The first SCREAM film (1996) starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and Jamie Kennedy // Woods Entertainment.

Is The SCREAM Franchise The Scariest Horror Franchise Of The Past Decade?

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Anyone in their twenties (and beyond) knows about the SCREAM franchise, with four installments under their belt, it began in 1996 and ended (so far) in 2011. For six days only, SCREAM is now streaming on Netflix and what better way to begin Halloween month than to watch all four movies in a row? SCREAM franchise has to be the best and worst franchise of the past decade.

Unlike its counterpart, Scary Movie, which made it a comical standout in the horror genre in the 00s, SCREAM takes itself seriously with a plot, continuous characters, and a set theme to abide by. What makes SCREAM the best and worst franchise of the past decade is easy: too many installments. This occurs with virtually every horror franchise — take Halloween, for example — Michael Myers has two different stories in his own franchise. (Talk about misleading!)

The first SCREAM film (1996) starring Drew Barrymore // Woods Entertainment.
The first SCREAM film (1996) starring Drew Barrymore // Woods Entertainment.

Jason? Friday the 13th? Jeepers Creepers? Final Destination? They all consist of overzealous sequels; some of those sequels are entertaining and some of them are just bad. Unfortunately, most of them are bad in a franchise; it is up for discussion, though, but most sequels aren’t very good. If you get to the third and fourth of a horror franchise, guarantee it won’t be as prominent as the first two. This happens with SCREAM. The first film, SCREAM, was the best of the franchise.

The SCREAM Franchise (1996-2011)

The SCREAM franchise was directed by Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street), produced by Cathy Konrad and Cary Woods, and written by Kevin Williamson. The slasher franchise that stars David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, and Drew Barrymore. The SCREAM franchise was based on the real-life case of the Gainesville Ripper.

The second film in 1997 starring Jada Pinkett & Omar Epps // Woods Entertainment.
SCREAM 2 (1997) starring Jada Pinkett & Omar Epps // Woods Entertainment.

The plot of the films is that characters get an unknown call from someone they don’t know. Typically, they ask, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” After a while, the caller then turns sadistic and threatens the receiver’s life. Soon thereafter, they get murdered. The cycle continues, however, something that makes these films celebrated is that the murderer is perpetually someone in the film. Someone you know, someone the character knows, and someone that is in plain sight.

The Beginning Of The First SCREAM Franchise Movie

The original film of the franchise, just titled SCREAM, was an intriguing story amongst the Michael Myers and Freddie Krueger’s of the decade. It added a new narrative, a new goal, and a new concept to the horror genre. Creating a killer is one thing, but creating a killer as someone the audience knows is another. The concept wasn’t thought of before SCREAM came into play.

The first film in 1996 starring Campbell // Woods Entertainment.
The first SCREAM film (1996) starring Campbell // Woods Entertainment.

In the genre of horror, the murderer is someone who just slays for a living. They have an origin story, but it has very little to do with each character and why they kill them. Myers killed random bystanders because he chose to kill them. The difference between SCREAM and other horror villains is that… no one suspects someone they know. That is what makes SCREAM terrifying. The first film, bringing that to the surface, was a game-changer for the horror genre.

As someone who has seen many horror films from the 70s to now, SCREAM still stands as one of the best. Williamson composed a wonderful franchise that had promise; however, after the first, the question remains: What else could you do with the franchise? We know the premise as viewers, so what difference can come to the surface with the next film?

Satisfactory Follow-Up: SCREAM 2 (1997)

At the beginning of the second installment, the characters in the film theory class are having an entire conversation about sequels. How they don’t follow up to their original, and how sequels never truly surpass what the first film intended. With subtle foreshadowing, the SCREAM franchise was a sacrifice in its own discussion. Some say SCREAM 2 was the only sequel that was gratifying.

SCREAM 2 (1997) starring Sarah Michelle Gellar // Woods Entertainment.
SCREAM 2 (1997) starring Sarah Michelle Gellar // Woods Entertainment.

It followed up well-enough to warrant commercial success. It was one of the only films after the first that warranted nearly the same success as the first. That is saying quite a lot, especially in horror. You can either make enough money to surpass expectations or make none at all. The story continues throughout the SCREAM franchise in the second film, SCREAM 2 in 1997. We see Sidney Prescott two years later at Windsor College. Prescott is 19-years-old and the new Ghostface is murdering again. Ghostface continues to murder Prescott’s friends, including Randy.

In this film, we have the culprit being someone we all know. We saw him directly at the beginning of the film and he appeared throughout the entire film as a friend. This is what I mentioned earlier about the concept of the plot that is gratifying. With the second film, we are still on the edge of our seats. We have a new set of friends and the killer could be anyone Prescott knows in college.

Same Plot, Different Movies?

SCREAM 2 brings an eerily similar plot that we see in Halloween. Throughout the Halloween franchise, Michael Myers is after his sister, Jamie Lee Curtis. He spends countless movies trying to kill her, but never can. Even in the most recent installment from last year (2018), he still doesn’t get the chance to kill her. It is like the character is off-limits. Other characters around her are susceptible to being killed, but not Jamie Lee Curtis. SCREAM 2 took a very similar route.

SCREAM 2 (1997) starring Jerry O'Connell & Neve Campbell // Woods Entertainment.
SCREAM 2 (1997) starring Jerry O’Connell & Neve Campbell // Woods Entertainment.

The Ghostface murderer is after Sidney and wants to kill Sidney, no matter who takes on the mantle of the serial killer, they want to kill Sidney. However, Sidney is the only one who doesn’t ever get murdered. She becomes very close to being murdered, but it is like she is… off-limits. Everyone around her can be murdered, and are, but not Sidney. This trope isn’t bad. But going into the second film of the franchise makes it a bit cookie-cutter.

There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate – more blood, more gore – *carnage candy.* And number three: never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead.

Randy Meeks

The acting is fantastic, the dynamic is fulfilling, but we don’t necessarily get a different plot. We get an identical movie to the first with a different murderer. The stakes may be higher, according to Randy, because this is a sequel, but the only stake we see is Sidney’s boyfriend once again. (I feel bad for her because her track record isn’t looking too hot.)

Follow-Up-To-The-Follow-Up: SCREAM 3 (2000)

By the third installment in 2000 — and similarly the fourth in 2011 — we get what I would like to call milking the cow. The last two installments of the franchise are enjoyable films, but honestly, we could have done without. The series should have set its end in the second film. It was a proper place to end it without ruining what a fabulous set of films we had. With the next two in the SCREAM franchise, we just got okay films.

We have a three-year time gap between SCREAM 2 and 3, the time in pop culture has changed tremendously for horror. I believe this is what sets SCREAM 3 behind. We are now with the same director, however, Williamson is not writing the series completely. We now have Ehren Kruger, who finished the series from Williamson’s start. The film is set in 2001 and Prescott is finally finding out the truth about her mother and how the Ghostface killings began. (Which should have been covered in SCREAM 2, but that is neither here nor there.)

SCREAM 3 (2000) // Woods Entertainment.
SCREAM 3 (2000) // Woods Entertainment.

When the film was released it did mediocrely, it was less successful than the two counterparts before it both in a monetary sense and commercially. Many complained that the film took on a more comedic sense than the violence and horror we were accustomed to in the first two. SCREAM 3 was viewed as the ‘ending’ of the series. However, it would go on to make one more installment.

SCREAM 3 Meets A Movie Set?

If we ended the series in the second film, I would regard the SCREAM franchise as something unimaginable that was appended to the horror genre. I have declared and will declare again that the structure of Ghostface is phenomenal. If you imagine a murderer now, in any horror film, it still doesn’t encompass what Williamson did with Ghostface.

SCREAM 3 (2000) // Woods Entertainment.
SCREAM 3 (2000) // Woods Entertainment.

To have a murderer be a character you know in a film in the franchise is the choicest idea since Nightmare on Elm Street. (Which is a whole different article, trust me.) Ghostface is an incredible slasher to come out of the 90s and 00s, completely underrated because of the parody that Scary Movie did. In SCREAM 3 we land ourselves in quite a confusing plot — the killer at the end, who was the director, ended up being Sidney’s long lost brother. His motive? He wanted the life Sidney had with her mother. He planned everything from SCREAM 1 to SCREAM 3 just not… not kill… Sidney.

Ten Years Later In SCREAM 4 (2011)

I choose not to remember this movie on purpose. Ghostface is back ten years later in film time on the anniversary of the stabbings (from SCREAM) and SCREAM 4 truly shows how behind it is with the moment in pop culture for horror. In 2011, horror was on another wavelength, and fans weren’t yearning for SCREAM anymore. Who else could be Ghostface at this point? Who else in Sidney’s life can Ghostface be? In 2011, we also had Final Destination 5 that didn’t do too well in the box office either. The concept for revitalized horror franchises died in about 2009.

The Downfall Of The SCREAM Franchise

This is what sets SCREAM 4 behind. Not only did we get a trilogy — that I believe drained the franchise — but we got another film a decade later that again drained the franchise. The killer this time? A long lost cousin, Jill, that Sidney didn’t know much about. After having a long lost brother, we now have a cousin. Here is why I would say SCREAM is the best and the only film in the franchise that is worth watching: the killers in the first film were the people we were attached to. Sidney’s boyfriend was one of them, we became attached and never suspected he could be the killer.

A fourth installment (2011) // Woods Entertainment.
SCREAM 4 (2011) // Woods Entertainment.

Sidney’s friend, Stu Macher, I never suspected one bit. It was such a new and fresh idea that we couldn’t suspect who the killer was because we didn’t know. By SCREAM 4, we know the tactics. It’s not as enjoyable figuring out who the killer could be because it’s probably a long lost family member (see: SCREAM 3). SCREAM 2 remains a decent sequel because the killers of that film stayed unrelated to Sidney. They were Billy’s mother and a random friend that no one suspected. This still made it fun to watch. The last two in the SCREAM franchise are just grueling.

Should You Watch All Four Films?

The entire franchise as a whole isn’t bad. If you watch the first two (SCREAM & SCREAM 2), you might as well watch the second two (SCREAM 3 & 4). Go in with the mindset that they might not all be suitable installments. The features you get from the first two don’t follow as well with the second half of the series. You take the best out of the first two and continue to watch because it’s a series and what fun is it if you don’t watch the entire series? Exactly.

A fourth installment (2011) // Woods Entertainment.
SCREAM 4 (2011) // Woods Entertainment.

Blumhouse, which is one of my favorite horror companies (that makes films and television), is thinking of revitalizing the series. And to that I say… no. We don’t need a present-day version of Ghostface; we have the SCREAM television series (that demolished it, by MTV), Scary Movie that made it a joke for years after the film, and no one can play as good a part like Neve Campbell. Let it rest. Let us appreciate the franchise for what it is like Final Destination.

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