Youth Culture Window

Horror Kicking It Up a Notch

The phone rings. A sinister voice asks, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” If only the pretty young girl on the other end of the line knew that she was the scary movie. The nefarious Ghostface has returned after 10 long years. But this time, the killer is playing by new rules.

Scream 4’s premise of “new decade, new rules” might just be more accurate and foretelling about pop culture than you realize. Today’s blockbusters have to go to a new distance, more extreme in every way. Today’s kids want more… and our culture is willing to provide it.

A Glimpse Inside The Social Network Generation
What compelled Wes Craven to return and add to the Scream trilogy after over a decade? (Besides money!)

According to Internet buzz, Wes wouldn’t even consider a 4th Scream without a script that was “as good as the first Scream.” But this time, the challenge was even greater. Create a fourth film that feels as fresh and representative of today’s young people as the first film did for teenagers in the 90’s.

And that’s exactly why we’re writing about this film in our Youth Culture Window section this week, because the filmmakers made a special effort to try to capture and reflect today’s young people. Time will tell, but Scream 4 will probably achieve both.

After reviewing the film, I (Jonathan) admit, I’m torn. On one hand, I admit that the film accurately portrays much of this young, cocky and desensitized generation. Yet, on the other hand, the film itself is a perfect example of the very irresponsible, imitatable opus that has helped mold these young people to what they have become.

It All Started with a Phone Call
If you aren’t a film nerd, or you weren’t a teenager in the 90’s, you might be scratching your head right now asking, “Scream who?”

The original Scream packed out theatres in December of 1996. This cleverly penned slasher film was an instant hit with teenagers of the 90’s. The storyline was a fusion of several classic scary films (When a Stranger Calls, Halloween…), offering plenty of quotes, nods and references that only film geeks would recognize. But Scream pioneered new ground. In this horror film, the characters actually talked about horror films. Thus, in the midst of a psychopath’s killing spree, cast members would be found debating the “rules” of serial killers.

The buzz on Scream spread quickly. The combination of director Wes Craven’s scares and rookie screenwriter Kevin Williamson’s creative dialogue was a tasty treat for most.

Back then, I (Jonathan), a fan of classic scary movies (Jaws, Psycho, When a Stranger Calls…) enjoyed the creativity and homage to earlier films. But at the same time, I found the film irresponsible and full of imitatable behavior for younger audiences. (The Scream 4 apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)

In all honesty, I (David) watched the first two films with my buddies. We’d wait till it came out on VHS – hey, it was the mid 90’s – and then pull a guy round-up on a Friday night, pop it in and place wagers on “who’s doing the killing?” The guy who guessed correctly won free milkshakes from the other guys.

Our lucky guessers weren’t the only winners with these films. Scream took in $173 million worldwide; Scream 2 (1997) raked in $172.8 million worldwide, and Scream 3 (2000) pulled 161.8 million from around the globe.

Knowing the first trilogy made 500+ million dollars should explain the existence of Scream 4.

Horror 2.0
Wes Craven, the “master of suspense” behind the first three films takes the helm in Scream 4, as well. But after 10 long years – filled with what seems like 622 Saw films – will his old recipe still work?

Bank on it. (Dimension Films is)

There’ll still be plenty of killing and horror film-deprecating comedy in this flick as well, but Craven’s not taking any chances. He’s kicked it up a notch and that’s why the tag line of this latest installment reads “New Decade. New Rules.”

But what’s that mean?

Director Wes Craven, in an interview on said that this film is, “very much about the social network generation.” Scream 4 is about kids with smartphones and Facebook accounts. They’re media savy and hopelessly connected to their electronic devices. This mandates “new rules” for a generation that has seen everything!

The marketing team included the listing of these “new rules” in the official trailers: Trailer 1 and Trailer 2.

A few telling lines in those clips are, “One generation’s tragedy is the next one’s joke,” and “The kill has gotta be, like, way more extreme” and “The unexpected is the new cliché.” In other words, the terror, violence, gore, surprise…and overall entertainment…has to be ratcheted up to have an effect.

What’s ironic is this: it’s the kids who point out the demand for “new rules” that crank up the intensity.

That irony of kids (on film) voluntarily pointing out their “increased expectation” of the latest and greatest should cause those of us who have teenagers in our lives to take an important note that we mentioned at the beginning of this article: our kids want more…and our culture is willing to provide it.

Don’t misunderstand us; we’re not hating on scary films. I (Jonathan) am a fan of a good scary film (David is not). But as guys who have worked with teens and tweens for almost two decades, we wish students would recognize this pattern in all areas of their lives. Our kids’ “lust for more” transcends to their use of alcohol, drugs, sex, and pornography. They realize too late that more and more of a destructive vice not only doesn’t satisfy, but leaves them feeling empty.

So, what should we do with this “introspective” new horror film?

What if…?
We can’t help but (jokingly) wonder, “What if the girl never answered the late night phone call in the very first film?” Would she – and about 2 dozen others – still be alive? Would millions of fans be anxiously awaiting the fourth Scream film?

Would Wes Craven have half-a-billion fewer dollars?

Yeah, I know: “what if?” questions are hard to answer. But let me ask you two of them anyway.


  1. What if you screen this film before letting your teenager see it? Hear us clearly. We’re not recommending you go see this film. Jonathan and Todd actually recommend that you “skip it” in their review. But, for the literally millions of parents who are going to let their kids see this R rated film (we meet these kids almost every day… at church!), why don’t you do what the American Academy of Pediatrics and almost every other expert recommends—“co-viewing.” That’s when you watch it with them. That way you can discuss what they see.

    So if you think your kids are going to end up seeing this movie (which we don’t recommend), at least read a few reviews first. We have our own review of Scream 4 on our MOVIE REVIEWS & QUICK Q’s page that not only gives you a heads up on the film’s content, but also provides you with some powerful questions (and answers) to help you generate conversation with your teen(s).

  2. What if you talk with your teenagers about human’s desire to constantly have things “kicked up a notch”? You might use drinking alcohol as an example: at first 3 beers is all it takes to get a buzz, but then 5 are needed to do the trick. The same is true with drugs. The daredevil in search of the next thrill has to continually ramp up his next stunt to get a rush. The Apostle Paul actually talked about this tendency 2,000 years ago. In Ephesians 4:17-24, he writes:
        So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity,

with a continual lust for more

    • .
    • That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

The world will always be willing to kick things up to ensure its grasp on our kids’ lives. This isn’t the time to fall into complacency. In fact, there will never be a time that permits our complacency ever again. We must be committed to guiding our kids by truth…or risk watching their lives turn into real life horror.

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Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for parents on his website Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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