Scream is released in Cineworld cinemas this week and is the latest chapter in the classic horror franchise. When the notorious Ghostface killer resurfaces in the haunted small town of Woodsboro, three people who have survived multiple homicidal rampages must band together to educate a new generation of youngsters in the art of survival.
Said veterans are Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette). All three characters have been fixtures in the Scream franchise since it first started back in 1996, and they've each had close brushes with the various Ghostface killers.
Don't know your Sidneys from your Deweys? Scratching your head at the mere mention of Ghostface? If you're a Scream newcomer, bring yourself up to speed with our summary of the terrifying Scream saga so far.
WARNING: SCREAM SPOILERS AHEAD
1. Sidney's story so far
Sidney Prescott is the protagonist of the Scream series, and to say that she's got a few skeletons in the closet is an understatement. At the onset of the first Scream movie, Sidney is confronted with the one-year anniversary of her mother Maureen Prescott's death – and then Sidney gets a call from a movie-loving psychopath (later dubbed Ghostface). The killer, who has already terrified the local community of Woodsboro by brutally murdering Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore), seems to have first-hand knowledge of the circumstances surrounding Maureen's death. One Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) was imprisoned for the crime, but there's a big question mark hanging over the events.
Sidney eventually learns the chilling truth: there are not one, but two, killers, and one of them lurks especially close to home. That would be Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), Sidney's apparently loyal boyfriend who has been in cahoots with the equally deranged Stu (Matthew Lillard). The two have interchanged throughout the story, throwing everyone off the scent as to Ghostface's true identity.
In a classic example of Scream's meta self-reflexiveness, Billy acknowledges the need for every movie psycho to exhibit a motive for their actions. It turns out that Maureen was sleeping with his father, which caused Billy's mother to walk out on him. He then murdered Maureen in a fit of violent rage and framed Cotton. The next stage of Billy's diabolical plan will see Sidney's father framed for the horrific Woodsboro murders while he and Stu get off scot-free. However, the resourceful Sidney rumbles their plan and kills them both.
Scream 2 takes place at the Windsor College campus where Sidney is attempting to enjoy a normal life with her boyfriend Derek (Jerry O'Connell). However, a copycat killer surfaces with the aim of making a grisly and darkly ironic point about movie sequels. Movie expert Randy (Jamie Kennedy), who barely survived the events of the first film, points out that in a follow-up, all bets are off and the rules can change at will. Sadly, this isn't enough to save Randy who is violently killed by Ghostface.
The climactic showdown of Scream 2 builds on the terror and bloodshed of the first movie. Once again, two killers are revealed, the first being Sidney's college classmate Mickey (Timothy Olyphant). He's in it for the trial and fame, and aims to blame the pernicious influence of violent horror movies to get a reduced, sympathetic sentence. However, the deranged Mickey is merely the entreé. Enter the so-called Debbie Salt (Laurie Metcalf), an apparently benign reporter who has been sniffing around the edges of the Windsor College murders.
To her immense shock, Sidney realises that Debbie is, in fact, Mrs. Loomis, Billy's mother. Consumed with violent hatred for both Sidney and the late Maureen Prescott's adulterous legacy, Mrs. Loomis plans to avenge her son and disappear without a trace. To that end, she shoots Mickey and dismisses his attempts to "blame the movies" as utterly foolhardy. Turning her attention to Sidney, Mrs. Loomis finds herself interrupted by the arrival of Cotton Weary, who had earlier attempted to goad Sidney into doing a TV interview, one that would help him clear his name. Held at knifepoint, Sidney reluctantly accepts his offer, and Cotton shoots Mrs. Loomis dead (or so he thinks – after Mickey unexpectedly rears up and is shot again by Sidney and Gale, Sidney pops a round in the prone Mrs. Loomis' head just to be safe).
The chickens really come home to roost in the increasingly meta threequel Scream 3. Yet another Ghostface killer is on the rampage, and the psycho begins by executing Cotton Weary. By this stage, Sidney has retreated from society and is now a telephone crisis councellor, but Ghostface eventually tracks her down and draws Sidney back into the fight.
Scream 3 effectively ret-cons the events of the first two movies, filling in the blanks as to Maureen Prescott's history and pointing towards the real mastermind who helped manipulate the actions of Billy Loomis. That person would be Roman Bridger (Scott Foley), the director of the film-within-a-film Stab 3, and Sidney's half-brother. Sidney realises that Maureen actually built a new life for herself in Hollywood under the alias Rina Reynolds, and when Roman finally tracked her down, she shut him out of her life.
Consumed with thoughts of vengeance, Roman then orchestrated the events that helped lead Billy Loomis towards murdering Maureen. In the brutal and intensely personal showdown, Sidney dispenses with her mass-murdering step-sibling and finally makes amends with the past.
Fast-forward 11 years and the legacy of Ghostface simply won't fade away. Sidney again finds herself at the centre of a bloodbath when another masked psycho starts targeting those around her. In a repeat of Scream and Scream 2's devious gambit, it's revealed that there are two killers: Sidney's cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), and Charlie (Rory Culkin).
Jill's motive is very much tied into the era of social media and influencing (this was the first Scream movie to be made in the era of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). Expressing jealousy at how much attention Sidney received for the Woodsboro killings, Jill contrives to make herself the star of her own story. As she explains: "I don't need friends. I need fans."
To that end, Jill executes Charlie and attempts to frame the whole shebang on her ex, Trevor (Nico Tortorella). Of course, this only works with Sidney being out of the way, and despite being stabbed by Jill, Sidney eventually gains the upper hand. In a violent hospital showdown, Sidney incapacitates Jill with defibrillator paddles and the defiant words: "Don't f**k with the original." And, in another example of cheeky self-reflexiveness, the now seasoned Sidney anticipates Jill's sudden revival, shooting her dead and putting the nightmare to rest.
Or so she thought... Who could possibly be targeting Sidney in the fifth movie after she's been attacked by everyone from her boyfriend to her cousin?
2. Gale's story so far
In the first Scream movie, the dirt-digging reporter Gale Weathers is introduced as Sidney's arch-nemesis. A trashy tabloid hack, Gale took great relish in divesting the details of Maureen Prescott's death and always held the belief that Cotton Weary was innocent. That puts her on a collision course with Sidney although come the end of the movie, Gale's suspicions are proved to be correct, and she and Sidney reach a queasy truce.
At the beginning of Scream 2, both characters again find themselves at loggerheads. With Cotton Weary newly exonerated and looking to clear his name via a TV interview, Gale attempts to stage a Windsor College intervention between Cotton and Sidney. It doesn't go well, although the tough-as-nails Gale is, once again, ahead of the game. She soon realises that the killer is targeting students who share the same names as the original Woodsboro murder victims, which in turn helps Randy to surmise that everyone is locked into the rules of a movie sequel.
Throughout the course of the second movie, Gale visibly softens as she begins to sympathise with Sidney's plight. Eventually, she helps Sidney take down the lunatic Mickey, and at the end of the film leaves in an ambulance with the stricken Dewey Riley (more on whom below), with whom she has struck up a tentative romance. Has Gale put her sleazy tabloid career behind her? Has she heck as like.
In Scream 3, Gale is drawn into the mystery of the new Ghostface killer. By doing plenty of Tinseltown digging with the help of Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey), Stab 3's fictional Gale avatar, Gale is able to uncover the shocking truth of Maureen Prescott aka Rina Reynolds. There's also an unexpected intervention from Martha Meeks (Heather Matarazzo), Randy's sister, who brings along a taped confession of her late brother that explains the rules, or lack thereof, of a continuing horror franchise. Gale and Dewey then come to the imperilled Sidney's aid as she's psychologically and physically tormented by her half-brother Roman Bridger. At the end of the film, Dewey proposes to Gale and she accepts.
By the time we reach the events of Scream 4, Dewey and Gale have been married for several years. When a resurgent Ghostface coincides with the fifteenth anniversary of the original Woodsboro killings, Gale's reporting instincts once again kick in, made all the more potent by the fact she's suffering from writer's block. (In a reversal of fortune, Gale is more than a little bitter that Sidney has returned to Woodsboro for the first time since her father's death to promote a book of her own.) To Dewey's dismay, Gale begins to dig into the crimes, utilising the help of Charlie, later revealed to be Ghostface, and Robbie (Eric Knudsen), both of whom theorise that the new killer is exploiting the rules of movie remakes.
This is the only Scream movie where Gale ends up being stabbed by Ghostface – it occurs when she attends a cast party for the film-within-a-film franchise Stab. Gale correctly surmises that the killer will strike at the party, and she only survives with Dewey's intervention. Ultimately, husband and wife help Sidney execute the vicious Jill at the end of the movie.
Will Gale be doing any more digging in the fifth Scream film?
3. Dewey's story so far
Woodsboro police officer Dewey Riley has skin in the game as far as Ghostface is concerned. In the first Scream movie, his sister Tatum (Rose McGowan) is murdered by Ghostface when he crushes her head in a garage door. This transforms the otherwise bumbling and naive Dewey into a far more tragic figure, and when he's attacked by Ghostface during the climax, he bears injuries that are then carried into the events of Scream 2.
In the sequel, he vows to protect Sidney while quietly falling in love with Gale. However, Dewey barely escapes the events of Scream 2 with his life. During a suspenseful and inventive chase sequence, he's violently stabbed by the killer on one side of soundproof glass while Gale watches helplessly from the other side. Going by the rules of movie sequels, as expounded by the ill-fated Randy Meeks, we imagine it's curtains for Dewey, but he lives to survive another day.
Dewey's relationship with Gale continues in the third movie, and by the time we reach the fourth instalment, it's especially personal. Dewey is now the appointed Sheriff of Woodsboro and must balance his professional obligations with concerns over his wife Gale's safety. We wonder how Dewey and Gale's relationship will have evolved by the time we reach the fifth Scream movie?
Click here to book your tickets for Scream, opening in Cineworld cinemas on 14th January.