We are ready for a Scream 5 and have been ready for years now.
In this essay I will…
Okay, I’m past the attempt at a witty introduction.
We need to go back to the beginning.
In 1994, writer Kevin Williamson saw news reports on the trial of Danny Rolling AKA The Gainesville Ripper. Rolling had gone on a killing spree in August 1990 and savagely killed five college students over a period of three days, terrifying the city to the point that parents were urging their kids to leave campus and come home before classes had even begun. During the murder of University of Florida student Christa Hoyt, Rolling had cut off her head and displayed it on a bookshelf in an attempt at grotesque humor. Williamson was enthralled and terrified of the case.
Thus, Scream was born.
The opening Marion Crane-esque kill of Drew Barrymore’s Casey shared in the shocking nature of Christa Hoyt’s murder, with Casey being gutted and her body displayed, hanging from a tree.
As director Wes Craven was scouting locations for Woodsboro High, Santa Rosa High School looked to be the ideal American high school. The school board wanted to read the script before approving them filming there and promptly turned them down after reading the script, citing the violence involving teenagers and the cynical dialogue. Parents and newspaper articles drew comparisons to the kidnapping and murder of twelve year old Polly Klaas in 1993 in Petaluma, about a half hour drive away from Santa Rosa. Craven and crew were denied permission to film at the high school and “Woodsboro High” ended up being the Sonoma Community Center. Craven left the school a special note in the credits for Scream saying, “No thanks whatsoever to the Santa Rosa City School District Governing Board.”
With the wild success of Scream, Scream 2 began production right on its heels. The internet was still young at the time, but someone was still able to get a hold of the Scream 2 script and publish it online, complete with the ending revealing who the killers were. Williamson had to frantically work to rewrite the script as the movie was filming and the cast were not given the pages that revealed who the killers were until the days they were filming the scenes. At a point in Scream 3, it’s even mentioned that there were multiple scripts written in an attempt to keep the ending off of the internet. Subtle, right?
Timothy Olyphant plays Sidney’s classmate, Mickey, who has been recruited by “Debbie Salt”/Mrs. Loomis/Billy’s Mother to torment and kill Sidney. After the opening kill at a movie theater that is showing a preview of Stab, his class gets into a discussion about violence in movie where Sarah Michelle Gellar argues that, “movies are not responsible for our actions,” and Mickey drops the bomb of, “it’s just another classic case of life imitating art imitating life”. After he reveals himself as one of the killers to Sidney, she compares him to one of the original killers, Billy, and he argues that he is different because he wanted to get caught because, “these days it’s all about the trial. Can you see it? The effects of cinema violence on society. I’ll get Dershowitz or Cochran to represent me. Bob Dole on the witness stand in my defense. Hell the Christian Coalition’ll pay my legal fees. It’s airtight Sid. I’m an innocent victim.” Dershowitz and Cochran defended O.J. Simpson during the vastly televised murder trial of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman where, ultimately, Simpson was found not guilty.
Mrs. Loomis’ motive “isn’t as 90s as Mickey’s” and it’s just good, old-fashioned revenge a la Mrs. Voorhees.
About two years after the release of Scream 2, two student gunmen massacred thirteen people at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado on April 20, 1999. The public was quick to circle with theories as to their motivations, with conservatives harshly pointing at the violent movies the pair were fans of, the violent video games they played, and musicians they were fans of- Marilyn Manson and KMFDM. Scream 3 was just about to begin production when the shooting occurred and it caused the studio to stop and think. Craven was pushed to focus more on the comedic elements of the franchise, move away from violence involving younger adults/teenagers, move away from the high school setting, and the studio was ready to push them to drastically cut down on the violence and gore to the point of not showing any blood or violence on screen. Craven pushed back and told the studio, “Either we make a Scream movie or we make a movie and call it something else. But if it’s a Scream movie, it’s going to have certain standards.”
Scream 3 REALLY calls shit out directly. The script for the movie was written by Ehren Kruger (who later wrote the Transformers movies) based on pages and pages of notes from Williamson. When Sidney confronts Roman, she’s confronting everyone who turn and point the finger at violent movies or video games as the cause of violent acts among young adults.”Do you know why you kill people, Roman? Because you choose to. Why don’t you take some fucking repsonsibility?”
These arguments are nothing new and still flare up on occasion, even twenty years later. In July 2012, a gunman in a movie theater began shooting at patrons during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. People noted his dyed bright orange hair and how it “resembled” Batman villain, The Joker. In 2019, Warner Bros. released a solo Joker movie that was smothered in controversy. People worried it would cause violence, citing the Aurora theater shooting and families of the shooting victims wrote to Warner Bros. urging them to consider what could happen upon releasing the movie. We don’t hear about midnight movie releases anymore, either. Those have changed to Thursday evening showings typically at 7pm or 9pm.
Scream 4 takes less jabs at societal trends and more at the genre trends. The opening scene hits audience with a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie and by the time we get to the actual opening kill, Jenny has a back and forth with the Killer of, “You’re the dumb blonde with the big tits- we’ll have some fun with you before you die.”
“I have a 4.0 GPA and 135 I.Q., asshole!”
During the killer climax (Part One), the Killer asks Kirby a question about remakes and before they can even finish the question, Kirby hysterically lists off about a dozen horror movie remakes that had come out within the last ten years, playing the odds that one of them was bound to be the answer. By the time she got to the fifth remake, the theater I was in was rolling with laughter. The loudest I ever heard a movie theater get was after Sidney says, with gusto, “You forgot the first rule of remakes, Jill- don’t fuck with the original.” And we can’t forget that Scream 4 was intended to be the start of a new trilogy, too, with Craven being vocal about hopes for at least a Scream 5 even before the theatrical release of Scream 4.
And here we are in 2020…yeah, it’s some heavy bullshit.
There have been a LOT of happenings in the nearly ten years since the release of Scream 4.
“New decade, new rules,” might not even be enough to cover it now.
The Scream movies have been the slasher equivalents of George Romero’s zombie movies. Romero said that his zombie movies were “snapshots of the time they were made” and this holds very true, looking back over the 41 year span that they were made. The Scream movies have timestamps all over them. We can see the progression of time between the movies between the evolving cell phone technology and the progression of Gale’s hair.
Maybe there’s a true crime podcast, complete with Hello Fresh ads, and some more armchair sleuths, giving us our Randy homages. Maybe there’s more social media aspects or more attempts at copycats. Maybe we see even more of the movie-within-the-movie Stab, even that one that deals with time travel. Perhaps they’ll take jabs at the Scream television show.
And for the love of all things holy and satanic can we PLEASE have Kirby be alive and well?
It looks like we’re having our main players return to the franchise (with Courtney Cox and David Arquette confirmed at the time I’m typing this), but even after Jamie Lee Curtis signed on for the 2018 Halloween, fans were still having doubts and were vocal about them. The “success” of the movie is still up for debate amongst fans, but it brought it over $75 million its opening weekend and you can’t argue numbers so much.
Personally, I’m about at the same point that I was after Saw V where I just felt like, “Fuck it, as long as I have fun.” Let’s not forget how much of a loopdeloop the throughline in Saw became.
Will the Scream movies be the same without Wes Craven? No.
We all miss him and the potential work he could have done.
And that’s all okay.
Personally, I’m just going with faith from the past and to the future of the genre. We’ve seen how slashers go after their fourth or fifth entries. Jason, Michael, and Freddy still went to hell and back (literally in a couple cases), outer space, and there were supernatural children, gaining immortality through a cult we never learned anything about, and getting blown up at the end of the day only to come back a few years later in a new movie.
I shared in the apprehension with the official announcement of a Scream 5 but upon hearing that Matt Bettinelli and Tyler Gillett, who directed the 2019 success Ready Or Not, I was on board. Ready Or Not was one of my favorites of last year with outstanding suspense and gore slathered over layers of a story. James Vanderbilt (Zodiac) and Guy Busick (Ready Or Not) are coming on to write with Wiliamson moving to being a producer.
Dare I used a Spongebob image to end this?
I’ll just say it.