Neve Campbell’s arc as Sidney Prescott should have ended way back on February 3, 2000 when Scream 3 premiered at the AMC Avco theater in Westwood. Yes, fans everywhere are disappointed that Campbell isn’t returning for Radio Silence’s Scream 6, though despite her absence, Kevin Williamson is confident it’s a “big, huge, fresh reinvention.” Truthfully, it’s what the series needs. While it was wonderful to see Prescott face down Emma Roberts in Scream 4, it was all a little bit silly, narratively speaking. That Prescott was again thrown into the Ghostface fray in Scream 5 strains credulity to painful extremes. The inimitable final girl deserves a rest. She’s deserved it for 23 years.
As so adroitly put by Jasmin Savoy Brown’s Mindy Meeks-Martin in the most recent entry, the “requel” is to blame. Audiences, especially horror audiences, ceaselessly denounce all things old dredged up and repurposed for a new audience. Remakes were so last decade. Requels are tired and hackneyed. There’s value to the overarching sentiment. New horror icons can’t be born without new horror icons. At one point, Ghostface, Michael Myers, and Jason Voorhees were original ideas. Sure, they borrowed from antecedent horror outings—there’s a direct line between Black Christmas and Halloween, between all three and 1996’s Scream—but they were fresh enough to work, confident in their ability to introduce new IPs into a burgeoning cinematic landscape. With the advent of streaming and direct-to-video releases, there’s space for new horror voices of all shapes and sizes.
Yet, for better or worse, space doesn’t equate to eyes. While David Gordon Green ostensibly killed Myers, both figuratively and literally, with Halloween Ends (and believe me, I have my own issues with his take on the Myers mythos), the movie still grossed $105 million worldwide. As a point of comparison, Zach Cregger’s Barbarian capped out at $45 million. There’s money in the familiar. Human beings writ large are motived by uncertainty reduction, a theory delineating how humans, uncomfortable with the unknown, seeks the means and wherewithal to predict.
While often applied to social interactions, it’s no less relevant to filmmaking, and consequently, financial performance. Audiences want something new, but not too new. Subversive, but not too unconventional. Dangerous, but with an undercurrent of safety. Those demands mean Sidney Prescott, instead of enjoying a peaceful existence with her dog, back door wide open, is recurrently thrust into the Ghostface spotlight. She is incredulously incapable of simply being left alone. It’s a franchise, and audience, innately resistant to ending the narrative thread for good.
While the “requel” trend might be remunerative for studio executives and nostalgic for fans (point of reference, I listed Scream as my favorite horror movie of 2022), they run a risk greater than simply inciting a series of diminishing returns—they’re liable to actively discredit the properties fans once loved. Case in point, look at Laurie Strode in David Gordon Green’s Halloween trilogy. Trauma was the nexus for everything Green and company endeavored to do. While I’m in the minority that with Ends, it almost (almost) came together in deeply compelling ways, there’s little doubt that when Michael Myers was lowered into the industrial shredder, Laurie Strode should have gone with him too.
Laurie Strode was the premier final girl. The obvious, conspicuous go-to. Nothing 2018’s Halloween did with Strode was particularly egregious. Sure, its Halloween H20 post-traumatic stress redux was sloppily conceived, but it worked well enough, largely on account of Jamie Lee Curtis’ fierce, committed performance. Then, of course, there’s Halloween Kills. Not to belabor a point I’ve made several times before, but Halloween Kills was a radical shift in Strode’s characterization. As much as Ends wants you to think the subsequent vilification of Strode is unfair, the truth is more complicated. There’s no reconciliation for Laurie and her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), a woman whose experience with trauma was considerably more compelling in smaller beats than anything Laurie endured. Yet, Kills, well, kills Karen, and she’s not even an afterthought in the third entry.
Karen’s entire life was predicated on the specter of Michael Myers, and it ruined her. When Laurie had the chance to intervene, she riled up a mob of vigilantes. There’s a direct link between her actions in Kills and the death of Karen, a death memorialized in a brief Ends picture frame and nothing more. It’s a glaring, fundamentally flawed handling of trauma-informed narratives. The arc demonstrably suggests the new Halloween trilogy’s trauma framework was just for show. It was a bloody Halloween costume draped atop the same slasher template.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 was far more successful at reinterpreting the mythos of Laurie Strode and her connection to Michael Myers. Better still, he accomplished as much without spoiling the legacy of Curtis’ original. Depending on the timeline, there’s either the incredible Strode (Halloween, Halloween 2, Halloween H20, ignoring Resurrection), the dead Strode (Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers), or the deeply irresponsible, callously cruel one (Halloween 2018). Only the latter pretends to be something it’s not.
While Sidney Prescott has thus been spared Strode’s own eroding cinematic legacy, the risk remains high with every subsequent outing. Consider, for instance, the ending of Scream 3. Sidney has finally put an end to the Ghostface killings, and for the first time since her mother’s death, she feels safe. Contrasted against the fan-favorite Scream 5 trailer moment—“I’m Sidney fucking Prescott, of course I have a gun”— and it’s disheartening. The Sidney of 2022 no longer feels safe. There’s no dog, no open door. She has kids, sure, but she’s so deeply paranoid. She’s armed and ready, entrenched in her fervent desire to never, ever return to Woodsboro.
That, of course, is before she is again attacked and almost killed by Ghostface. Imagine the Sidney of Scream 6. What’s left to do with her? How many times can one woman endure a masked killer going after her before the audience simply feels fatigued. Emotionally fatigued at her flatline arc—survives, almost dies, survives, almost dies, ad infinitum—and narratively fatigued at seeing the same thing done again. While there’s room for some compelling Gale Weathers material in Scream 6, the same can’t be said for Prescott. I don’t want her back for 6. I certainly don’t want—as some fans eagerly hope—for an ending that springboards her arrival in the all-but-inevitable Scream 7.
Sidney Prescott didn’t need to be in Scream 4. She didn’t need to be in Scream 5. 23 years ago, it should have been over for her. Everything since then, while remarkably compelling (again, I am an avowed Scream fan), has been a disservice to her character. While the late Wes Craven helmed Scream 4 and bears some responsibility there, it doesn’t diminish his status as one of the great, humanist filmmakers of all time.
That he did so within the constraints of the horror genre is nothing short of incredible. His vision, the one innate in every subsequent Scream entry, is clear. Sidney Prescott deserves a break. Let her rest. While it should have happened with Scream 3, now’s as good a time as any to leave her alone. If I’m right about this, I could save a woman’s life. Do you know what that could do for my book sales?