significantly to $40 million dollars and box office numbers overall were weakest at just over $160 million. More important to the future course of the franchise was the record setting $35 million opening weekend receipts which paved the way for the green-lighting of SCREAM 4.
Talk of a fourth installment of the SCREAM series began in 2008 but principal photography did not begin until 2010 with Wes Craven back in the director’s chair and cast members Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox reprising their now familiar roles. New faces included Heroes Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell. While a $40 million shooting budget mirrored that of SCREAM 3, this final effort by the surviving crew yielded only $97 million at the box office. Movie critics who gave high marks to the first film and some of the worst reviews to SCREAM 3 tended to give SCREAM 4 better scores overall as a more satisfying series conclusion.