Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
For decades, the slasher horror genre has entertained audiences. The genre has given us iconic horror icons such as Michael Myers from the Halloween series, Jason from the Friday the 13th series, and Freddie Kruger from the Nightmare on Elm Street series. For me, the franchise and horror icon that stands out to me is the Scream series and Ghostface. For nearly 27 years, the Scream series has given a new, meta take on the slasher genre. Most of the sequels have done well and gotten good reviews. This past year, Scream VI came out with good reviews. How does this franchise keep doing it?
What makes the Scream franchise entertaining is how meta it is. The movie references other horror movies, including Halloween. The characters themselves are fans of horror movies. The character Randy, played by Jamie Kennedy, explains the tropes of horror movies and how to survive them perfectly well in the original Scream. Some of the villains use horror movies as part of their motivations. Scream 2 goes more meta on the topic of sequels, with the characters debating if the original is better than the sequel or not. Scream (2022) makes a joke about how the eighth film in the fictional movie series Stab ruined the franchise and was directed by Rian Johnson. Rian Johnson in real life was known for directing Star Wars: Episode VIII-The Last Jedi and has been accused by fans of ruining Star Wars.
The characters play a big role in getting invested in these movies. Sydney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, is one of the best protagonists in a horror movie. Despite Ghostface always going after her, she isn’t afraid to fight back. Sydney’s background starts more tragic than we expected at first. Her mom was killed a year before the Ghostface attacks happened. While Scream VI was a good movie, Neve Campbell’s presence as Sydney was missed. Courtney Cox as reporter Gale Weathers, who starts off as an antagonist to Sydney and later close friend in all the Scream movies, is entertaining, as is David Arquette as Deputy Sheriff Dewey Riley in the first five Scream movies. Jamie Kennedy is hilarious as Randy Meeks, a big fan of horror who knows so much about the genre.
The villain performances are also iconic. Before he was Shaggy Rogers in the 2002 Scooby-Doo movie, Matthew Lillard’s most iconic performance was Stu Macher, one of the original Ghostface culprits in Scream. Skeet Ulrich as the other original Ghostface, Billy Loomis, also delivered a great performance. Lillard and Ulrich do well in portraying crazy teenagers who terrorize Woodsboro. More recently, Mikey Madison delivered a great performance in Scream (2022) as Amber Freeman, one of the Ghostface culprits. The movies portray the craziness of each antagonist well.
Scream (2022) introduces a new, younger group of characters. The legacy characters of Sydney, Gale, and Dewey return but play more of a mentor role. Sam Carpenter becomes the new main character, played by Melissa Barrera. Sam turns out to be the daughter of Billy Loomis, who is scared she will turn out like him. Her sister Tara is played by Jenna Ortega, who almost becomes a victim of Ghostface. The franchise does well setting up these new characters and continuing to pay respect to the series. Most franchises, including Star Wars, struggled to do this.
The Scream franchise also changes the setting sometimes to create new and thrilling scenarios. Scream 2 takes place in the college Sydney is attending. Scream 3 takes place in Hollywood while the Stab movies are being filmed. Scream VI takes place in New York City, which is the biggest setting for a Scream movie. Scream (1996), Scream 4, and Scream (2022) take place in Woodsboro but manage to change things up.
Another reason the Scream series stands out is it has a new villain in every movie. Yes, Ghostface is the main antagonist of the series, but there’s always someone new behind the mask with a new set of motivations. It gives the series a mystery feel that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, wondering who Ghostface is this time. Each movie starts with setting up the kind of Ghostface we will get in the movie. For example, the opening of the first Scream where Ghostface calls Drew Barrymore’s character Casey Becker and her boyfriend Steve establishes how dangerous Ghostface was and how he planned out the attack.
Sometimes, a movie has more than one culprit. For example, the first Scream has Billy Loomis and Stu Macher has Ghostface. Billy did it because he wanted revenge on Sydney’s mom for having an affair with his father. Stu uses the excuse of peer pressure. Scream 2 also has 2 villains, Nancy Loomis and Mickey Alteri. Nancy wanted to avenge her son Billy, and Mickey hoped to get caught and blame movies for influencing him.
Having a new group of suspects in each movie keeps the franchise fresh and avoids the same issues other franchises make. For example, except for Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the Halloween franchise relies heavily on Michael Myers always being the villain. It wouldn’t be a huge problem if Michael didn’t die or is believed to have died at the end of most of these movies only to come back in some silly way. It also gives the Scream movies a sense of realism that makes them more unique than these other franchises. As far as the realism of the movies goes, except for some characters surviving from multiple stab wounds, the series overall manages to never go over the top in a way that hurts the franchise.
Most of the sequels have been well-received by critics and audiences. Scream 3 is the only movie to get more of a negative to mixed response. While it is the weakest of the franchise and my least favorite of the series, it still turns out to be a better movie than most slasher sequels from other franchises. The movie still has thrilling moments and interesting twists that don’t always work, but still work better than twists in other slasher series.
Overall, Scream is a slasher franchise that manages to stay fresh and continue to entertain audiences. The movies always have great characters and great performances. They know how to handle the meta-commentary. As far as the franchise's future goes, Scream 7 has no release date, but will likely begin production once the Actors’ Strike is over. It’s unknown, however, if Neve Campbell will return to play Sydney. Hopefully, if she does return, she gets paid the money she deserves for giving us a terrific performance in these movies. I look forward to the future of the Scream franchise and hope they continue to find new, unique ways to keep this franchise strong.
What do you think of the Scream franchise? What’s your favorite Scream movie or favorite horror franchise? Let us know in the comments below.