Scream 5 without Wes?
Updated: Jul 29
With Scream 5 around the corner, and the first one without the late great Wes Craven, I couldn't help but wonder: is our admiration for Wes Craven, though deserving, blinding us to the potential of the new sequel?
(PSST! To hear me talk about this on my podcast, check out my episode Scream 5 & Jars Part 1)
Well, we'll get to what I think. But first, let's start with some quick hard Scream facts:
Scream 1, written by Kevin Williamson & directed by Wes Craven, satirized horror tropes that Wes helped create (79% Tomatometer & 79% Audience Score).
Scream 2, also written by Kevin Williamson & directed by Wes Craven, satirized sequels (82% Tomatometer & 57% Audience Score).
Scream 3 is directed by Wes Craven but written by Ehren Kruger, no relation to Freddie. It satirized final installments to horror trilogies (39% Tomatometer & 37% Audience Score).
Kevin Williamson would instead choose to commit to the movie Teaching Mrs. Tingle, based on his first ever script predating Scream; though, Williamson did provide ideas before exiting.
According to an interview he did with ET in 2013, a large amount of abandoned Scream 3 pieces was made into his TV show The Following (58% Avg Tomatometer & 66% Avg Audience Score)
"In my original story for Scream 3, the killers were basically a fan club of Woodsboro kids that had formed because of Stab 1 and Stab 2. They were all doing the killings and the big surprise of the movie was when Sidney walked into the house after Ghostface had killed everyone ... and they all rose up. None of them were actually dead and they'd planned the whole thing. The motive was their quest for fame, so I just placed that into one character with Scream 4. They were trying to top [Sidney's] Woodsboro story so they could be the legacy of their hometown. All those ideas metamorphosed into The Following."
Scream 4 is back to being written by Kevin Williamson & being directed by Wes, and satirizes remakes (60% Tomatometer & 55% Audience Score)
PLOT TWIST – Wes Craven spoke exclusively with Total Film in 2011, revealing that he lost control of the script when the studio brought in Kruger from Scream 3 to rewrite Williamson’s draft:
“In some ways it's a Wes Craven film and in some way it's not entirely, because it's not a script I have control of. Look, there was a bumpy period when things shifted over from Kevin to Ehren. I signed up to do a script by Kevin and unfortunately that didn't go all the way through the shooting.”
What does this all mean so far for Scream 5?
According to critics and audiences, Williamson & Wes in Scream 1 worked. However, for Scream 2 critics would praise the film over the first installment whereas audiences would not. And in a major fall from favor, Scream 3 would suffer poor reviews from both critics and audiences. Here in lies three noteworthy details:
Wes was directing
Williamson was not writing
And Williamson’s vision of what he wanted manifested in a TV show with better ratings than Scream 3
Lastly, Williamson and Wes would return for Scream 4. Though it did better with critics and audiences than Scream 3, it was still a drop from the performance of the first two. Either way, critics were pleased despite the controversy surrounding Wes losing control over the script.
Pros vs. cons
PRO - Williamson is back for Scream 5, and all three of the Scream films he was majorly involved in vastly outperformed the one that he wasn’t. Mind you, in Scream 4, Wes acknowledged not being as involved with that script.
PRO – The directors of Ready or Not (88% Tomatometer & 78% Audience Score) will be directing Scream 5, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett.
PRO – though not 100% on it yet, Neve Campbell acknowledged the new directors’ work as good and shared that they “wanna honor Wes’ style of work and honor the movies” which seems to be swaying her towards coming onboard; also David Arquette has officially said yes
(And if there’s anyone who knows what Wes wants other than Kevin, it’s the original Woodsboro gang).
CON – outside of this franchise, many of Williamson’s other projects suffered poor ratings. Teaching Mrs. Tingle for example? 19% on the Tomatometer and 31% Audience Score. That was Williamson without Wes, which is frighteningly worse than Wes without Williamson.
CON – losing the institutional knowledge that Wes had. All numbers aside, Neve Campbell was reluctant to do anything else on Scream without Wes. No similar consideration had been made for Williamson, and no matter how good Williamson might be, why would it? Wes created and was involved with some of the biggest horror movies of all time and that cannot be replaced.
So...can Scream 5 pull it off?
In conclusion, there are more pros than cons, also a great point posed in a Forbes article called “The potential plot for Scream 5 seems all too obvious, right?” by Travis Bean (I suggest you read it) –
Satirize the pressure that the new directors must be feeling to live up to Wes’s legacy, keeping in mind that Scream satirizes conventions he helped create:
I’m guessing that the new masked killer of Scream 5 will follow the rules of a horror reboot. Once a movie stripped away from its original creator, it’s then given a second life by new, young, up-and-coming filmmakers—and I’m guessing the new killer will become a manifestation of that trend.
So Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett must work through the tension of continuing Craven’s legacy—which will become the new emotional underlying of the film. Just like Craven wrestled with his relationship to the horror genre in film after film, these new directors must wrestle with the responsibility of continuing that level of satire.
The only question that remains is then: can Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett pull it off? Neve Campbell seems to think they can—and she might have better judgement than anybody.
I can hear some people saying now: "But it won't be the same!" Well, that’s the point! And if Bettinelli and Olpin take advantage of that truth, there’s still a chance.
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Web article – “How Scream 3 became The Following” 1/17/13 - https://www.etonline.com/tv/129326_Kevin_Williamson_Talks_The_Following_Scream_3_Inspiration
Web article – “Wes Craven talks Scream 4’s script controversy” 3/16/11 - https://www.gamesradar.com/wes-craven-talks-scream-4-s-script-controversy/
Web article – “Scream 5: Neve Campbell Teases Her Return in Upcoming Sequel” 5/11/20 - https://collider.com/scream-5-neve-campbell-is-sidney-coming-back/
Web article – “The potential plot for Scream 5 seems all too obvious, right?” 5/16/20 - https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbean/2020/05/16/the-potential-plot-for-scream-5-seems-all-too-obvious-right/#4b7b499328fb