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A Retrospective Into the ‘Scream’ Franchise 

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USFSP chapter.

“What’s your favorite scary movie?” 

The iconic question that kicked off a franchise that’s still going almost 30 years later. The Scream Movies.  

Everyone who’s ever watched a horror movie knows about the Scream franchise, whether it be the modern iterations that feature Jenna Ortega, or the 90s versions with Matthew Lillard and Skeet Ulrich, everyone knows these movies.  

While the franchise has had its highs (Scream (1996)) and lows (Scream 3 (2000)), there’s no doubt about the impact and influence the original film had on the horror movie genre. So, even though I’m not a horror movie fanatic myself, I thought it would be fun to dive into the franchise and look back on how it evolved from film to film. 

Scream (1996) 

This past summer I decided to watch all the Scream movies for the first time (except for the sixth movie, which I saw in theaters … without the knowledge of anything the happened in the first five). So, going into these films I already knew the major plot point and how the story was going to play out, e.g. Billy and Stu being the killers (sorry if I spoiled a 30-year-old movie for you but if you haven’t seen the movies yet — what are you doing here?).  

Despite my prior knowledge of what was going to happen in the film, it was still an amazing introduction to the series. To my surprise, I found myself enjoying this movie, even with all of its ridiculous moments that would never actually make sense in the real world. Like when Ghostface followed Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, who’s also the protagonist of Scream 1 to 5, around a grocery store midday in full costume.  

The acting for this film was amazing, the actors played their roles like rent was due. By just the acting alone, it 100% makes sense to me as to how this was the start of the rest of the franchise.  

To me, Stu Macher, played by Matthew Lillard, gave the most stand out performance. Especially in moments like his Ghostface reveal, the “My mom and dad are gonna be so mad at me!” line, and just his overall charisma throughout the film. Like come on! It’s Matthew Lillard.  

Although an unpopular opinion of mine was that I found Billy Loomis, played by Skeet Ulrich, to be unconvincing in his innocence. While Ulrich did an amazing job in the final 30 to 45 minutes, I didn’t find myself caring much about Billy’s character for most of the movie. That might have been my fault knowing the twist ahead of time, though. Every time he spoke, I just knew it was so obviously him. 

Also, his motive for killing Sidney’s mother? Yes, cheating is bad, but he should blame his own father … for also cheating?! Anyway, God forbid women have hobbies. 

Scream 2 (1997) 

Unfortunately for the franchise, this is where the films slowly start to go downhill. I’ll be honest, none of the later films compare to the first movie. 

This is the film where they began to get meta and introduce the Stab movies, which are basically the movie inserts of the Scream movies. The Stab movies play a role in all the movies going forward, as they are based on an (in-universe) book, written by Gale Weathers, played by Courtney Cox, about Sidney’s experiences in the first movie. 

The major flaw of this movie is that it loses the charm of the original, especially with the death of Randy Meeks, played by Jamie Kennedy, who is the main character in this film and the first. The character of Randy, and the first film itself, is a love letter to the horror movie genre, while also critiquing the cliches of standard horror movies. This love is sort of lost in the following films. 

Although, one thing I do absolutely love is Sarah Michelle Geller’s minor role in the movie, especially her death scene. I’m just a sucker for anything with Sarah. 

Scream 3 (2000) 

Okay and now we skip this one and go to Scream 4. No? My editor says I have to review this one too. Fine. 

In my opinion, this movie is the worst in the entire franchise. I struggled to get through it, and the only light at the end of the tunnel that made me not stop this marathon entirely was Emma Roberts in the next movie. 

The killer in this movie is just … so bad. Sidney’s family gets retconned, and now Sidney has a half-brother that’s also the new Ghostface. But the thing is, Sidney and her half-brother don’t even meet each other until the reveal at the end of the movie.  

The entire plot is that they’re making Stab 3, so it takes place at the production studio, but at times the movie gets a little too meta. Like yes, we get it, we’re watching the production of the movie that we’re watching in the universe of the movie we’re watching. It’s a little excessive. 

Unfortunately for Scream 3, Ghostface wasn’t even as scary as Courtney Cox’s hideous baby bangs. They still give me nightmares.  

Scream 4 (2011) 

This is literally the second-best movie in the franchise. Emma Roberts, as Jill Roberts, is literally that girl. I love the creation of Jill’s character, her dealing with trauma, a victim complex, the media, and her relation to Sidney. It allows the movie to build off what made the original good, while still making it unique.  

When the movie was released, it received a lot of mixed reviews, and still does today. But overall, I think it’s a solid entry into the franchise that does something a little new. Nothing will be able to stand up to the original, so in terms of new movies, we have to start critiquing them on their own. The first film is on its own level. 

I also truly love the moment towards the end of the film where Jill starts beating herself up to make sure that the police think she was a victim and so she can blame it on Charlie Walker, played by Rory Culkin.  

This was the last film in the series to be directed by Wes Craven, who was the director of the first three as well. To me, this film also feels as if it’s more of a stand-alone in the series, as Scream 1 to 3 feel more like a trilogy and connected between the characters, whereas the next two films serve as a soft reboot for the series. 

Scream (2022) 

This movie takes a step back from the classic numbering style of the earlier titles and reverts to Scream.  

There’s a change from the previous format, of a single character, and puts a focus on a duo, Sam and Tara Carpenter, played by Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega. 

Personally, I have mixed reviews on the final two movies. They aren’t really anything groundbreaking, but they’re fun and have more of a focus on lore, backstory, and the connection between the films. 

In my original marathon through these movies, this was the final movie that was a “new watch” for me since, as mentioned, I had already seen Scream VI in theaters. Outside of introducing the duo, something I really appreciated on rewatch was the introduction of actual, non-killer, characters that continue to be present throughout the series. Chad and Mindy Meeks-Martin, another set of siblings played by Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown, are personable characters that serve roles alongside the leads. 

This is also the final movie to feature Sidney (although Scream 7 is confirmed so who knows if she’ll appear in that one), and to me, this movie does a great job of putting her a little bit to the side while still being able to help the Carpenters. Sidney takes on a mentor-type role and lets them in on what she’s been having to deal with for the last 25 years.  

Overall, it’s not the best in the series but it serves to introduce the potential future of the franchise while also reflecting on the past. 

Scream VI (2023) 

As time has gone on, this movie has become a soft spot in my heart. 

In terms of the film’s overall plot, I enjoyed it. The change in location from Woodsboro, where all the past movies and murders took place, to New York City, gave it a fresh perspective and atmosphere. 

As previously mentioned, I love this cast of characters and, unlike the original trilogy, I enjoyed how there’s actually a group of friends alongside Sam and Tara.  

I really liked the main plot line of all the Ghostfaces being connected. This was a fun storyline to pursue, especially since Tara is going through her Serial Killer Gene arc (Riverdale did it first) after learning that Billy is her father. 

Now, in terms of the Ghostfaces for this film, the switch to three killers was fun. In the past movies it’s always been a duo, aside from Scream 3 with just one, and it was an interesting idea to have the trio be a family connected to the killers of the previous film.  

At the end of the day, while the Scream franchise isn’t perfect in terms of quality, it is a fun series that was a refreshing voice in the world of horror in the ‘90s.  

The seventh film is confirmed and set to be released in the coming years. It was originally planned to be a continuation of the story built up in the fifth and sixth movies, but the two main leads, Ortega and Barrera, are no longer part of the movie. Ortega because of scheduling conflicts and Barrera was fired after making pro-Palestinian comments online. 

While it’s upsetting that we won’t see the end of the story that has been set up thus far, it’ll be interesting to see what the future of the franchise holds.  

Riley is writer at Her Campus: USFSP. She focuses on writing about music, movies, books, and culture. She is a senior at the University of South Florida: St. Petersburg studying Digital Communications and Multimedia Journalism, with a minor in English Literary Studies. She hopes to work in magazine editing or book publishing in the future. Outside of Her Campus, Riley uses Letterboxd and Goodreads more than any other social media site. Her favorite movies are Knives Out, Chungking Express, and Before Sunset. Her favorite books are The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Secret History.