'Scream' spoilers! Why that surprise Ghostface reveal was a killer meta swerve

·4 min read

Spoiler alert! The following post discusses important plot points and the ending of “Scream” (in theaters now), so beware if you haven’t seen it. We’re ruining some earlier installments too. Sorry.

There are certain rules to survive a horror movie that are famously laid out in every “Scream” movie. When revealing its killers, though, the latest effort gleefully guts an unspoken tenet.

Franchise heroine Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) was the key figure in the mysterious Ghostface’s murder spree in Woodsboro in Wes Craven’s original 1996 “Scream,” and the four earlier franchise films all unmasked killers and culprits connected to her. The first movie revealed boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) as the primary bad guy, and from there it was Billy’s mom (Laurie Metcalf in "Scream 2”), Sidney’s secret half-brother (Scott Foley in “Scream 3") and Sidney’s fame-seeking psycho cousin (Emma Roberts in “Scream 4”).

'It was nice to play some real emotion': Courteney Cox, Neve Campbell dish on 'Scream' legacy

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to unmask Ghostface again in the fifth "Scream," though the reveal is a swerve from previous installments.
Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to unmask Ghostface again in the fifth "Scream," though the reveal is a swerve from previous installments.

In the finale of the new fifth installment, Sidney is on hand for the big reveals and although the movie sticks a lot to the usual “Scream” formula, Ghostface this time is a swerve: The two evildoers behind the mask, Richie (Jack Quaid) and Amber (Mikey Madison), are hardcore fans of the “Stab” franchise (the film-within-the-film of the “Scream” series) who met on Reddit and sparked another bloody Woodsboro massacre as a way to “remake” the hated eighth “Stab” movie.

Since their inception, the “Scream” movies have always been referential meta commentary on the horror genre, fandom and pop culture. Craven’s original was innovative because of how it reinvented the slasher movie while also giving side-eye to “Friday the 13th,” “Halloween” and other iconic films of the 1970s and ’80s. And 11 years ago, “Scream 4” forecasted the rise of YouTubers, the TikTok generation and people going to extreme lengths to be social media superstars.

Review: Despite new faces, 'Scream' misses chance for a stab at something fresh

Richie (Jack Quaid, with Melissa Barrera) is not the best boyfriend in the new "Scream."
Richie (Jack Quaid, with Melissa Barrera) is not the best boyfriend in the new "Scream."

The new film weighs in on old-school slashers versus the more recent rise in “elevated horror” films like “Get Out,” “The Witch” and “Hereditary” that have more emotional impact than nonstop gore-fests: When Ghostface asks his first victim, Tara (Jenna Ortega), what her favorite scary movie is, she admits to liking “The Babadook” more than a “Stab” flick before getting brutally attacked in her home.

But the youngsters who embraced the Ghostface mantle this time around also speak to a more present and problematic phenomenon, the obsessive toxic online fan.

Mikey Madison plays one of two hardcore "Stab" fans who take their franchise love to a bad place in "Scream."
Mikey Madison plays one of two hardcore "Stab" fans who take their franchise love to a bad place in "Scream."

“How can fandom be toxic?” Richie sneeringly asks in the denouement – which takes place in the same house as the first “Scream” finale – and it’s a question that can be answered pretty much by spending 10 minutes on Twitter. Social media has become the front line for our divisions in general, but especially when it comes to entertainment, where movie opinions go to be eviscerated by disagreeable folks daily. Fandoms have become tribal, and woe to anybody who doesn’t like the same DC superhero films, “Ghostbusters” entries, or “Star Wars” blockbusters.

Interestingly, director Rian Johnson is mentioned a couple of times in the new “Scream”: In this fictional universe, one of the teenagers recalls “the ‘Knives Out’ guy” doing one of the “Stab” movies, and he’s also thanked by filmmakers in the end credits. After the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Johnson was targeted by a mob of online trolls who didn’t like how he treated the characters, and, yes, there was even an online fundraising campaign for Disney to remake the movie. Richie and Amber just decide to skip the middle man and do it themselves.

Rian Johnson: How 'Last Jedi' backlash inspired a 'Knives Out' Internet troll

The eerie Ghostface is one of the reasons why the "Scream" franchise is still going strong after 25-plus years.
The eerie Ghostface is one of the reasons why the "Scream" franchise is still going strong after 25-plus years.

The spirit of Ghostface lives to knife another day at the end of every “Scream” movie but unfortunately not for those underneath the mask and robe, and the same goes for this new killer duo. Amber meets the business end of a burning stove in a tussle with Sidney and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), and Tara’s older sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) – spurred on by a ghostly vision of her long-lost dad, Billy Loomis – stabs her very bad boyfriend Richie to death.

“Scream” fans are a loyal lot so time will tell if they approve of this “requel,” as the new film seems ready to shift the ongoing narrative from Sidney and Gale to Sam and Tara, or if they’ll – ahem – scream for a redo. At least homage is paid to send everyone home happy and, like Sidney in the original, Tara gets the knowing one-liner (after shooting a disfigured Amber following her one last enraged gasp): “I still prefer ‘The Babadook.’ ”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Scream' spoilers! New movie pulls killer swerve with Ghostface reveal

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting