The Scream franchise is, without one single doubt, a must-watch during the Halloween season. Although horror freaks can watch it anytime of year, the franchise created by Wes Craven feels even more exceptional during October. Still, we don’t talk about Scream 4‘s Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts) enough. Sidney’s killer cousin is one of a few female horror villains and it’s time to explore her character and why she continues to terrify us with her personality and actions.
Scream 4 comes back to its roots as Sidney returns to Woodsboro during her book tour. It’s been 11 years since the third installment’s events, and the legendary final girl is ready to face the brutal past. While staying with her aunt Kate Roberts (Mary McDonnell) and cousin Jill, Sidney reunites with Dewey (David Arquette), now a town Sheriff, and Gale (Courteney Cox), who struggles with writer’s block.
Although Sidney is still the core character of the story, Jill is the one who draws the audience’s attention. I certainly didn’t expect her to be one of the two Ghostface killers alongside Charlie (Rory Culkin), her high school friend and the co-leader of the Cinema Club. In fact, Jill seems to be a target in the beginning as one of the first people to receive a phone call from Ghostface.
Jill and her friends Olivia (Marielle Jaffe) and Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) become potential targets of the killer(s). The murders complicate their regular lives full of horror films, social media, and technology. But, it almost seems that they’re not overly worried about Ghostface praying on them nor Sidney.
Jill’s friends are very curious about Sidney, but she’s rather dismissive about her infamous cousin. They obviously don’t have a strong bond: Jill barely knows Sidney. Their family’s attention has also been more focused on Maureen’s murder and the brutal events surrounding Sidney. Even Kate, Maureen’s sister, admits that “nobody asks about her scars.”
Of course, she means emotional scars, but we can assume that Kate feels some sort of way about her late sister and niece. However it seems like Kate still truly cares for Sidney. But there is a possibility that Kate feeling unseen might have affected how Jill feels about her cousin.
As Scream 4 progresses, it becomes apparent that Jill is most interested in Sidney’s fame. Sidney Prescott has movies about her life and a very successful writer promoting her book. But Jill dismisses the fact that her cousin has been traumatized, stalked, and nearly killed many times. She only sees “Sidney, the famous writer” who gets a lot of attention.
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In one scene, Jill asks Sidney how she deals with all the people staring at her. “People stare at me?” Sidney replies. Although Jill’s question seems innocent, the audience has a chance to see an ominous smile with a voice full of awe and wonder. It’s an introduction to the true topic of Scream 4: contemporary culture and its youth’s obsession with fame and technology.
Scream 4 allows a younger generation (who were toddlers during the events of Scream) to take over. As much as we love the unstoppable trio of Gale, Dewey, and Sidney, it’s a different decade with new characters and horror rules. Woodsboro High School Cinema Club leaders Robbie (Erik Knudsen) and Charlie bring us up to speed on the genre’s changes.
“You pretty much have to be gay,” Robbie admits, talking to the audience. The film fanatics also agree that the death scenes have to be more extreme and the latest technology is always involved, which is exactly what Jill and Charlie do.
Jill’s undivided obsession with being the famous final girl leads her to kill her accomplice Charlie so she can become the next superstar. She even says that people don’t have to work anymore in today’s world. According to her, they just need something brutal to happen to them to become a star. Jill’s preoccupation with stardom really shows up in her subsequent showdown with Sidney.
“Sidney this, Sidney that, Sidney, Sidney, Sidney,” Jill repeats at one point as she gets the upper hand on our hero. Her role as the main killer gives us a full picture of her character, personality, and reasons behind her actions. Although she has a good life, a big house, and a loving mother, she needs more. Lifelong jealousy, a clouded judgment, and admiration for fame made Jill Roberts entirely numb in regards to people and emotions.
We may even go as far as saying she exhibits some sociopathic attributes. She kills her friends, people who get in her way, and even her own mother with zero remorse. “I don’t need friends. I need fans,” she says in what’s probably the most legendary line from Scream 4.
Jill shoots Sidney and disturbingly prepares the murder scene in a way that insinuates the true Ghostface was Trevor, her ex-boyfriend. What comes next is a true spectacle. Jill must look like a true victim, the new generation’s model 2.0 final girl. She scratches her face with Trevor’s nails to leave the DNA behind, pulls out a chunk of her hair, and stabs herself in the shoulder by running into a wall.
But that’s not the end. Jill takes it up a notch for extra drama, throwing herself into the framed picture, cutting her face and, in the final act, falls through the glass table. She makes sure to crawl to Sidney and mimic her exact position on the floor. It shows how well she was able to hide her true nature.
Jill smiles as a swarm of journalists bombard her before she’s taken to the hospital. She’s happy to be the new final girl who survived it all. Jill’s obsession with fame and intense jealousy vs. revenge (a typical driver for female villains) makes her one of the most interesting female serial killers in the slasher film genre.
It’s even more menacing because Jill Roberts is a symbol of modern culture who could absolutely be a real person. It’s not like Tiffany Valentine, who becomes a doll because of her obsession with Chucky. She’s a killer but dolls don’t kill people in a real life.
Jill thinks she’s won but there is another twist in Scream 4, something that Jill didn’t expect. Sidney is still alive, although in extremely bad condition. She tries to go and finish the job but Sidney eventually gains control and shocks her with a defibrillator. “You forgot the first rule of remakes, Jill. Don’t f*ck with the original,” Sidney says as Jill’s body drops to the floor. Of course, Sidney also thwarts her last attempt with a fatal gunshot. Jill’s final girl fame is over as quickly as it started.
Wes Craven created one of a few female slasher killers and did an outstanding job. The character of Jill is a wealthy, spoiled brat. She has a clear motive from the beginning to the end. She’s very smart in her actions but is definitely not able to outsmart Sidney, the true master of avoiding death.
The new generation vs. the older one was a fabulous touch, next to the film’s core subjects about fame, attention, and murder. Scream 4 is a great cautionary tale that works even now, after nine years.
Scream 4 makes me think about the lack of female slasher killers in the cinema and television. As women, we want to see each other on screen, not only in romantic comedies, or sci-fi. We want to see ourselves in different situations, even in the horror genre. We watch Michael Myers stalking Laurie and Freddy Krueger invading teenagers’ dreams every year during spooky season. So why not see more female slasher killers as well?
Killers like Jill Roberts bring a freshness and element of surprise that’s different from the norm. Hopefully, in the future, there will be more female villains with similar motives or perhaps even one who is silent like Michael Myers. The options are endless and it’s worth exploring and diversifying slasher films.
Featured Image: Dimension Films