It was 1996. There was a beautiful elegant house, a spacious, bright kitchen, and a beautiful girl with blond hair and a white sweater. It seemed like a quiet evening. But, suddenly, a phone call came. The voice, on the other end of the phone, was dark, eerie, clearly processed to be unrecognizable. That man, on the phone, was starting to ask questions about horror cinema. It started like this Screamthe movie of Wes Craven, written by Kevin Williamson, which for the following years would change the rules of horror cinema. From that moment on, every time we heard that phone call on the screen (Scream VIas soon as you arrive at the cinema, it opens with a ring with the screen still black…) we knew it would end badly for the unfortunate person who received the call.
Scream he had surprised us right away: it was fear, it was blood, it was sexy. But it was also a lot of irony, fun. And, above all, a lot of cinephilia. But let’s tell you the truth: we never imagined that there would be a number two, then a three, and that we would even get to chapter 6. Especially after the departure of Wes Craven. Instead, not only has the saga gone on, not only has it been renewed, without ever appearing forced or banal. But the screenwriters, Kevin Williamson or whoever took over, have always continued to play with cinema, its narrative and distributive structures, narrative topoi, clichés, rituals. Let’s retrace the history of Scream, all the films of the saga and cinephile theories inside them.
Scream: the original
The first Scream is never forgotten. It was 1996 and Wes Craven dropped the ace on the table. A horror film that revived the slasher genre, and which, alongside fear, provided massive doses of irony and fun. Plus, cinephilia. Thanks also to the screenwriter, the true father of the saga, Kevin Williamsonwhich not surprisingly would have applied cinephilia also to the teen drama, with the autobiographical Dawson’s Creek. Thus, in Scream, you die, you escape the killer, but, above all, we talk about cinema. It begins immediately, with a phone call to a lonely girl (the unfortunate Drew Barrymore) which becomes a quiz on horror films. And it goes on like this throughout the film. Screamthe first, the original, pays homage above all Halloween – The night of the witchesa slasher classic (in the fifth Scream he will make fun of the debt that Craven’s film owes to Carpenter’s), and theorize about the rules of the genre: those who have sex die, never go away alone, never go to the cellar, never say “I will be right back“. Scream launches the star of Neve Campbell, who plays the lead Sidney Prescott, and in the cast there are also Courteney Cox and Rose McGowan.
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Scream 2: the sequel
Scream 2 (1997) takes place two years after the events of Scream (direction is always by Craven and the screenplay by Williamson) when a murderer begins to kill by imitating Ghostface, the killer from the first film, and wearing his mask. At the center is always Sidney Prescott. Scream 2 is the sequel to Scream, and the protagonists on stage realize that they are experiencing the sequel to those events. And so Scream 2 becomes a reflection on sequels in the cinema. The sequel almost never lives up to the original, there are rare instances where that happens. A better sequel to the original is The Godfather Part Two. But without having seen the first sequel you can’t understand it. In this second chapter, Sidney leaves Woodsboro and goes to college. And this aspect will come right back in Scream VI, now in theaters. The game becomes increasingly meta-cinematographic: it arrives in history Stab (Quarter yourself), a film that is inspired by the facts of the first Scream. Also in the cast are Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jada Pinkett Smith, Heather Graham and Live Schreiber.
Scream 3: The trilogy
Scream 3 (2000) is the third installment and was originally meant to be the last film in the saga. Scream it has become a trilogy, and this time the theory is about the trilogy. The story twists more and more on the film that retraces the facts of the film, Stab (Quarter yourself in the Italian version) which, coincidentally, has reached the third chapter, Stab 3, Quarter yourself 3. In the third chapter, still directed by Wes Craven (who had immediately optioned any sequels so that what had happened with Nightmarei.e. the release of unapproved sequels directed by him), with the screenplay by Ehren Kruger, Scream it lives more and more like a film within a film and accentuates its meta-cinematographic character, and as a stimulating cinephile game.
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Scream 4: Il remake
The saga, which seemed to be over, restarted surprisingly in 2011 with Scream 4, again directed, for the last time, by Wes Craven (the director would have passed away a few years later, in 2015) and still written by Kevin Williamson. Scream 4 recounts the events that take place 10 years after the events of Scream 3. The pretext is this: Sidney Prescott has written a book, a self-help manual, and has returned to Woosdboro, her own citizen, to present it. But with her return, so does Ghostface. Sidney reunites with his cousin Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts, the daughter of Eric Roberts and granddaughter of Julia Roberts). One of Jill’s friends, Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) will be back in Scream VI. There’s Sydney, there’s Woodsboro, there’s Ghostface. Everyone realizes that what is happening is a remake of the first Scream. So the fourth Scream becomes a reflection on remakes. But new rules are spelled out, this time for survival in next-generation horror. While in the original films it was necessary not to have sex to survive, now even virgins can die, while gays always survive. The unexpected is the new cliché, with the murders becoming more extreme. The remake goes beyond the original and adapts to the novelty: the killer films his murders to publish them online. Fourth Screamthen, it’s a sign of the times: there is no longer just the telephone, there are smartphones that shoot videos, there are social media. Scream entered the web 2.0.
Scream 5: The Requel
The facts of the fifth Scream (2022), directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (screenplay by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick) take place 25 years after those of the first film, and it’s a new beginning. In fact, Scream is openly a requel (reboot plus sequel), or legacy sequel, a trend in vogue in recent years, on which the saga of Scream did not miss the opportunity to be ironic. The requel is a film that has continuity with the original, going back to basics, skipping unnecessary or unsuccessful sequels. A legacy sequel has new protagonists, somewhat related to the protagonists of the original, who are present nonetheless. It is said to be so because “Hollywood is running out of ideas“, one wonders if it’s cinema or fan fiction: if the enthusiasts should be listened to and indulged or if the authors should follow their own inspiration. What is certain is that “anyone can die in a requel“, and this casts an ominous light on the whole film. But the fifth Scream never misses an opportunity to make fun of the new, more sophisticated and introspective horror cinema (Babadook, It Follows, Hereditary, The Witch). And Jordan Peele’s political horror. Finally, he reminds us that there is not only cinema to see horror films, but also streaming platforms. The Scream of 2022, alongside the historical protagonists, launches a Jenna Ortega not yet famous for Wednesday, but already very good, and the equally fascinating Melissa Barrera. Their names are Tara and Samantha, and their last names are Carpenter. A dutiful tribute too.
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Scream VI: la saga
“Someone is making the sequel to the requel” points out the volcanic Mindy, Tara’s friend, in Scream VI (2023) directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (the screenplay is by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick). A new assassin, with the mask of Ghostface and knife, he’s back.And, as always happens in Scream, Tara and her friends begin to theorize. Stab 1 (the film based on the events of Scream) took place in Woodsboro e Stab 2 in college. And it’s happening again. But it’s not just a sequel. We are in a saga. And so we begin to think about the sagas (whether they are in the cinema or in TV series). And sagas have their own rules. Everything is bigger. We all have to expect the opposite of what we thought we knew. And no one is safe: “in the sagas historical characters are cannon fodder“, and even the protagonists are expendable. Once again we reflected on where cinema is going and where seriality is going. This time there is no Neve Campbell, and Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera are now masters of the saga. Which, with them, he will be able to go on, but it will be necessary to understand what the protagonists of the next films will theorize about.