Scream: recapping the gnarliest kills from the horror franchise

With Scream due for release in Cineworld on 14th January, the time has come to ask yourself: do you like scary movies? The movie is the fifth instalment of the classic horror franchise, which has consistently sought to both satirise and champion the genre to which it belongs. Now that the original Scream director Wes Craven has passed away, Ready or Not filmmakers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett take over for another dose of darkly comic slasher mayhem.

Series veterans Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette are back to school a new generation of youngsters in the art of survival as the Ghostface killer returns to the sleepy town of Woodsboro. The masked psycho has created quite a carve-up within Woodsboro and beyond across the course of the bloodsoaked Scream series. So, to prepare you for the fifth movie, we've recapped the gnarliest kills from the franchise so far.





1. Casey Becker

The Scream franchise's first-ever kill remains its most shocking, arduous and torturous. Drew Barrymore is chillingly convincing as the afflicted Casey Becker who becomes the unfortunate first victim of the mocking Ghostface (voiced to brilliant effect by Roger L. Jackson). Barrymore was initially lined up for the central role of Sidney Prescott, later taken by Neve Campbell, but she makes a huge impact in just 10 minutes of screentime (or Scream time, if you will). Indeed, Barrymore figured that it would be more shocking and unpredictable for an actor of her renown to be killed off at the very start of the movie, thereby keeping the audience on tenterhooks for the remainder of the story.

The opening sequence of Scream establishes all the hallmarks of the franchise: meta self-reflexiveness, as Casey is forced to rely on her knowledge of horror movies for her own survival, an immediately iconic killer mask, grisly violence and a sense of tragedy. Scream's blackly comic irony is leavened with a genuine sense of consequence: we become so invested in Casey's plight that her eventual demise is genuinely harrowing. It's a dramatic step-up from the disposable victims featured in the cheesy, throwaway slasher films that had been allowed to dominate much of the 1980s and 1990s. As Casey's parents arrive home, unaware of the slaughter that is taking place just out of sight, Marco Beltrami's superb score shifts from propulsive menace to a haunting, choral-led lamentation, another sign of the sophistication that's embedded within Scream's genre DNA.



2. Tatum

Rose McGowan's Tatum, the sassy sibling of bumbling police officer Dewey (David Arquette) gives as good as she gets in her one and only scene with Ghostface. Again, winking self-irony comes to the fore in Kevin Williamson's dialogue as Tatum launches quick-fire references to films as diverse as the notorious I Spit on Your Grave and the altogether more family-friendly Casper. But despite giving Ghostface a sound beating, Tatum makes the mistake of attempting to crawl through her garage doggy-door, the end result being that she's crushed and killed immediately when the mechanism is activated.



3. Kenny

Who would have thought that a time delay could be such a brilliantly terrifying plot device? That's the genius of Wes Craven who could always locate menace in commonplace scenarios. As the persecuted Sidney and news cameraman Kenny watch the apparently endangered Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) on a monitor, Scream once again nails the perfect mixture of meta-irony and blind terror. Their reaction to Randy's peril ably mirrors the traditional response of a horror audience, yelling at him to turn around and make his escape. However, they soon realise something: although Ghostface is standing behind Randy, the footage is actually delayed by a good few seconds – meaning that the killer is, by this point, elsewhere. Kenny then meets a jumpy and grisly end with his body later unceremoniously dumped on top of the news van commandeered by Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), and the windscreen wiper reveal at that particular moment is just as ghoulishly gory.



4. Stu

There are not one but two killers revealed in Scream: Sidney's boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and his goofish partner in crime Stu Macher (a memorable Matthew Lillard). Of the two, Stu gets the more memorable demise, as the now battle-hardened Sidney drops a television on his head and finishes him off. This being a 1990s TV set, the thing is built like a tank – we can't imagine this would work with modern flat-screen TVs. The encore to this moment comes when the apparently deceased Billy surges back to life, only to be fatally shot by the thought-to-be-dead Gale. However, Sidney delivers him a cautionary final round to the head just to be sure. This becomes a devious running gag throughout the series as the survivors are always forced to contemplate whether the killers will come back in the clichéd manner of many slasher films. Once again, Scream's ability to be in on the joke, while also acting as a dramatically engaging thriller in its own right, secures its reputation as a 1990s horror classic.





1. Phil and Maureen

Scream 2 nails its colours to the mast with a genuinely shocking and disturbing opening that signals an escalation in Ghostface's tactics. The sequence takes place at the rowdy premiere of Stab, the film-within-a-film that dramatises the earlier Woodsboro murders. It's attended by couple Phil (Omar Epps) and Maureen (Jada Pinkett Smith) who take their seats amidst a popcorn-slinging mob – all of whom are wearing Ghostface costumes. Phil is killed during a sojourn to the bathroom – the diabolical new killer is using the cover of the premiere, with its audience punchdrunk on the spectacle of movie violence and mayhem, to operate incognito.

When Ghostface takes his place next to Maureen, he then dispatches her in full view of the auditorium. But, of course, the crowd is under the belief that it's nothing more than a grisly bit of cosplay – only when the ill-fated Maureen stumbles onto the stage and screams her last does the crowd realise that a violent murder has taken place in front of their eyes. The returning duo of Craven and Williamson make salient and scary points about the normalisation of violence within horror movies, and how it is commodified for a mass audience. The scene takes the previous film's sense of irony and loads it with increasingly impressive amounts of satirical ambition, in one fell swoop deconstructing the genre's pernicious elements while celebrating its longstanding vicarious thrills.



2. Randy

Scream's self-appointed movie expert Randy is, more often than not, the character who self-referentially comments on the nature of the horror genre. In Scream 2, with the return of Ghostface, Randy is quick to surmise that everyone is now operating within the rules of a horror movie sequel, meaning that all bets are now off and anyone is potentially for the chop. Of course, no-one at the time of Scream 2's release seriously considered that Randy would become one of those victims, another way in which Scream 2 cleverly subverts audience expectations.

The moment of Randy's death is brilliantly staged by Craven with a maximum eye for shock value. Utilising Gale's phone, Randy attempts to distract the killer while she and Dewey roam the Windsor College campus aiming to identify the psycho. However, Randy makes the fatal mistake of turning his back on Gale's news van – the use of negative space to the right of frame as we're looking at Randy, with the van positioned off-screen behind him, throws us off the scent as to the geography of the sequence. This allows Craven to stage the sudden, terrifying assault of Ghostface, as Randy is pulled into the van and knifed to death. With the brutal execution of Scream's resident movie guru, Scream 2 ups the dramatic stakes while self-reflexively reinforcing Randy's own mantra that nobody is safe anymore.



3. The cops

It's often the incidental characters who get the nastiest deaths in the Scream movies. While Sidney and her friend Hallie (Elise Neal) are being escorted to safety by two policemen, Ghostface strikes, slashing the throat of one and brutally beating the other. With Sidney and Hallie still incarcerated in the back, Ghostface then uses the car to plough the surviving cop into a building site, impaling his head on a pole in suitably wince-inducing fashion. It then falls to Sidney and Hallie to crawl across the unconscious Ghostface and make their escape in one of the most memorably nerve-jangling scenes of the entire series, again accentuated by the hushed menace and dread-filled anticipation of Marco Beltrami's score. Unfortunately, the killer escapes (off-screen) and kills Hallie in the process.

Initially, Hallie was set to be one of the killers in the movie, so one imagines that this sequence was hastily rewritten once the script was leaked onto the internet. Nevertheless, it's still imaginatively and breathlessly staged.



4. Mickey

Scream 2 repeatedly draws attention to the conditions (and limitations) of his own existence as a horror sequel. Things come to an operatic conclusion on the stage of the Windsor College campus as Ghostface reveals himself as Sidney's classmate Mickey (Timothy Olyphant). After attempting to convince Sidney that her boyfriend Derek (Jerry O' Connell) was in on the killings, Mickey shoots him dead before revealing his suitably meta motive. Plotting his hypothetical trial and the inevitable media circus to follow, Mickey plans to blame the corrosive impact of violent horror movies, exploiting public hysteria and hand-wringing over apparently harmful pop culture to get a reduced sentence.

And yet, in the course of watching Scream 2, we, the audience, are consuming the exact sort of movie that Mickey thinks will be decried in his court trial. The tail is wagging the dog to enjoyably lurid and gruesome effect, but the story doesn't end there. Mickey's partner in crime is then revealed, the apparently ordinary reporter Debbie Salt, in reality Mrs. Loomis (Laurie Metcalf), the mother of Billy. Amidst the film's climactic, self-reflexive gestures and volley of jaw-dropping twists, it's still satisfying to watch Sidney, with the help of the newly exonerated Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), get the better of Mrs. Loomis. The sneaky irony keeps on coming as Mickey, thought to be shot dead by Mrs. Loomis, surges back to life, only to be definitively killed by Sidney and Gale. As for Mrs. Loomis, after being shot by Cotton, she's capped in the head by Sidney in a deliberate and darkly humorous evocation of the first film's closing gambit.




1. Cotton

Having survived the events of the first and second movies, Cotton is eventually picked off at the beginning of the third Scream film. Called by the latest iteration of Ghostface, Cotton is informed that the killer is stalking his girlfriend in their luxury Hollywood pad. Upon returning home, Cotton is accused of playing a sadistic game by dressing up as the killer – but, of course, the actual culprit soon appears to kill them both. Reports suggest that Cotton and Sidney were initially supposed to shoot each other dead during Scream 2's climax, only for it to be changed into a more redemptive plot arc once the script was leaked. This would account for the character coming to a sticky end at the beginning of the third movie as the character's story is hastily resolved.



2. Jennifer

Scream 3 has one or two things up its sleeve in terms of staging some ghoulishly nasty deaths. One of the more memorable scenes involves a one-way mirror and a violent Ghostface execution that's occurring, unseen, on the other side of it. The victim in question is Jennifer (Emily Mortimer), one of the stars of the film-within-a-film franchise Stab, whose ensemble becomes embroiled in the battle between Ghostface and the franchise veterans.



3. Roman Bridger

At the end of the third Scream movie, and in a typically self-reflexive gesture, it's acknowledged that the killer always needs to be shot in the head the first time round. The culprit this time is Stab director Roman Bridger (Scott Foley), who helped orchestrate the actions of the first film's Billy Loomis. Roman is a little miffed that his mother, an actor named Rina Reynolds, abandoned him to take up a new life as Maureen Prescott, later to become Sidney's mother. As Sidney reckons with her half-brother being the killer, Gale and Dewey emerge and, at Sidney's insistence, Dewey lands a satisfying headshot that ends this Ghostface's reign of terror.




1. Olivia

The nature of movie remakes is the name of the game in the fourth Scream movie. Truth be told, the franchise has, by this stage, said everything it needs to say, but there are still gruesome delights to be found. Wes Craven shows his flair for unpredictable, shocking set-pieces when the unsuspecting Olivia is violently dissected by Ghostface as Sidney watches, helpless, from the other side of the street. The key lies in the build-up: a phone call indicates that the killer is lurking in the closet where Sidney is sharing a room with Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) – but, of course, Ghostface hasn't actually specified which closet he's hiding in. This lack of foresight leads to Olivia's doom in one of the franchise's grisliest moments.



2. Jill

Sidney's cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) is one of the two killers in the fourth Scream movie. Consumed with jealous rage over the press attention Sidney received for the Woodsboro massacre, Jill plots morbid revenge. She plans to take advantage of the era of social media by staging herself as the innocent victim of the latest Ghostface killings, securing herself a significant amount of press attention and a large number of fans in the process. In other words, she will become the rebooted Sidney Prescott of her own horror saga. However, the tenacious Sidney just won't go down without a fight, resulting in a violent hospital showdown that requires a punch-up, two defibrillator paddles and several bullets to the chest to put the psychotic Jill out of the picture. As Sidney says: "Don't f**k with the original."


Click here to book your tickets for Scream, opening in Cineworld cinemas on 14th January.