MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: This article includes details about Scream. In other words, this article will include who the killer is in the fifth installment (and all installments for that matter) of the franchise so read at your own risk.
The original Scream was released in 1996, a year before I graduated high school. The movie immediately reached iconic status with the legendary horror genius Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson. The horror movie flipped the genre on its head and had us shook as we saw Drew Barrymore, who was heavily promoted as the star, get sliced and diced by Ghostface in one of the best cold opens for a movie in history of cinema. Much like Hitchcock’s Psycho did with Janet Leigh, the first Scream lured us into its orbit with Barrymore before killing her off early in the movie.
Scream followed the life of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), whose mother was brutally murdered. The past comes back to haunt her as a mysterious killer in the now iconic Ghostface mask terrorizes the sleepy town of Woodsboro, murdering people one by one. We are introduced to Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) who would become mainstays in the franchise that redefined the horror/slasher genre. Also significant roles in the franchise are Jamie Kennedy as film-buff Randy Meeks and Liev Schreiber as Cotton Weary, the man who was put in jail for killing Sidney’s mother. Both would get killed in later films showing that no one is safe from Ghostface. Scream was killing beloved characters long before Game of Thrones saw Ned Stark’s head roll.
The original movie was meta before meta was a thing, using Randy’s “rules” of classic horror movies like John Carpenter’s Halloween, a groundbreaking movie in its own right, as a launching pad for an unexpected, satirical narrative of bloody fun. As we see stars like Rose McGowan and Henry Winkler get filleted, the big reveal is that the killers are unhinged class clown Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard) and Sidney’s boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), both take their love for horror movies too far. The main motive of the spree was hinged on Billy. His father had an affair with Sidney’s mom therefore driving his own mother away (this information is useful in the sequel).
Yes, it is quite soap opera-y but it was a foundation of all that would be revealed in the subsequent films, including the fifth installment of the franchise. In Scream 2, Billy’s mom (Laurie Metcalf) and psychopathic film student Mickey (Timothy Olyphant). Scream 3 (2000) saw Sidney’s long-lost half-brother Roman (Scott Foley) as the sole killer. Finally, in Scream 4 (2011), Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and Charlie (Rory Culkin), another film-obsessed student, as the killers. There was also a TV version of the franchise in 2015 that didn’t seem to be connected with the Scream cinematic universe so we’ll just leave it out of the conversation but still give it respect.
After revisiting the Scream movies before watching latest installment, it is mind-boggling in how many notable actors appeared in Scream movies alongside the core three. Of course, many of these people would be slain by Ghostface. In addition to the aforementioned guest stars, the list of names is impressive: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Elise Neal,
Jerry O’Connell, Jada Pinkett Smith, Omar Epps, Duane Martin, Rebecca Gayheart, Portia de Rossi, Joshua Jackson, Tori Spelling, Luke Wilson, Heather Graham, Patrick Dempsey, Lance Henriksen, Jenny McCarthy, Emily Mortimer, Parker Posey, Deon Richmond, Patrick Warburton, Heather Matarazzo, Hayden Panettiere, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Mary McDonnell Marley Shelton, Alison Brie, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Lucy Hale, Shenae Grimes, Aimee Teegarden — I told you the list is long.
This brings us to the fifth installment of Scream, which opted out of a number in the title and keeps it simple because, well, it’s a reboot. Well, a “re-quel” as explained by Jasmin Savoy Brown‘s character Mindy Meeks-Martin (yes, she’s Randy’s niece). During one part of the movie, Mindy, like her uncle, explains the rules of a “re-quel” — a sequel that is also a reboot. Scream follows in the footsteps of recent movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Matrix Resurrections which brings back legacy characters and connects them with new ones who carry the torch into the future.
Scream 2 skewered the concept of a sequel, while Scream 3 dissected the concept of a horror trilogy. Scream 4 seemed like it was leaning to what the latest installment does (we’ll call it Scream 5 for clarity). Like all the other movies, the latest Scream is highly self-aware of what it is to the point of brilliance.
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Ready or Not) and written by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac) and Guy Busick (who also wrote Ready or Not), Scream 5 starts with Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) in a scene that echoes Barrymore’s big moment in the original. However, instead killing Ortega off, she survives and ends up reconnecting her estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) who we find out is — wait for it — Billy Loomis’s daughter! Thus, creates another major connection from the OG Scream crew to the new class which also includes Jack Quaid as Sam’s boyfriend Richie; Mikey Madison as Tara’s BFF Amber who hates Sam; Kyle Gallner as Vince (who we hardly see in the movie); Mason Gooding as Chad, Mindy’s twin brother; Sonia Ben Ammar as Liv, Chad’s girlfriend and Dylan Minnette as Wes, the son of Deputy Judy Hicks who is played by returning cast member Marley Shelton. We also get to see Skeet Ulrich return as Sam’s “vision” of Billy and Heather Matarazzo returns as Martha Meeks, Randy’s sister.
Much like The Force Awakens, Scream 5 follows the same beats as the original. Legacy characters Sidney, Gale and Dewey aren’t really front and center so that it can give the newbies time to shine and get slashed. However, I will say that if you think that none of them are invincible, think again. Yup. Dewey meets his maker in a bloody blaze of glory in this one.
It may follow the beats of the original but there are some clever twists and upgrades. As mentioned, in the opening scene Tara is attacked by Ghostface but lives — it is wildly similar to the attack on Casey Becker. We also see shots throughout the movie that are reminiscent of the first movie. This includes a scene during a house party (the house where Stu Macher lived) where Amber goes to fetch more beers in the basement that makes you think she is about to killed like McGowan’s Tatum did in Scream.
The cleverness doesn’t stop there. I mean, look at Sam and Tara’s last name: Carpenter. If that isn’t an homage to John Carpenter, I don’t know what is. We also see a street sign close to the beginning of the film that says “Elm St.”, a nod to A Nightmare on Elm Street another iconic franchise created by the late, great Craven. Scream 5 also plays with the shower scene trope but instead of having a woman strip down and be vulnerable to getting killed we see Minnette’s Wes get naked (no full frontal, pervs!) and enter the shower before his eventual demise.
One trope that Scream has touched on but haven’t really dove into is the portrayal of people of color in horror movies. We all know the “Black person gets killed first” trope that exists in past horror films and Scream 5 doesn’t do this. It’s the first Scream movie in the franchise that has more than one person of color in the core cast. In fact, Barrera, an actress of Latinx descent, leads the film and she, along Brown, Gooding and Ortega end up surviving after the third-act blood bath. All people of color. All will probably be in the sequel.
This is unheard of. It’s a big deal because we are so used to seeing people of color as casualties in all slasher movies.
Before Scream 5, the only people of color featured in the franchise, were Elise Neal, Jada Pinkett Smith, Omar Epps, Duane Martin, Deon Richmond, and Anthony Anderson. Everyone, with the exception of Martin, who played Gale’s camera man in Scream 2, dies. Even though Martin survives we don’t see him in any of the sequels.
In Scream 2, Pinkett Smith’s Maureen says of slasher movies: “It’s some dumb-ass white movie about some dumb-ass white girls getting their white asses cut the fuck up, okay?” Okay, she isn’t really lying there. However, when Maureen says “All I’m saying is that the horror genre is historical for excluding the African-American element”. This scene in the sequel was wildly meta and cut deep (literally and figuratively) as it was making commentary on representation of people of color — particularly Black people.
Shortly after Maureen says this we witness the murder of her boyfriend (played by Epps) followed by Maureen’s very epic death scene in front of a crowd of moviegoers wearing Ghostface masks unknowingly cheering thinking its a publicity stunt for the movie Stab. Maureen then dies on the stage. Thus, illustrating the trope of “Black people always die first in horror movies.” The bold cold open for Scream 2 was a sly wink from Craven and Williamson. The same could be said about Richmond’s character Tyson Fox (again, I love the names) in Scream 3.
In Scream 3, Richmond plays a version of Kennedy’s Randy in an installment of the Stab movies. This easily is a moment of early “wokeness” as they cast a Black actor to play a white man. This showcases inclusivity and was probably around the time everyone was all about “colorblind” casting. While cast members of the movie within a movie (Stab) were getting killed, Tyson is asked why he is sticking around with knowledge that he might be murdered. He answers: “You think serious Black actors my age can just throw away jobs? It’s all a business now. They got Usher doing Pinter off Broadway. LL Cool J’s Shakespeare-ing in the park…” Although a funny line, what Tyson says speaks volumes. Black actors — and other actors of color — need to take any job they can get even if it means that they might die.
Things have changed since 1997 and with movies like Get Out and the new Candyman (which could also be considered a re-quel) we are seeing proper, nuanced representation under the horror genre umbrella. Even with Scream 5, the franchise expands on the cleverness and awareness of its characters of color, particularly with the twins.
Brown’s Mindy is the new version of Randy, very self-aware of the horror game they are in and follows the rules to a T. She knows what’s coming and is prepared. Gooding’s Chad fulfills the role of the modern day meathead (I mean, he refers to his biceps as Hobbs and Shaw), but he is just as savvy as his sister. He refuses to go into a separate room with his girlfriend for sex because he knows that she could easily be the killer. And even though he does end up getting attacked, he survives.
Scream 5 is a win for inclusion. They do it right and it doesn’t feel tokenized. Hopefully in the next one we will get an Asian in there… or maybe more characters with darker melanin. Also, even though Mindy is openly queer, we can use a little more queerness.
The first movie explored the Quentin Tarantino/Clerks era of video store movie fans and how they take their obsession of movies one step too far. In the case of Scream, Billy and Stu were the delusional fanatics. This is mirrored in Scream 5 when it is revealed that the killer is Sam’s boyfriend Richie and Amber, who lives in Stu’s old house. The pair are even bubbling over with toxic fandom and have Reddit troll energy that screams “the all-female Ghostbusters ruined my childhood.”
It’s all infused with so much fun and it’s clear that the directors and writers were fans of the originals. The movie connects old fans and introduces the story to new fans. It truly is The Force Awakens of the franchise.
At the end of the movie, a title card pops up on the screen that says “For Wes”. Scream 5 thoughtfully honored the spirit of this world sculpted by Craven. It pumps new life into the Scream-iverse while continuing to do what this franchise was meant to do: fuel our love of movies.