The Biggest Problem With Making ‘Scream 5’ Without Wes Craven

On the 15th anniversary of the 1996 Woodsboro massacre, Jenny Randall and Marnie Cooper—two students at Woodsboro High School—are brutally murdered. And it just so happens that the woman at the center of the original massacre, Sidney Prescott, is back in her hometown. Needless to say, she becomes the main suspect of the killings.

What seems like nothing more than a simple plot device to kickstart a movie is actually an incredibly clever, satiric take on movie remakes. In Scream 4, Sidney isn’t just back in her hometown for the first time in many years—the killer is back. The movie is, effectively, back. So Sidney isn’t the only one being forced to relive these brutal killings—we are as well.

What I’m describing is more than the “plot” of Scream 4. This is the backbone of the film, of the entire Scream franchise.

When we watch a meta horror film from Wes Craven, two very key things happen. First, we grow to know and interpret these characters more and more deeply with each passing movie. But second, and most importantly, our understanding of the horror genre appreciates with each successive film. We receive a glimpse behind the curtain as Craven finds new ways to make his characters grow within the confines of the genre’s tropes and rules.

This is beautiful in my opinion for two key reasons. First of all, from a character standpoint, everybody from the Scream franchise—from Sidney to Gale to Dewey to Randy—have truly unique growing patterns. Because the Scream films are so meta and trope heavy, we expect each of the characters to fall in line with the standard character journeys we’re used to in horror movies. Thus, when those characters break free from those confines, they experience a different kind of growth we’re not used to in horror films. They are truly breaking the “rules” of horror and stretching the bounds of the genre.

And this leads right into why the Scream franchise’s meta formula is so transcendent, so special in this day and age. Because the shattering of these rules isn’t just interesting insight into horror movies—it’s crucial insight into Wes Craven himself.

The Scream franchise isn’t just a satiric examination of the horror genre, but of how Craven viewed that genre. There’s an additional artistic layer to each and every Scream movie because Craven is exploring the very genre he helped define for so many years. So as the characters grow and evolve and shatter those very boundaries Craven helped establish, we also witness the growth and evolution of the director himself.

The level of genre commentary being illustrated in each and every Scream film as the franchise continues to twist horror conventions is almost too nuanced for a shorter article like this to truly unpack. Because while we can map out the narrative threads and character journeys of each and every film, none of that holds a candle to the emotional attachment the Scream movies inherently hold with their creator: Wes Craven.

Which brings us to a pickle: Scream 5 might be happening…but Craven won’t be part of it. The legendary director died on Aug. 30, 2015. And Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett—two of the horror genre’s most promising filmmakers-are planning to take the helm.

And it turns out that the Scream franchise’s central actor, Neve Campbell, might be on board. While she was hesitant at first, it seems she’s started to come around to the idea. While she “definitely had a period where I was thinking it would just be too odd to do a movie without Wes,” she told the Hollywood Reporter that she now believes enough time has passed.

“I got this really, really respectful letter from the directors of the new one,” Campbell said. “They wrote a letter honoring Wes in such a beautiful way, and they expressed that the reason they make horror movies is because of Wes and the Scream films. They also expressed how blown away they are at the idea of actually getting an opportunity to make one of them and how much they want to honor and respect Wes’ vision.”

Of course Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett are more than capable of taking on the Scream franchise. There are many interesting directions to take the Scream story given the horror genre’s current state. If you consider the wave of classic franchise reboots that have flooded Hollywood for the past several years, the plot of Scream 5 seems all to obvious—and all too Wes Craven-y.

But that’s also the problem: Wes Craven isn’t here. So while Scream 5 might look and feel and satirize like any other Scream movie would, the movie will be inherently missing that key ingredient that made the franchise interesting in the first place. Craven wasn’t just making horror movies, but working through his emotional relationship with the horror genre. And that relationship became more and more nuanced and complex with each passing film.

So that creates a weird energy for Scream 5. While it might end up being a good movie…will it truly be the same? Does having the same characters with a new clever plot make up for the fact that it wasn’t made by Wes Craven?

Right now, we have no idea. If Campbell is truly up for the franchises’s fifth movie, we’ll find out.

Originally published at

Writer for Forbes | Founder of Colossus | Host of Your Brain on Film

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