Not in her movie: The 'Scream' franchise belongs to Sidney Prescott
The heart of 'Scream' looks different than the heart of other slashers, and that matters.
Scream 5’s announcement was met with a mixed response. Fans of the franchise were elated, while those who gave up after 3 (and ignored the high-key great Scream 4) gnashed their teeth at the thought of another entry. Some fans, while thrilled, have a very specific ask for the continuation of the franchise. These folks are excited to have more time in Woodsboro, but they think for it to remain fresh the series must kill off one or all three of the series’ constant survivors: Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Dewey Riley (David Arquette), and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox).
There’s an understandable argument for “traditional” horror fans here. Your protagonists can’t live all the time, that’s exhausting! Pay no mind to the Laurie Strodes of the world. This is a slasher and viewers demand blood! Can’t be secondary character blood, either. Never mind the fact that Scream has a long-standing knack of making viewers fall in love with those characters before their untimely demises (RIP, Kirby, Casey, Tatum…), for some fans, there simply aren’t enough stakes so long as The Three™ survive.
The thing is, the very core of the Scream franchise is turning slasher tropes on their side. It’s for that exact reason that the weird one-off survivor is never Ghostface themselves but instead the somehow unkillable Dewey. It’s why we see two final girls in that of both Sid and Gale. Hell, even the franchise giving Sid the opportunity to reconcile with her trauma is a huge slap in the face to most conventional slashers.
Is that a knock on the other big guys? Not at all. Each major player has their place in the horror landscape for a reason. But I’m also not looking at those other players and telling them to change their identities. Sure, Halloween needs to let Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) deal with her past. Doing so won’t damage the saga’s integrity though, and that’s the important distinction here. None of this is about character loyalty or fear of watching childhood favorites die. It’s about the moving parts that build the identity of the property in question.
Scream is a unique franchise in many ways, but there’s one thing in particular that makes the call for these characters’ heads – specifically that of Sidney Prescott – a disservice to what makes it special. The simple fact is that the heart of Scream doesn’t look the same as the heart of other slasher films. Nightmare on Elm Street doesn’t exist without Freddy. Friday the 13th is gone without Jason (sit down, Mrs. Voorhees). Meanwhile, Ghostface is an ever-changing entity whose actions and motivations vary depending on who’s wearing the hood in that given chapter.
The heart of most slasher films beat on because of their antagonists, but what makes Scream more unique than any of its other oddities is that its heart beats because of Sidney Prescott. “Well that’s not how slashers work,” you insist! Well, yes. That’s quite the point of Scream. Insisting that Sid must die for the franchise to survive is some serious Randy Meeks energy.
The question then becomes how the franchise continues on? It seems unlikely that Neve Campbell will want to continue on in the role for the rest of her life, and a recast would be exhausting. But here’s the thing: by making its survivor more relevant to its story than its slasher, Scream has given itself the ability to evolve in a way that other films of the genre cannot. Sidney getting murdered would be a disservice to Scream’s foundation, but a new character becoming the running franchise obsession wouldn’t be. The who, the how, and the why here is an interesting discussion for a separate editorial, but the fact is that there are endless possibilities that keep with the vibe of the franchise rather than closing a chapter by spitting in its face. There are certainly bad ways to keep Sid alive, but you can’t pretend they’re all poor options without looking like there’s some sour grapes. This is horror. The genre does endlessly weird nonsense to justify whatever plot direction the creative team wants all the time.
The bottom line is this: it would be absurd to say the next Halloween entry has to kill of Michael Myers or it won’t be worth watching. Same goes for those other stabby guys mentioned above. Thanks to Scream’s insistence on ignoring traditional tropes and doing its own thing, that notion applies to Sidney Prescott too.
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Amelia is an entertainment Streaming Editor at IGN, which means she spends a lot of time analyzing and editing stories on things like Loki, Peacemaker, and The Witcher. In addition to her features and editorial work, she’s also a member of both the Television Critics Association and Critics Choice. A deep love of film and television has kept her happily in the entertainment industry for 7 years.