22 Things We Learned from Wes Craven’s ‘Scream 4’ Commentary

"He was very nervous about that squib going off right on his crotch."
Wes Craven Scream 4

Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Rob Hunter revisits the best Scream sequel, Scream 4.

A new Scream movie — Scream VI! — hits theaters this week, and I for one am cautiously optimistic. Optimistic because I’m a big fan of the Scream franchise, but cautious because the previous film is a bit of a mess between its laughably obvious killers and incredibly stupid death for one of its legacy characters. To celebrate, though, I’m looking back at the best of the Scream sequels and the last to be directed by the legendary Wes Craven.

Scream 4 is still home to some questionable logic (as is the entire franchise), but it has great kills, big laughs, a stellar cast, and some terrifically entertaining character beats. Even better, it’s the first film since the opening of the first to feature an emotional kill — Kirby’s “death” lands big due both to the writing and to the performances of Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin. It’s just a good time all around.

This was Craven’s final film, and he recorded a commentary track for the home video release alongside a couple of the new cast members (with a brief phone-in by Neve Campbell). The eve of Scream VI‘s release felt like the right time to give it a listen, so keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for Scream 4!

Scream 4 (2011)

Commentators: Wes Craven (director), Hayden Panettiere (actor), Emma Roberts (“actor”)

1. Wes Craven points out that tech-savvy viewers already knew something was up with the first opening sequence as one of the girls is using a Sidekick phone. “That was a good phone,” says Emma Roberts.

2. Hayden Panettiere learned something on Scream 4 — she previously had no clue that Channing Tatum was an Abercrombie & Fitch model before becoming an actor.

3. Writer Kevin Williamson had an earlier draft that opened with Sidney (Neve Campbell) and friends enjoying a dinner party celebrating her book release only to see her attacked and stabbed before cutting to “three years later.” Bob Weinstein wasn’t a fan, though, as he worried it would create a gap in the story… as if the eleven-year stretch between Scream 3 and Scream 4 isn’t a gap?

4. Gary Tunnicliffe headed up the makeup fx for Scream 4, “and he loves to have a lot of blood.” An unused take of Lucy Hale’s death left the ceiling drenched as blood spurted everywhere.

5. Panettiere searched for Roger Jackson — the voice of Ghostface — every day, including days where he was listed on the call sheet, but she never found him in person. “The actors never see Roger,” says Craven.

6. She also panicked over her delivery of “Bambi” and approached Craven after he called cut to ask if it was okay. He had no complaints.

7. The bust in the school hallway glimpsed at 17:58 is meant to be of Principal Himbry (Henry Winkler) from the first film, but “it didn’t look enough like him.”

8. Campbell wondered what Sidney was doing back in Woodsboro, but Craven explained the motivation to her satisfaction. “We had many of those moments over the years, haven’t we Wes, where you just say ‘trust me’ and you always end up being right.”

9. She compliments Panettiere and Roberts for coming into the production with great energy, enthusiasm, and attitude. “You guys were a similar age to we were when we started, and it was fun to see how you guys bonded like we did.”

10. Craven pranked Panettiere on the first take of the scene where she opens the closet door at 34:46 by having a crewmember pop out in the Ghostface costume. “I screamed at the top of my lungs,” she adds.

11. There were a few characters designed as red herrings including Deputy Hicks (Marley Shelton) and Trevor (Nico Tortorella). They had to trim some of Tortorella’s scenes, though, as they realized they had gone overboard in making him look guilty.

12. Roberts had blond hair and wore flats to her audition, but when Craven offered her the part he said “you’re a little too small, and we need to dye your hair dark.” They have multiple lifts in her shoes throughout the film.

13. Matthew Lillard visited the set one night, and both Roberts and Culkin were incredibly nervous at meeting him.

14. It was Roberts’ choice to pull string cheese and chocolate milk out of the fridge for a snack, and that’s really the biggest clue that she’s one of the psychopaths.

15. An extra walks past Panettiere at 54:26 “and she gave me the oddest look, she just gave me the nastiest look, and I reacted to it.” The young woman apologized to her afterwards. “That look is called ‘how to I get my face to face camera,'” adds Craven.

16. They tried to keep various aspects of the production secret, including the filming of certain scenes, but they weren’t always successful. The scene where Gale (Courteney Cox) is in the police car outside the barn, for example, spilled online via photos taken by someone with a strong telescopic lens. They did catch a snoop during the parking garage scene, though, and presumably had them killed.

17. Panettiere sympathizes with Anthony Anderson as his death scene sees fake blood pouring all over her face and hair. She says it stains your hair, pulls your eyebrows out, and “on Heroes, I had pink hair for four years.”

18. Craven says they never had a script that was shorter than 135-pages.

19. Per Panettiere’s contract, her character was not meant to die onscreen. “It was supposed to be this kind of ‘oh we’ve got a heartbeat!’ at the end of the film.” Fans and friends would comment that she dies at the end, and she would reply “but did I?” Hmm, don’t quote me on this, but this makes me think she might turn up in Scream VI

20. They had to reshoot one of Ghostface’s close-ups because it was a new mask and Craven felt the cheeks were too chubby. They found an older one and reshot the scene.

21. “Poor Dewey, so oblivious,” says Roberts, and Craven adds that David Arquette wanted to play Dewey as a legitimately good cop this time around who’s actually able to solve the crime.

22. There’s the smallest of twitches on Jill’s (Roberts) face in the final shot, and while they initially removed it digitally in post-production, Craven had them add it back to keep the possibility of her return open.

Best in Context-Free Commentary

“That mask is just terrifying.”

“I miss the punch, though, Wes. I wish we got a punch.”

“Fake laughing is the hardest thing in a movie to do.”

“This reminds me of the shot from Jurassic Park.”

“Hayden just realized her shirt’s on backwards.”

“As you can see, Hayden is still moving.”

“He was very nervous about that squib going off right on his crotch.”

“A few holes in the script, what can I say.”

Final Thoughts

As always, Craven is an entertaining and insightful listen as his affection for filmmaking and storytelling is abundantly clear. Campbell’s appearance is very brief, but Panettiere (who also leaves early about an hour or so in) brings enthusiasm and some fun observations to the track. Roberts also talks. It’s fun hearing them discuss Kirby’s possible fate — she’s possibly alive meaning she could return for a sequel! Of course, now we know that tease has officially come true as Panettiere is in Scream VI, but uh, here’s hoping Jill stays dead.

Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.

Rob Hunter: Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.