Scream (2022) is filled with surprises. Not only are there fan theory confirmations, some very funny takes on toxic fandom, that big return and the killer reveal, but the film also contains the heartbreaking death of one of the original stars of the series. During a brutal attack at a hospital, Dewey (David Arquette) helps save sisters Tara (Jenna Ortega) and Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), but he returns to the scene of the Ghostface crime to make sure the killer is dead. Sadly, it’s a fatal mistake as he’s viciously sliced and diced. Scream filmmakers Radio Silence (co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet, and producer Chad Villella) broke down Dewey’s death and why it had to be heroic.
Killing off one of the original trio of returning characters was not something that the filmmakers took lightly. “We took it really seriously and there was a lot of weight on our shoulders and on David’s shoulders,” co-director Bettinelli-Olpin shared. “We didn’t want to mess it up. We didn’t want to do it an injustice. We didn’t want it to be throw away. We wanted it to be weirdly heroic. But we also knew that in order for it to be a part of Scream, it had to be brutal. It had to go maybe a step too far. And it had to shock you.”
While the Scream team joked about whether they really killed the near immortal Dewey, it’s clear that his death was key to the film having the impact that they wanted. “One of the things that was true about it for us from when we first read the script all the way until we were shooting it was the sense of ‘I can’t believe we’re gonna do this, but we have to do this,'” he said. “Without this, the movie will be everything we don’t want it to be. The movie will let you know, ‘Don’t worry, there’s no real stakes here. We’re just going to get some new people and kill them before you can get attached.’ But for Scream to be Scream, it has to shock you. It’s what the original does 12 minutes into the movie, and you’re like ‘Okay, I’m in for this no matter what.'”
Dewey’s death represented a huge moment, not just for the team behind the movie, but also for David Arquette. “I think on a personal level for all three of us as fans it was hard and it was sad. And then also just as creators, talking to David; he’s had this be a part of his life for so long in such an intricate way, way more intricate than most people have relationships with their characters or their movies. And I think at the end of the day, we just hope that we did it justice.”
His heroic death scene reflects something that Arquette always believed about Dewey. “He told us that he always thought Dewey thought of himself as Clint Eastwood,” Bettinelli-Olpin told us. “That he was this big hero. So that’s why when he goes back there and that whole final moment, you’re alone with Dewey and Ghostface. He is a hero. We shoot him like it’s a western. It’s like let’s really live in this moment and give him that moment of finally being Clint Eastwood.”
Balancing that respect and thoughtfulness with the inevitable brutality was a driving factor. “I think there was this other texture that was just really valuable to us,” Tyler Gillet added. “And this goes throughout the movie; there’s a fine line between something being brutal and being cruel. And there was something about having Gale be a part of his death that made it about more than just brutalizing this character. It’s actually romantic. When he looks down and he sees the phone ringing, it’s the answer to a question he just left her with in the previous scene. ‘Is there a connection between us? Is there hope?’ And that phone ringing and his smile before he ultimately dies, for us it added this level of romanticism. It’s beautiful, it’s hard, and it’s full of heart. It’s not just cruel. It’s not just mean.”
That ongoing romance between Gale (Courteney Cox) and Dewey also brings the film to a hopeful close. As Sidney (Neve Campbell) and Gale sit in the ambulance after the violence of the final act, Gale says that she’s going back to writing a book. One about a heroic small town sheriff. It’s a lovely call back to something Dewey said to her earlier in the film: “You’re always happiest when you’re writing.” For the filmmakers, that full circle moment was key.
But it almost didn’t make it into the film. “We talked about that a lot because when we were fine tuning the edit and looking at what you can cut, both of those lines were things we were hovering around,” Bettinelli-Olpin exclaimed. “But in the end we were like, ‘No, it’s such a part of them, that’s their little story, that’s the arc they get in this, it means a lot.'”
Featured Image: Paramount Pictures