In 1996, Scream brutally reimagined the whodunnit. Wes Craven returned to the slasher genre that cemented him as an icon, took the trappings of teen horror, and added an extra twist. While previous slashers focused on a monstrous stranger or immortal fiend, Scream made the audience want to know who was behind the mask. And every time the killer was revealed, it added to the mythos of Ghostface. This trend threads throughout the franchise’s 25 year history of delighting and thrilling viewers. So with the new movie headed to screens, we’re looking back at previous killers’ motivations to see what it can tell us about the possible killer(s) in Scream (2022).
We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes
The first Scream movie not only took on all the tropes of slashers before, but it had a lot of fun subverting and breaking them as well. For example, Sidney broke the “virgin final girl” rule when she slept with Billy. It was a key part of Stu and Billy’s deadly plan that didn’t work because Sid became one of horror’s most famous final girls. Her useless boyfriend and his chaotic bestie also went down in genre history as some of the most unhinged and scary killers of all time. Why? Because they were literally just awful misogynistic young men who had no empathy. That’s a story that feels all the more relevant right now and will likely come into play. So who could bring that incel energy to the fifth Scream film?
There are plenty of angry looking young men here. Richie (Jack Quaid) seems like a prime candidate. And also looks like he could be a Billy or Stu stand in. Wes (Dylan Minnette) could also be the male menace here. In an age of social media and MRA culture, it would be easy to lean into that for a killer’s motivation. Strong women are key to Scream‘s mythos so an evil man as a foil works well.
I’m Gonna Blame the Movies
Scream 2 took on the curse of the sequel. Once again it cemented the Scream universe as the place for genre commentary, both as a meta exercise and an education for viewers. While the original killers were rewritten (it was supposed to be Hallie and Derek) after a version of the script was leaked, they always shared the same influence: the movies. The final version of the movie saw Mickey, an obsessive film student, team up with Debbie Salt, who was actually Billy Loomis’ mother. While Debbie sought revenge for her son’s death, Mickey wanted to get caught for fame and fortune. He already had his defense all laid out: he was gonna blame the movies. This motive reflected the American fear of violent entertainment impacting young people.
There’s definitely a chance that in an age of influencers, another fame-hungry murder documentarian could appear too. The obvious choice for that seems to be the pink haired Liv McKenzie. She’s got that influencer look. And she has an intriguing potential connection to the original Scream. During the opening when Casey’s parents come home, her father tells her mother to “go to the McKenzies.” That quote was a reference to Halloween, but seems to be something more here if Liv is actually related to Casey’s neighbors.
The Killer Who Could Have Been
More than anything, the reveal of Roman Bridger (Scott Foley) as the killer in Scream 3 was a response to the horrific Columbine massacre. According to Matthew Lillard, the original script had Stu orchestrating a series of killings at Woodsboro High from behind bars. It’s a really cool idea—which feels like it could come into play in the new Scream film—but in the wake of the shooting, the studio wanted to move away from a high school setting.
Instead, we saw a meta-Hollywood tale with the survivors of Woodsboro being stalked on the set of the new Stab movie. Interestingly, the Harvey Weinstein-produced film has a lot to say about abusive studio heads and the damage they wreak on young women. And making Roman, Sidney’s unknown half-brother, the killer plays into Scream’s familial saga. That’s definitely something that will come into play in the new Scream.
From the casting and trailers, we know that Ghostface will be hunting down relatives of the original killers. So once again we’re going into the secret family histories of Woodsboro. It might be a red herring but Vince (Kyle Gallner) gives us big Billy and Stu vibes. Could he be a descendant of one of the original killers? The film also recently cast Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown as Chad and Mindy Meeks-Martin. Randy Meeks was Sidney’s best friend, who we know had a sister, so they could be his niece and nephew. It makes sense to introduce the next generation of Woodsboro, especially after how effective that was in the fourth film.
I Don’t Need Friends, I Need Fans
Scream 4 was a smart and satirical take on reboots and remakes. Not only did the entire cast return but we were introduced to a new generation of victims and potential killers. While it might not have been received well at the time (a travesty) Scream 4 has garnered a massive and justified cult following since its release. When we look at what the film can tell us about our potential new killers, it has a lot to say.
In the final act, we learn that Sidney’s cousin Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts) and Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin) were the murderers. It was a bleak statement on celebrity and the way that the media makes martyrs out of survivors. Jill wanted to cash in on the chaos she caused, becoming a new heroine just like her cousin before her. And Charlie wanted to be the Randy to her Sidney, but ended up becoming the Stu to her Billy… A.K.A. disposable. This combination of cultural commentary and callback will likely play into the new film too. So when we’re thinking about who it could be, looking at cultural trends as well as previous killers and franchise connections is key.
So What Does This All Tell us About the Killer of Scream (2022)?
The new Scream wants us to know that anyone could be the killer. Alongside the super fun posters of the cast holding the Ghostface masks, the tagline for the film is “It’s always someone you know.” It’s a smart hook, as it is literally true in the context of the film—as we’ll know all the cast by the time it’s revealed—but plays into the very real fact that most murders are committed by someone close to the victim.
It also hints that the killer this time will be a familiar face. We doubt anyone in the original cast will be revealed as the killer, though there are some easy theories. Maybe Gale needs a new book/career hit and decides to kill for ratings. Or Dewey’s been obsessed with Sidney since the beginning and has either snapped or is revealed as the mastermind all along. In the new film he appears to be retired or not on the force anymore. Could he be concocting this most recent series of killings to be the hero once again?
While we don’t think that either of them are the killer, Scream (1996) is going to be vital. The current Hollywood trend sees horror movies going back to their origins. Halloween (2018) ignored every movie after the original 1979 film. A new Texas Chain Saw Massacre sequel on Netflix will do the same. Luckily for us long-running franchise fans, Scream is exactly doing that.
But that doesn’t mean Scream (2022) won’t be looking back to the original. In fact, while the kids being targeted are all connected to the original films, we think that the new movie will truly go back to the beginning: Stu Macher. Having Stu revealed as the new killer would lean into the current horror trends—as Scream movies always do—while also giving Lillard the chance to return to the franchise he loves so much.
If It’s Not Stu, Then Who?
Just like the Scream movies before it, this person could be a new killer. There are plenty of potential options, starting with the film’s “fresh meat.” There are the Meeks-Martins. Maybe they want revenge for their uncle’s death? Or could it be one of the relatives of the original killers trying to live up to that legacy? Of course! A really cool thing about Mindy potentially being the killer, is that it would tie back to Randy’s speech in Scream 2. When hypothesizing on who the killer might be with Dewey he outlines why Hallie would be a perfect sequel killer. A Black woman murderer would break boundaries.
Then there are the outliers. We know that Sidney had sex with Billy. She could have potentially had a child between high school and college. Now they’d be in their 20s and might want to get back at their mother. It would be a smart reflection of what happened with Roman in Scream 3. Plus it would be incredibly understandable why Sidney might want to put her child up for adoption after their father killed all her friends.
Another option that could connect to the past would be if Stu (or another surprise from the original) was perhaps orchestrating the killings using the new characters or an unknown ally. While it’s unlikely Billy survived, perhaps his father could come back hoping to even the score? Maybe even a step-sibling we didn’t know about. Family matters in the Scream franchise and Billy’s family have a lot of reasons to be angry.
Basically, all bets are off. But we know one thing… it’s always someone you know.
Featured Image: Paramount Pictures