Apart from the fact that most of the characters in Scream and its sequels understand the importance of saying “I’ll be right back” when a knife-wielding masked killer is on the loose, one thing that sets Scream and its sequels apart from other long-running slasher-film series are that they are structured as whodunits.
Even though the Ghostface mask has become as iconic as Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask, Freddy Krueger’s burned face, and Michael Myers’ half-melted William Shatner mask, the Ghostface killers in the Scream films never develop supernatural resistance to death.
Every time, there’s a new (and very mortal) person underneath — usually more than one, as characters in the new Scream point out. As a result, the Scream films are among the most spoiler-sensitive slashers. (I don’t mean to offend Friday the 13th fans, but can most of the sequels be spoiled?)
However, as is typical of the Scream franchise, the killer’s identity is less important than what the film says about its killers. So let’s go over the revelations in the fifth installment of the Scream franchise, 2022 Scream, and what they mean for the previous films in the series. Warning: From here on out, there will be significant Scream spoilers.
IS RIAN JOHNSON PART OF THE NEW SCREAM FILM?
If you ask Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) early in the new Scream, she might tell you that Looper director Rian Johnson is the true villain of the series. Stab, the movies-within-movies based on the events of Scream and its sequels is the series she’s referring to.
When the real-life events were exhausted, the Stab series went off on the usual slasher-movie tangents. (Someone mentioned an entry in Scream 4 that involved time travel.)
The most recent Stab film, renamed just Stab (sound familiar?) and directed by the “Knives Out guy,” as one character refers to Johnson, is the eighth installment. He is not named, and he does not appear in person.
He might as well because the new Scream crew is thinking about the polarizing and rabid reaction to Rian Johnson’s Star Wars film The Last Jedi. Mindy rants and raves about how poorly Stab eight was received and how it lost everything fans loved about the original Stab while also undermining the films that came after it. Preceded it.
To summarize, the eighth installment of a long-running franchise directed by Rian Johnson caused certain corners of the internet to lose their minds over perceived slights to a nostalgic property. Noted.
What Scream 5 is saying about the never-ending Last Jedi controversy adds to the ambiguity in this scene. Mindy is a fast-talking movie nerd who is funny and likable, much like her uncle Randy, the designated film geek in the first two Screams (with a video cameo in part three). As a result, her veiled jabs at The Last Jedi come across as expert advice rather than an entitlement.
For a while, it seems like the film is attempting to have its cake and eat it, satirizing out-of-control fan outrage over The Last Jedi while also recasting Johnson’s thoughtful Star Wars tweaks as akin to one of those late-period Halloween sequels that go off in nonsensical and vaguely insulting directions.
After all, Sam (Melissa Barrera), the protagonist of Scream 5, who has returned to Woodsboro after years away after her sister was attacked by someone wearing a Ghostface mask, doesn’t seem to have many opinions on the movie franchises. She relies on Mindy (or her sister Tara, who prefers “elevated horror”) to lay down the law.
IS THERE A POST-CREDITS SCENE IN SCREAM?
If you stick around for the end credits of Scream, the closest thing you’ll get to a credit cookie is spotting Rian Johnson’s name in the “special thanks” section near the conclusion of the crawl, signaling that the producers aren’t genuinely hating on the Knives Out guy.
It even appears conceivable that directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (who, like Johnson, began in low-budget genre terrain before being called up to do a large franchise picture) sought and received Johnson’s approval to make him the in-universe director of Stab 8.
The film includes none in a genuine mid- or post-credits tease for Scream 6. The new filmmakers appear to recognize that it would not match the Scream M.O. Because they finally dispatched the people wearing the various masks and cloaks, the previous installments never actually teased further sequels.
For all of their jokes about rules, slashers, and sequels, the Screams have steadfastly avoided planting seeds for future installments; the ending of Scream 3, where series protagonist Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is comfortable enough to leave a creaking door ajar, is even a little poetic in its willingness to provide symbolic closure to the then-trilogy.
Before the credits, the latest film makes a halfhearted homage to horror standards with a fast shock-cut to a picture of the Ghostface suit, but it’s utterly context-free. It’s not a character or a plot point; it’s just a brief jump-scare that appears to dodge the kind of but-he’s-alive! Ending that these movies have never had, but that both slasher fans and franchise-movie viewers have learned to expect.
SO, IN SCREAM 5, WHO IS THE KILLER?
Everyone knows that Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and his best friend Stu Macher are the killers in the first Scream (Matthew Lillard). Scream 5 is intended to be self-conscious of its status as a “requel.” This picture combines characteristics of a remake (with new people in a similar circumstance) and a sequel (with old characters returning to please the fans).
So it turns out that the actual killings inspired the killers in the 2022 Scream – their entire motive for resurrecting Ghostface is to be the reboot the world needs. Amber (Mikey Madison), the best friend of Tara (Jenna Ortega), the girl who is assaulted (but not killed!) in Scream 5’s customary opening sequence, turns out to be a die-hard Stab fan looking for new “source material” to fuel a back-to-basics Stab sequel.
In a throwback to the previous film, when one of the murders was Sidney’s boyfriend, Amber’s accomplice in murder is Richie (Jack Quaid), Tara’s elder sister Sam’s seemingly benign boyfriend, Billy Loomis’ secret daughter. (Of course, the film foreshadows the fatal love interest early on, which acts as a cover for Richie’s evil true character.)
Even while Amber and Richie are familiar with the killer-boyfriend theme, they aren’t using it in their new Stab script. They want to accuse Sam of the murders since continuing her father’s legacy would be a classic “requel” move.
Essentially, they want to build a real-life narrative that will inspire a film they want to watch — something “for the fans”! — They’re also rewriting their chosen story in blood.
It doesn’t matter who the killers are in the end, as it does in many Scream sequels. The motivation, rather than the identity of the perpetrators, is usually central to each sequel’s thesis. However, this also means that the film’s thesis isn’t revealed until the climactic monologue in which the killers inevitably explain themselves.
(The series’ legacy characters, Sidney, Gale (Courteney Cox), and Dewey (David Arquette), are adorable and challenging, but they don’t have a track record of solving mysteries.) After all, for the whodunit to work, at least a few suspects must remain believable for the duration of the film.
As a result, practically any of Scream 5’s supporting characters may play “crazed superfans obsessed with restoring Stab/Scream to its original splendor.” The true enemy in this story is toxic fandom, and Amber and Richie are the fans Mindy refers to early in the film when she recounts a visceral Reddit reaction to Stab 8.
Richie, who appeared to be cheerfully catching up with Sam’s condition by watching Stab flicks on Netflix and complaint videos on YouTube, indulged his fixation with the series he feels has lost its purpose.
Though previous Scream films saved some pointed commentary for their final 30 minutes (Scream 4 is a little sluggish in the middle, but it has a killer last act about the desire for social-media fame), this one feels especially barbed in satirizing the fan desire not just for more sequels, but for sequels made to their exact specifications, and with fans’ preferred ideas about mixing the old and new — ideas that are often straight out of a hacky screenwriter’s limited imagination.
After so many “for the fans!” PR tours are exciting about a slasher series that aims at the worst aspects of fandom.
WHO DIES IN THE SCREAM OF 2022?
Another feature of the Scream franchise that distinguishes it from other slashers is that it has retained a core ensemble of adored characters throughout five movies, nearly unheard of in other horror franchises. By the time David Gordon Green’s new Halloween trilogy is finished in 2023, Laurie Strode will have featured in seven films, but bringing her back required resetting the continuity. Without fail, Sidney, Gale, and Dewey have appeared in every Scream film.
The series is unique because the antagonist is not an invincible Michael Myers-style killer – Sidney Prescott is the one who can’t be stopped in the end, and the audience knows it. Perhaps because the series is aware of slasher tropes, it has never resorted to putting Sidney to a humiliating end for shock value.
But the filmmakers try something new this time: Dewey, whose survival of several stabbings has become a running gag in the series, dies this time, closing off a sad epilogue to his sheriff days, in which he split up with Gale again, was driven into early retirement, and became an alcoholic hermit. It’s rough stuff, but it gives David Arquette more to work with than his battle with Gale.
Call it his Han Solo moment; we all want our Han Solo moments to harken back to the original Star Wars, but they may also harken back to The Force Awakens.
The other deaths, including Sheriff Judy (Marley Shelton), who appears to have been brought back from Scream 4 for the explicit goal of being a “legacy” figure who’s also expendable, are somewhat predictable, albeit mild by series standards.
Multiple kids survive Ghostface attacks in this one, with a large cast potentially available for Scream 6.
However, most of these characters are ill-equipped to carry future Scream sequels. Scream still feels like it’s painted itself into a corner, despite its astute satire on the artistic dead ends of “requels” and the poisonous fans who follow them there: The more likable and capable characters it introduces (and Sam and Tara are both easy to root for), the more difficult it will be to develop them beyond constantly threatening them with new knife-wielding maniacs, and the more difficult it will be to balance the “legacy” characters (even if only two major ones remain) with the new class.
The best thing about the new Scream is that it defers any concerns about the existing series to a later picture. Worst of all, it’ll almost certainly inspire one.