Originally, the series was intended to be a trilogy, but film production for a fourth installment was approved by Bob Weinstein. Filming took place in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan, in June 2010 to September 2010, with re-shoots in early 2011.
On the fifteenth anniversary of the original Woodsboro murders, high school students Jenny Randall and Marnie Cooper are attacked and brutally killed by a new Ghostface.
The following day, Sidney Prescott returns to Woodsboro to promote her new book with her publicist Rebecca Walters. After evidence is found in Sidney's rental car, Sidney becomes a suspect in the murders and must stay in town until the murders are solved. Her cousin, Jill, who is dealing with the betrayal of her ex-boyfriend, Trevor Sheldon, gets a threatening phone call from Ghostface, as does her friend Olivia Morris. Jill and Olivia, alongside their friend Kirby Reed, are questioned about their calls by Dewey Riley, who is now the sheriff of the town, while one of his deputies, Judy Hicks, assists him in the case. Meanwhile, Dewey's wife, Gale Weathers-Riley, is struggling with writer's block. She gives up the writing and decides to investigate the murder instead.
Sidney stays with Jill's mother, Sidney's aunt Kate Roberts. Later that night, Olivia, who lives next door to Jill and Kate, is attacked and murdered by Ghostface as Jill and Kirby watch in horror. Sidney and Jill rush in to save Olivia, but the killer injures them and gets away; Sidney and Jill are taken to the hospital. In the hospital's parking garage, Ghostface murders Rebecca. Gale, trying to solve the murders, enlists the help of two high school movie geeks, Charlie Walker and Robbie Mercer, who explain that the killer is using the rules of movie remakes to murder. Charlie concludes that the killer will likely strike at a party being held that night.
Gale goes to the party to investigate. Ghostface injures her but flees when Dewey arrives. Dewey takes her to the hospital. At Jill's house, Sidney discovers that the policemen assigned to guard the house are dead. She also discovers that Jill has left the house and gone to Kirby's. Sidney goes down to tell Kate, but the killer appears, kills Kate, and disappears again. After Deputy Judy Hicks arrives, Sidney rushes to Kirby's house to save Jill on her own.
Jill, Kirby, Charlie, Robbie and Trevor are at Kirby's house when Ghostface appears and murders a drunken Robbie. Sidney arrives at the house. Kirby is forced to answer horror movie trivia to save Charlie, who is tied up outside. Sidney goes upstairs to find Jill, promising to return to Kirby. After Kirby answers Ghostface's questions, she goes outside to untie Charlie, believing that she has won the game. He suddenly stabs her in the stomach and reveals himself as Ghostface, before leaving her for dead. Sidney is confronted by Charlie and a second Ghostface, who is revealed as Jill. She explains that they want the attention Sidney got for surviving the murders, and that they intend to frame Trevor as Ghostface; she then pulls Trevor out of a closet and shoots him in the head. Jill then betrays Charlie and kills him too, to pin him as Trevor's accomplice and to make herself the sole survivor. Jill stabs Sidney in the stomach and mutilates herself to make it seem as if Trevor attacked her. Later, Dewey, Judy, and the rest of the police stumble upon the carnage.
Jill is then taken to the hospital. After discovering that Sidney had survived, she goes to Sidney's hospital room and attempts to finish her. Dewey, Gale, and Judy intervene, having been clued by a detail about Gale's injury that Jill somehow knew. Jill subdues Sidney's rescuers, which gives Sidney the chance to shoot her in the chest, killing her. Dewey calls in all police units, as media reporters outside confirm Jill as the "sole-surviving hero".Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott
Emma Roberts as Jill Roberts
David Arquette as Dewey Riley
Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers
Marley Shelton as Judy Hicks
Rory Culkin as Charlie Walker
Hayden Panettiere as Kirby Reed
Nico Tortorella as Trevor Sheldon
Erik Knudsen as Robbie Mercer
Mary McDonnell as Kate Roberts
Alison Brie as Rebecca Walters
Marielle Jaffe as Olivia Morris
Anthony Anderson as Anthony Perkins
Adam Brody as Ross Hoss
Anna Paquin as Rachel Milles
Kristen Bell as Chloe Wurtingzon
Aimee Teegarden as Jenny Randall
Britt Robertson as Marnie Cooper
Lucy Hale as Sherrie Marconi
Shenae Grimes as Trudie Lowe
Roger L. Jackson as the voice of Ghostface
Scream 4 was announced by The Weinstein Company in July 2008, with Wes Craven saying that he would not mind directing the film if the script was as good as Scream. In March 2010 it was confirmed that he would indeed direct.
In May 2010, Cathy Konrad, who produced the first three films in the series, filed a $3 million lawsuit against The Weinstein Company, alleging that they violated a written agreement that entitled her company, Cat Entertainment, first rights to produce all films in the series. The Weinsteins argued that this contract required Konrad's services be exclusive to the franchise, which Konrad calls "false pretext", claiming the previous film did not require this condition. The suit accuses the Weinsteins of surreptitious behavior and "a scheme to force Plaintiffs to walk away from the Scream franchise without compensation," enabling them to cut costs by hiring someone else to produce (Craven's wife, Iya Labunka, not named in the suit). In April 2011, it was reported that the Weinsteins had settled out of court with Konrad, the details remaining confidential, though it was claimed that she would receive a cash payment plus a percentage of the profits from Scream 4.
Craven stated that within the ten years that have passed between Scream 3 and Scream 4, there have been no "real life" Ghostface murders but have been numerous sequels to the film-within-a-film Stab. He also commented on the life status of Sidney Prescott, "She's done her best to move on from the events that occurred in the previous films, even releasing a successful book". Craven said that endless sequels, the modern spew of remakes, film studios, and directors are the butts of parodies in the film. The main characters have to figure out where the horror genre is in current days to figure out the modern events happening to and around them.
In an early draft of the script, Gale and Dewey had a baby, but this was changed after it was decided bringing a baby into the film would make shooting "impossible". In another early form of the script, the opening scene had Sidney go head-to-head with Ghostface and be left for dead. There would have been a two-year gap in the story while she recovered; however, Bob Weinstein feared it would slow the pace of the story and bringing in young characters would work out best.
Scream 3 writer Ehren Kruger was brought in during production to do re-writes. Craven said, "Look, there was a bumpy period when things shifted over from Kevin to Ehren. I signed up to do a script by Kevin and unfortunately that didn't go all the way through the shooting. But it certainly is Kevin's script and concept and characters and themes". Additional rewrites were made by Paul Harris Boardman. It was reported that the actors were not given the 140-page script past page 75 in order to protect the identity of the Ghostface killer.
In September 2009, Variety reported that Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox would return. Craven briefly explained their roles in a later interview with Entertainment Weekly, saying "It's a total integration of those three and new kids. The story of Sid, Gale, and Dewey is very much a part of the movie." At a press conference for Repo Men, Liev Schreiber — who played Cotton Weary in the first three films — stated there were no plans for his reprisal. In an interview with FEARnet, Williamson continued to deny a rumor of Jamie Kennedy returning, "I would love nothing more than to have Jamie Kennedy in the film. However to have Randy in the film, it sort of just takes it... I mean Scream 2 was a lie, you know? It's a false move. So I just won't do it. I can't do that. I just won't do it." In April, over 12 casting sides were released to the public to buy for auditions of the film.
In May 2010, Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin signed on. Ashley Greene was offered the role of Sidney's cousin, Jill, but the role later went to Emma Roberts. Lake Bell was to play Deputy Judy Hicks, but dropped out four days before filming due to scheduling conflicts, causing the role to ultimately go to Marley Shelton. Nancy O'Dell reprises her role from the second and third films as a reporter. Roger L. Jackson returned as the voice of Ghostface. Lauren Graham was to play Kate Roberts, the mother of Roberts' character, but dropped out a few days into principal photography. Craven, like in the previous three films, has a cameo and took to his Twitter to ask fans to pick his role (the cameo was, however, deleted from the final cut of the film). The Hollywood Reporter reported that Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell have cameos in the beginning of the film akin to Drew Barrymore and Jada Pinkett Smith in the first and second Scream. Shenae Grimes and Lucy Hale also have cameos in the film.
On a budget of $40 million, principal photography began on June 28, 2010. Filming was scheduled to end on September 6, after a 42-day shoot, but instead concluded on September 24. Filming took place in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan. Scenes portraying Woodsboro High School featured in the original Scream film were shot at Woodworth Middle School in Dearborn, Michigan. The former 16th District Court in Livonia, Michigan was used as a police station.
In April 2010, while scouting for a bookstore to use in the film, Craven spotted a new bookstore that had not yet opened in downtown Northville, Michigan named Next Chapter Bookstore Bistro. Craven instantly loved the building as well as the name and decided to use both in the film. He also hired the owner's chef to prepare the food and pastry for a scene in the film. The scenes were shot the first week of July. After the test screening in January, Craven and Weinstein did not think two scenes played well for the audience. Aimee Teegarden and Alison Brie returned to Detroit in late January and early February 2011 for four days of additional shooting. The scenes involved Teegarden's character who is stalked at her home and Brie's character who is attacked in a parking garage.
The film also extensively used computer-generated imagery for the first time in the franchise. For example, instead of using a "collapsing knife", the knife's blade was added during post-production with CGI effects. Anderson's death scene in which he is stabbed in the forehead and walks a few feet while talking before finally falling to his death, was not in the script but was inspired by a "real-life medical emergency" Craven had seen in a documentary about a person being stabbed through their head and walked into an emergency room. He thought it was "extraordinary if somebody was stabbed in the head and still be alive for a while". Craven also did not tell the studio that he was taking this approach for the death scene, jokingly saying he hoped he would not be fired the next day.
The Scream 4: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released on April 12, 2011, by Lakeshore Records. A score soundtrack was also released, on April 19, 2011, by Varèse Sarabande.
The film was released in North America on April 15, 2011.
Scream 4 grossed $38.2 million in the United States and Canada and $59 million in other territories for a total gross of $97.1 million, against its budget of $40 million.
The film was released in 3,305 theaters on 4,400 screens and grossed over $1 million in its midnight previews. It made $8.7 million on Friday and $19.3 million in its opening weekend, finishing second at the box office. According to industry experts, the film's opening weekend was "disappointing," experiencing the second-lowest opening of the Scream franchise. In its first weekend worldwide the film took $37.3 million from 30 territories, behind only Rio which took $53.9 million from 62 territories. The film topped the box office in the United Kingdom taking over £2 million, came in second in France, third in Mexico and fourth in Australia. In its second weekend in the United States, it fell to fifth place, taking in $7.2 million.
Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 59% based on 174 reviews; the average rating is 5.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The franchise is showing its age, but Scream 4 is undeniably an improvement over its predecessor, with just enough meta humor and clever kills." On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating, the film has a score 52 out of 100, based on 32 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade moviegoers gave the film was a "B–" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert gave the film two out of four stars, criticizing the film for using the clichéd formula of the slasher genre, but complimenting Craven's direction and Williamson's dialogue. Empire gave the film two out of five stars, criticizing the film's old-fashioned formula and lack of scare factor. The New York Daily News thought the film was "dated" and that "relying on obvious clichés doesn't seem ironic anymore, just easy." The Toronto Sun gave the film a mixed review, writing that "this installment is nowhere near the hip, serrated-edge blast of newness the original was in 1996. Suddenly, it's the horror thriller that, like, your parents are excited about"; however, the review praised director Wes Craven. Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune gave the film a perfect score of four out of four stars, praising the combination of scares, comedy, and twists.
The Boston Herald wrote that the film is "often amusing" but too long. Lisa Kennedy from the Denver Post stated that Scream 4 "pays plenty of homage to their 1996 original", but that it is not close to its greatness, despite calling it a "cut above most slasher flicks". Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly praised the film, stating "It's a giddy reminder of everything that made Scream such a fresh scream in the first place," while Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "Scream 4 finds a way to live up to its gory past while it carves out new terrors in new ways." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the movie two out of four stars, criticizing the comedic overtones.
In June 2011, Scream 4 was nominated for a Teen Choice Award for Best Horror Movie but lost to Paranormal Activity 2.
On March 2, 2012, Scream 4 won the award for Best Horror Movie, and Ghostface came in third place for Best Villain at the Virgin Media Movie Awards.
Scream 4 was first released on DVD and Blu-ray in Mexico on August 5, 2011. It was later released in the United Kingdom and Ireland on August 22, 2011, in Canada and the United States on October 4, 2011, and in Australia and New Zealand on October 13, 2011. The film has made roughly $4,103,282 in DVD sales in the United States, bringing the film's lifetime gross to approximately $101,334,702. In the US DVD and Blu-ray rental charts, Scream 4 entered at #2 on its week of release. The film then spent 7 consecutive weeks inside the top twenty of the chart. Scream 4 made its television debut on April 20, 2012 on cable channel Showtime. In December 2012, Showtime featured Scream 4 during a free weekend preview, where the station would be available in over 80 million homes in America. On April 19, 2013, Scream 4 was added to Netflix's instant online streaming service. To promote the DVD and Blu-ray release, Universal Studios produced "Terror Tram: SCRE4M For Your Life" as an event featured in its annual Halloween Horror Nights throughout September and October 2011.