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In 2014, I came across an opportunity to write for an arts & entertainment website. To apply, all I had to do was write a film review. I had never written a film review. After a flurry of research on “How to Write a Film Review,” next was deciding the film. I did not have to think long. I would review Scream 4. I had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Scream series and had lost count of how many times I had watched and rewatched. I considered Wes Craven one of my heroes.

The topper? Scream 4 had filmed in my town and many a late night was spent sitting on a sidewalk across the street watching them film. Yes, I would review Scream 4. Below is my review as sent to the editor in 2014. Spoiler alert – I got the gig and for three years was a blogger for The Script Lab. Happy reading!



Dimension Films – 2011
Director: Wes Craven
Screenplay: Kevin Williamson, Ehren Kruger (not credited)


Scream 4: Calling Kevin Williamson, Calling Kevin Williamson
Michelle Donnelly

With fevered anticipation I arrive at the movie theater on opening night to see Scream 4, the latest installment of the Scream series. An hour and fifty-one minutes later, I walk out wondering what I have done to drive screenwriter Kevin Williamson away and am confused as to why he wants to destroy the relationship we once had. The movie starts well enough, with the blood and gore Scream audiences expect and the intelligent humor we love, but quickly dissolves into a stilted image of its former self.

Legendary director Wes Craven reunites with Scream veterans Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, who are back for this 2011 film that, by all accounts, would have been the basis for Scream 3 had Williamson written it. The concept for Scream 4 and screenplay are all Kevin Williamson, but much maligned Scream 3 screenwriter Ehren Kruger, was brought in for rewrites as Williamson, who is contractually obligated to The Vampire Diaries, had to step away from the project.

While countless friends and foes have preceded her in death, survivor Sidney Prescott returns to Woodsboro on the tenth anniversary of the original massacre. Much to the chagrin of Gale Weathers, Sidney has become a New York Times best selling author after her self-help book “Out of Darkness” became a hit with readers. Gale and Dewey, now married, have settled into small town life and Deputy Dewey has been promoted to Sheriff. Like Sidney, Gale is trying to reinvent herself, but suffering from writer’s block she spends her days as a frustrated housewife instead of penning her next novel. Meanwhile, Ghostface is back with a vengeance, promising more blood and a higher body count.

From the outset, Scream continues its pattern of poking fun at its genre and demystifying horror’s not so secret formula by uncovering the rules to successfully survive a horror movie. The new generation of Woodsboro natives, played by Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Marielle Jaffe, Erik Knudsen and Nico Tortorella are irreverent and savvy, but they still ask, “Who’s there?” and open doors when they shouldn’t. Neve Campbell, once again, fulfills her job as the hero. She portrays Sidney as smart and sophisticated and we happily still root for her. David Arquette, on the other hand, previously a hit as the affable, bumbling Deputy Dewey Riley, stumbles to reinvent a character the audience can identify with. Miraculously free of the pesky limp that plagued him in Scream 2 and 3, he gives us little reason to love him as Sheriff Riley.

One of the original Scream movie’s achievements was its social commentary. When Billy Loomis noted that life was one great big movie, it was statement about cinema’s effect on a progressively violent society. Scream 4 returns where the first Scream left off delivering a scathing, yet entirely deserved, attack on today’s society and the desire to live increasingly public personas, at any cost. The current prevalence of cutthroat reality entertainment makes the old school pine for the original Real World casts, who appear like socially conscious saints when compared to this generation’s fame seekers. That this is made a central theme is one of the movie’s shining moments.

Scream 4 offers enough quirky one-liners to keep us satisfied, all expertly delivered by an experienced cast, but the film suffers from a multitude of missteps. For one, it contains fewer characters that we care about. If we never come to love or connect to any of them, then why do we care if they die? And while the focus on social commentary gives it an element of depth, the plot seems to have been sacrificed. The introduction of Sidney’s never before known family members? Trite and reminiscent of Scream 3. Lastly, the element of surprise, those unexpected turning points that are supposed to wow the audience (and what made the original Scream stand out), seem manufactured; done only because it is the formula that one must follow when writing a horror movie.

Wes Craven is a master of fear, and a big reason much of the avid fan base continues its devotion to the series. He knows what keeps people awake at night and taunts the audience accordingly. Kevin Williamson, though, has become that bad boyfriend who keeps breaking up with us and yet we keep coming back for more. Disillusioned, we continually hope it will work out, but he just disappoints us again. Can’t we just get along? Come on Kevin, please don’t make me break up with you for good.


To read more articles I wrote for The Script Lab visit:


Scream 2

Dimension Films – 1997
Director: Wes Craven
Screenplay: Kevin Williamson



Scream 2 was that movie I wanted to love. More than anything, I wanted it to beat the odds and be The Empire Strikes Back of horror. My fanatical love of screenwriter/director Lawrence Kasdan aside, I felt Kevin Williamson would be that screenwriter who would do it. With Wes Craven directing, how could it not?  Yet, I walked out of the theater dejected. My view is unpopular, though. Amongst Scream fans, this installment is consistently ranked high within the franchise.

It is not that Scream 2 isn’t a perfectly fine film and maybe I am being too harsh, but after having reinvigorated a near dead genre, my hopes and expectations for a repeat were high. Maybe I was lulled into an unrealistic sense that the Craven/Williamson duo could do anything.

For many reasons, the odds were against the film and I argue that the drama surrounding the film cast too long a shadow.

First, was the short turn around time from the release of the first Scream film. Important to note, is that Scream was not an instant success. During the first weekend after its December 20, 1996 release, it took in a disappointing $6 million against a $15 million budget. Only after word of mouth did the film become the smash hit we now know it to be, garnering $87 million during its initial release. Once the film’s success was clear, the studio pressed for a quick follow-up using the original sequel ideas contained in a treatment Williamson included when auctioning Scream to studios. Production for Scream 2 began in June 1997, a mere 6 months after the original was released.

Second, Williamson was forced to be make considerable rewrites after 40 pages of the script were posted online. While alternate endings had intentionally been written to ward off leaks, with cast and crew receiving a dummy ending, these particular leaked pages resulted in frantic rewrites from Williamson as the film was heading into production. The result is a screenplay in which the ideas are not fully formed.


The original Scream 2 leaked online. The takeaway? If you want your sequel to become a successful franchise, never, ever under any circumstance print it on anything but non-copyable paper (as the studio made sure to do after the leaks).*

Third, it seems to me that Laurie Metcalf – a true legend of the stage and screen, never finds her footing as Debbie Salt/Mrs. Loomis, the psychopathic mother exacting revenge. With the script partially to blame for the lack of depth in her character, the uncomfortable intensity of the performance ends up a hollow conclusion to Billy Loomis and Stu Macher’s crimes. Most evident is the stark difference from when Billy and Stu explain their reason for killing and it becomes an a-ha moment while when Mrs. Loomis admits her devious plan, it feels like exposition delivered in the worst form of an explanation just for the audience’s sake.

Lastly, and in my humble opinion, killing off Randy Meeks was the biggest mistake in franchise history. Beloved and fan favorite, it showed that no one was safe from Ghostface. But this is not real life, and we do not want our heroes to die.

Enough with the criticism, because there are moments when the movie shines. It is a Scream film after all, and for me Scream 2 contains two of the most knuckle clenching and terrifying scenes. The first, when Sidney and Hallie are trapped and trying to escape the car with Ghostface unconscious (hopefully) in the front seat and second, when Gale is weaving through the soundproofing walls in the studio. Courtney Cox’s pained expression as she tiptoes through, is enough to make us believe that a crazed killer really is hunting his next victim.

*Want to read the original script? You can find it at: https://www.imsdb.com/scripts/Scream-2.html

Fun Facts:

  •  The host interviewing Cotton Weary for the talk show Current Edition is screenwriter Kevin Williamson
  • The sweater in Hallie’s dorm room closet is a fashionable version of Freddy Krueger’s Nightmare on Elm Street sweater.
  • The voice on the other end of the line talking to CiCi (Sara Michelle Gellar) before Ghostface calls is Selma Blair, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s co-star in Cruel Intentions.
  • Matthew Lillard (Stu Macher and one of the killers in the original Scream) is in the background at the Delta Lambda Zeta sorority mixer. He hugs Timothy Olyphant, who turns out to be one of the two killers.
  • Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn, Grindhouse) directed both the Casey Becker (Heather Graham) and Sidney and Billy (Tori Spelling and Luke Wilson) scenes in Stab.
  • Chief Hartley was played by Lewis Arquette, David Arquette’s father.

The Rules

1) The body count is always bigger.
2) Death scenes are always much more elaborate, more blood and gore. Carnage Candy! Your core audience just expects it.
3) The third rule to surviving a sequel was cut from the movie, but appears in its trailer: And number three, never, ever under any circumstance, assume that the killer is dead.

Scream 3

Dimension Films – 2000
Director: Wes Craven
Screenplay: Ehren Kruger


I felt like I was cheating on Kevin Williamson. I was supposed think that Scream 3 was a disaster because Kevin Williamson was not writing for the franchise he made famous. I was supposed to think that no one could fill his shoes and that Ehren Kruger had not lived up to the task. The reality is though, that Kruger had been placed in the unenviable position of taking over screenwriting duties only after Kevin Williamson’s other projects like The Vampire Diaries and Teaching Mrs. Tingle took priority. With production scheduled but no script, Kruger wrote a treatment in 2 days, wrote the first draft in 2 weeks and continued with rewrites until production began. Further challenged by the studio’s concern over the film’s depiction of violence in light of the recent Columbine tragedy and Neve Campbell’s limited availability, Kruger was forced to take a different approach to the script.

The charm of the Scream series is that it has always been willing to make fun of itself. To operate under a guise of mindless entertainment, while in reality being a vehicle with which to make statements about societal ills. By mocking the glitz of the Hollywood system while exposing the underbelly of a sometimes slimy industry, Scream 3 does exactly this. Just as the original Scream made overt expressions about media and film’s affect on youth, so too does Scream 3 make pointed observations about women in film that has since become more apparent in light of the Me Too movement.

I felt guilty joy as I left the theater. My warmth for the film is yet another unpopular choice as people love to hate Scream 3. It is easy to overlook, but Ehren Kruger is no slouch having also penned Arlington Road and The Ring and despite his later subpar screenplays like The Skeleton Key and Reindeer Games, I believe he did well at retaining the pop culture sensibility that had always defined the Scream franchise.

Fun Facts:

  • The location used for John Milton’s house was also prominently featured in Halloween H20. It would also become the house where hopeful musicians stayed during the filming of Rockstar: INXS.
  • In the hopes of keeping the ending a surprise, Wes Craven filmed 3 different endings. One of those alternative endings was included in the bonus features of the DVD.
  • The photos of a young Maureen Prescott are actual photos of a young Linda McRee, the actor who portrayed Sidney’s mother.
  • Wes Craven makes a cameo as the man with a handheld camera on the studio tour who passes behind Jay and Silent Bob.
  • The student who asks Gale Weathers the question following her lecture is Richmond Arquette, David Arquette’s brother.
  • Sidney wears the necklace with the Greek letters given to her by Derek, her boyfriend in Scream 2.

The rules for a concluding part of a trilogy

1) You are going to have a killer that is going to be superhuman.
2) Anyone, including the main character, can die.
3) The past will come back to bite you in the ass.