A Scream-Filled Roundup

In celebration of the much anticipated new 'Scream' movie, Exclaim! takes a walk through Woodsboro and looks back on the iconic franchise

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Jan 14, 2022

There are few franchises in American film that have blown up quite like the Scream movies. Up until then, the 'slasher genre' was formulaic — a deeply disturbed individual gets dressed up in some off-putting outfit, decides on a weapon of choice, and proceeds to brutally murder a bunch of teenagers (who, let's face it, probably deserved it) in increasingly creative, logic-bending ways. Actually, this more or less describes every Scream film too. But that's not by accident. Let's call it a 'meta slasher' … a horror sub-genre that is self-aware, but still delivers the, ah, Screams. So who better to helm the first four productions than Wes Craven

Thankfully, Woodsboro still has some gruesome stories to tell, and another instalment is on its way. The much-anticipated Scream (informally known as Scream 5) is ready as ever to provide the franchise's particular brand of tongue-in-cheek brutality. And this is no reboot — we continue the ongoing tale of Woodsboro's always-evolving terror, with the welcome return of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette). And of course, there'll be a fresh cast of teenagers for Ghostface to terrorize. Because why mess with perfection?

The Scream movies are the kind of romp you can just jump into, but we at Exclaim! are always sticklers for continuity. That's why we're revisiting the movies that got our heroes where they are today, sprinkled with some interesting tidbits and little-known factoids. So sharpen up that Buck 120 as we dive into the history of Scream!

Scream (1996)

The Scream heard round the world. Weirdly, it was a Christmastime release, hitting theatres on December 20, 1996. There was reason to be festive for its producers … it hauled in more than $173 million. That may have been because, unlike most slasher movies up until that point, Scream featured well-established young actors. And the first person we see — our very first 'victim' — is Casey Becker, played by Drew Barrymore. And from there, we're introduced to the cast that will set the canon in motion. Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott; Skeet Ulrich as her boyfriend Billy Loomis; Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers, the reporter covering he gruesome beat; David Arquette as Dewey Riley, the deputy sheriff who tries to thwart the murders.

Here's what ends up happening — immediately following the demise of Casey Becker, the cops and media descend on Woodsboro, and we learn it's the first anniversary of the death of Sidney's mom. Of course, this occurred at the hands of and ex-lover, Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber). Anyway, she receives the Ghostface signature threatening phone call (voiced by Roger L. Jackson) Terrified, she hangs up, but is soon after attacked by him. She manages to evade danger, and then what's this?? Her boyfriend Billy is suddenly there, and she sees him drop a cell phone. A 1996 cell phone. She thinks Billy made the call, and she freaks out and flees. Billy gets arrested, while Sidney stays at her friend Tatum's place (Rose McGowan).

Twists and turns abound. By the end of it, we learn 'the call was coming from inside the house' (so to speak). The masks are removed Scooby-Doo style, complete with shocking revelations. And all is well, once again, in Woodsboro.

Or is it?

Scream 2 (1997)

As is usually the case with wildly successful movies, a sequel is close behind. Just one year later, we are treated to Scream 2, under the same team of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson (screenwriter). And why mess with it? In Scream 2, we get the same brand of slasher satire. And, it would feature the same principal cast … at least, the ones who weren't violently dismembered in the first. Despite a few 'leak' issues, since the filmmakers were adapting to a new thing called the internet, it still managed to land over $172 million at the box office.

So we begin with a meta-screening of Stab, a movie based on the Woodsboro massacre. We zoom in on two people on a date, Maureen Evans and Phil Stevens (Jada Pinkett / Omar Epps). Phil goes to the bathroom, gets murdered by Ghostface. Ghostface finds his way to Phil's seat, fatally stabs Maureen, and the audience buys into it as a promo stunt. That pretty much sets the tone. Scream 2 also follows suit with a notable intro kill not just with Jada Pinkett, but soon after, the sorority murder of student Cici Cooper (Sarah Michelle Gellar).  

Gale Weathers is back to exploit the murders; Dewey Riley is back to (try and) stop them. But what of Ghostface? Is this a new 'copycat' killer? Was it this guy all along? Is there a constant river of spilt college-kid blood? All this and more revealed in Scream 2!

Scream 3 (2000)

Ah, the year 2000. We dodged the Y2K bullet, blissfully unaware of what was yet to come. Fitting, then, that we were hungry to get another instalment through Scream 3. But as filming began, so did Columbine, and the studio was being careful. With all forms of media under scrutiny, it was proposed the third Scream film focus more on comedy and satire than blood and gore. Craven was adamant, though — "Be serious guys," he was heard to say, "Either we make a Scream movie or we make a movie and call it something else. But if it's a Scream movie, it' going to have certain standards." Despite the production bumps, it still brought in $161 million.

And so, returning to their roles are Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, and Liev Schreiber. And now we're fully into the meta, as it centres around the production of Stab 3. It's all set in Hollywood, and now, the victims that pile up are involved in the production. Actors, producers, the director … they're all on that target-list. And we learn that this Ghostface is closer to Sidney than we may have thought. Naturally Dewey and Gale are primary — Dewey consulting on Stab 3, and Gale chasing the story. These two even get together, because art imitates life. When the dust settles, there's a sense of calm and Sidney believes it's all come to an end. OR HAS IT.

Scream 4 (2011)

Stylized as SCRE4M, we finally get the fourth instalment 11 years later. While not doing gangbusters like the three prior films, Scream 4 lands a respectable $97 million. And while it may have leaned heavily on cliche satire, and was criticized for lacking in the 'jump scare' department, there are some interesting elements at play here. Notably, an emphasis on a prescient examination of social media and internet fame. It's actually received some positive reappraisals because of this, and viewed by critics to be one of the sharper chapters. 

It's the 15th anniversary of the Woodsboro massacre, and guess what? There's a new Ghostface. Sidney happens to be in town (on a book tour), but becomes a suspect in two murders that have just taken place. She's eventually cleared. Meanwhile, Dewey is now the town's sheriff, and is married to Gale. Domestication gets the better of Gale, who needs a new mystery to dive into. So, she starts investigating the murders. Naturally, it all goes down under the backdrop of a screening event for the Stab movies. Now that's just asking for it.

Watch the final trailer for Scream, presented by Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group below


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