This ain’t Kevin Williamson’s best friend race.
Courtesy of Paramount
Let me start this off by owning my biases. I love Wes Craven’s work so much that my podcast is partially named after A Nightmare on Elm Street. I grew up in Kevin Williamson’s ’90s, and I cannot stress enough how much I love the Scream franchise. Sidney, Gale, and Dewey are magnificent characters, who I too have grown to love. This is why I take no pleasure in pointing out the obvious. Unfortunately, it’s time for Ghostface to send them into that good night.
The original film rocked me in a way that most movies will never. I remember thinking Drew Barrymore’s Casey Becker would be the lead of the first film. After all, she was the biggest star and on the poster. That’s just how those things worked in 1996. As a kid, I knew those were the rules and hoped that everyone around her would have cool deaths. My jaw dropped when I watched Ghostface leave her, “hanging from a tree, her insides on the outside”. Shots fired! It was the first warning to audiences that no one would be safe in this movie. It let us know that we could kiss whatever we thought we knew goodbye. That is the spirit and tone the original trilogy carried with it and is why we learned to brace ourselves for anything.
This franchise taught us that death could come for anyone. The first movie quickly killed off all but four characters. Part of the magic was that everyone was a suspect until proven dead. Scream 2 saw Sidney’s new life join her last one in death. The sequel also took Jamie Kennedy’s Randy just to keep us on our toes. Scream 3 opened with Cotton Weary’s murder as a reminder that this reaper does not care about tenure.
As much as I loved Scream 4, I’m sad that we missed the opportunity to send another core member off. The movie is a great time but is also a reminder that sometimes we have to say goodbye to our favorites. By letting our trio live again, Scream 4 stopped raising the stakes. It left us feeling safe instead of scared which is unfamiliar terrain for this franchise. It also showed us that our beloved Dewey would’ve been better off dying in the first or second movie. He outlived his purpose. The result is that he hasn’t grown as much as Gale and Sidney.
Also Read: Sidney Prescott & Gale Weathers: Sister Survivors and Horror Matriarchs
Everyone knows that Dewey was supposed to die in Scream. However, Wes Craven liked the character and decided to film an ending with him alive thinking audiences would also dig him. Which is why I thought when Ghostface stabbed him in Scream 2 it would finally be the end for that character. After all, this is an iconic moment of the film and would have been a great final bow. Seeing him rolled into an ambulance again at the end of the movie, I knew he would have to die in Scream 3. Instead, we begin to see that our trio is seemingly invincible against serial killers now. Somehow, these three are no longer in danger, and this is a different franchise. This was the first red flag. I truly started to worry that we might never have the tension of the first two films again.
Scream 4 teased us by having Ghostface send Gale to the hospital, and then putting an unconscious Sidney in a room nearby. It did not use that momentum to hit us in our feelings and reteach us what the first three films did, though. Instead of reminding us that death can come for anyone, it immediately drops the tension for both lead characters. We see Dewey get knocked out (as usual) with a bedpan. We also watch them add Deputy Hicks to the list of people who are going to survive. I hated this. As much as I love Gale and Sidney, it would have been so easy to let one finally die.
This movie could have also seen Dewey die in the first half. It would’ve been better than watching him start from ground zero again as Gale pleads with him to work with her to stop the new killers. The Dewey we met in Scream 2 who still mourns his sister and uses that to motivate him to catch Ghostface is gone. Dewey is back in his hometown and feeling as self-important as the first time we met him. He no longer feels the weight of the deaths of Tatum and Randy. He learned nothing from the last three times a killer came after him. We also see too much of Gale and Dewey’s relationship which was never the focus before. This is a symptom of two characters who have lived too long.
Meanwhile, Sidney is finally owning her trauma and healing. She’s also the only character focused on what is important, staying alive. She has outgrown her two friends, which is another reason we have to ask why do we need three leads anymore?
One of the ways Scream 4 got a high body count is by killing all of the new characters. This won’t work this time around. We were promised POC characters that are part of the story and no longer stuck on the sidelines. Again, I love this franchise, but it’s another one that is not kind to the rest of us. Watching all of the POCs die in service of keeping all three of our leads safe, would prove that the beloved franchise is also stuck in the 90s alongside Dewey. We cannot come back after all of this time and recycle those outdated tropes.
We also need to remember that our trio were young actors who skyrocketed to fame in large part because of this franchise. All three of them are now the Drew Barrymores of this new generation. To truly gag us, they need to die and we need to give a new generation the chance to carry the new film(s). We know that the trio can function without each other seeing as Sidney didn’t join Gale and Dewey until 49 minutes into Scream 3. We also saw them not working together for most of Scream 4. That would have been the perfect movie to kill one of them, as the three of them seemingly forgot how they usually survive this mess anyway
One of our favorite franchises is at a major crossroads. Either it returns to its roots and goes back to giving us the highest stakes possible, or it becomes something else. This is what most franchises have to figure out if they are lucky to continue long enough. Whether it’s Child’s Play, Halloween or even Nightmare On Elm Street they have to choose to take what makes them unique yet still evolve to truly find staying power. Otherwise, they become unrecognizable versions of themselves that begin to test even the most diehard fans’ patience. For this franchise that reinvented the genre, the saddest thing would be for it to become the thing that it was never supposed to be. Safe.
Are you also working through complex feelings about the new movie? Then commiserate with me at @misssharai.