Since their rise in popularity in the 1980s, slasher movies have been known for their deluge of sequels. From the four alternate Halloween universes, to all three Slumber Party Massacres, just about every franchise has at least a few follow-ups, and most of them prioritize wacky kills over tension and big ideas. The biggest exception to that rule, ironically, is the slasher-parody series Scream, which will return next week for its first sequel in over a decade.
Despite the somewhat confusing title, Scream (2022) is more like Scream 5 than a new beginning. The films picks up after the events of 2011’s Scream 4, which saw series’ protagonist — and seemingly eternal Ghostface target — Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) unite with her cousin (Emma Roberts). Of course, it’s also a Scream movie, so that cousin turned out to be in on the plot to kill Sidney the whole time.
Based on the movie’s trailers, a new Ghostface has begun targeting relatives of former victims. By passing this legacy of killers and victims down to a new generation, it seems this latest entry might also serve as a bit of a reboot, giving us a bigger cast of young characters than previous movies, while still letting series’ staples like, Sidney, Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) share the spotlight.
One member of the original Scream team that isn’t involved in the sequel is horror legend Wes Craven, who passed away in 2015. While few slasher franchises ever bring back directors, Craven directed all four of the previous Scream movies. Taking over for the Nightmare on Elm Street director is Radio Silence, the directing and production team behind 2019’s great horror-comedy Ready or Not.
While taking over a franchise from a master horror filmmaker isn’t easy, the members of Radio Silence explained in an interview with Polygon that Craven’s influence will be easy to see in the new Scream movie. But they also had more than just the past on their mind when making the movie.
“We all we grew up on [Craven’s] movies. So they’re just kind of in our DNA in a way that a very few directors are because we just love all these things,” said Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, a member of Radio Silence and the new Scream’s co-director. “We can name our top five directors, and he’s one of them. [Craven’s style] is just kind of built into the way that we approach things from jump before we ever thought we’d be involved in Scream.”
While it would be impossible to make any horror movie — let alone a Scream sequel — without Craven feeling like an influence, it wasn’t really the focus of the team during production. Instead, they wanted to make sure they did something authentic rather than simply relying on pure homage for the movie’s style.
“I think one of the things that is so embedded in all of Wes Craven’s work, that kind of allowed us to do our own thing, and kind of hopefully push the franchise forward, is that his movies always take risks,” said Bettinelli-Olpin. “So I think we would have been disappointed in ourselves and feel like we let down Wes, if we made a movie that was 100 perecent homage and just about the past.”
According to everyone on the Radio Silence team, getting the new Scream right really came down to the script, which was penned by Ready or Not producer James Vanderbilt (known best for writing Zodiac) and the horror comedy’s writer, Guy Busick. The two penned the sequel before Radio Silence was even involved.
“For us, it was like, if the blueprint is there, if it feels like a Scream movie on the page, we know this is the right group to go and execute that,” co-director Tyler Gillett said. “And thankfully, it absolutely did.”
The Scream franchise has always been a satire of horror’s slasher subgenre, and while they may have ruled the decades before the first Scream’s 1999 release, they aren’t exactly thriving anymore. While Michael Meyers is once again stalking his way through suburban neighborhoods, few other slasher series have survived into modern times. Instead, directors like Jordan Peele have mutated slasher DNA into a new kind of movie, an evolution the Radio Silence both looked to and commented on for Scream.
“Movies like Get Out and Us have really sort of changed the conversation,” said Gillett. Gillett says that he thinks these movies have helped usher in a new generation of horror fans who are now going back and watching the classic in a new way. “It feels like people have finally caught up to how valuable and fun and interesting the genre is. There’s definitely some conversation in this Scream movie about that.”
But just because the slasher genre isn’t booming in real-life doesn’t mean that they’ve disappeared from the world of Scream. One of the series most ridiculous and hilarious meta-gags will also be back, as the Stab franchise gets as new entry. Stab is the in-universe movie that was made about the Ghostface killings and in each subsequent Scream sequel we’ve gotten a new update on the meta-movie’s meta-movie. Radio Silence weren’t keen to share any specifics for fear of spoiling the movie, but Bettinelli-Olpin did tell Polygon that “Stab is a part of this world for sure.”
Since the Scream franchise remains as meta as anything in Hollywood, Stab and contemporary horror won’t be the only things referenced. In fact, Radio Silence’s Chad Villella — who serves as an executive producer on Scream (2022) — only had one piece of advice for fans who are excited about the new movie: “I think everybody should be well versed in Screams 1, 2, 3, and 4 before they watch the new Scream.”
Scream hits theaters on Jan. 14.