Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Everyone has their favourite Slasher franchise (mine happens to star a certain hockey mask wearing mama’s boy). But while I might not be a mega fan of Wes Craven’s Scream and its sequels (or the television show) this modern day classic has spawned, looking at them all through a critical lens I’m horror fan enough to admit as sequels go, the franchise just might have the most consistently decent ones in all of the genre. And with the recent announcement of Scream 6 it is a perfect time to rank the current five films.
So enough beating around the bush, put down the phone, pop some corn and don’t answer the landline (do people even have those anymore?). With a mild SPOILER ALERT (nothing for the newest film, in case you were wondering) here’s my ranking of SCREAM: FROM AVERAGE TO GREAT!
Side Note: I lost interest in the MTV Scream television series pretty quickly, as I found it lazy and extremely generic so I won’t be adding it to this list as I never completed the entire run. Same goes for the third season/reboot, Scream: Resurrection.
#5 Scream 3 (2000)
While by no means terrible, the third film in the franchise is the most forgettable and uninspired of the bunch.
On the sharp side of the blade I did like the change in location. Moving the action to a Hollywood backlot where Stab 3, (the horror movie within this horror movie) is being made was a smart idea and adds to the Meta stylings the Scream movies are known for. There are also a couple of cat-and-mouse sequences that stand out, with the gas leak explosion being the most memorable. On the other severed hand, the jokes of which there are many (too many) aren’t nearly as well written as the two prior films, and the reveal of the killer’s identity veers into soap opera territory with how down right ridiculous it is.
#4 Scream 2 (1998)
I’m sure most people won’t agree with me placing this one in fourth place and I can see why.
Scream 2 has an opening sequence equally as memorable as the first film. The cast is charismatic, the set pieces and chase scenes are almost on par with the first and Timothy Olyphant’s Mickey is a more than adequate stand-in for Jamie Kennedy’s Randy as they both were tasked with being the horror movie aficionados and breaking down the do’s and don’ts for surviving these scenarios.
The chase through the sound studio was also one of the most intense I’ve seen in a slasher. Yes I can see why most people would rank this one much higher. But personally with the exception of the opening and seeing Sarah Michelle Gellar pop up just to be taken out, there’s not a lot I can remember about this one without having to watch it again.
Simply a matter of personal choice here, Scream 2 is solid, it’s just falls a little lower for me than it does for other fans.
#3 Scream 4 (2011)
Bring on the torches and pitchforks but I can’t lie, I enjoyed Scream 4 a lot more than I expected to. And of all the films this was the only one where I couldn’t figure out who the killer(s) were.
For that alone it gets major kudos but throw in Kevin Williamson, the original screenwriter, returning to breathe new life into what at this point was a dying franchise, and a fantastic young cast that included Rory Culkin, Alison Brie, Adam Brody, Emma Roberts and scene stealer Hayden Panettiere and Scream 4 is a sequel that stands tall amongst its predecessors. It may not be as dark as the others and the humour here tends to dampen the tension a bit, but that gory ending more than makes up for that as well as the Ghostface reveal. After the first, it’s the sequel I enjoy revisiting the most, and for that it gets the bronze medal on my list.
#2 Scream (2022)
Wes Craven would’ve been proud. That’s the highest praise I could give to this sequel or requel as the movie sort of calls itself.
Twenty five years have passed and the latest film in the franchise brings things full circle as the original characters are once again brought back to Woodsboro, this time to help a group of newcomers deal with their iteration of Ghostface. Meta is something the Scream films do well for the most part at least, and this is the best of the sequels or at least the one that closest resembles what Craven did with his iconic first film back in 1996.
The kills and the cat-and-mouse leading up to them are inventive with at least two sequences (the hospital and the final act) both being very effective in this slasher. What didn’t work as well for me was this new group of faces who aren’t nearly as memorable as their original counterparts. Take for instance Sam Carpenter played by Melissa Barrera and compare her to Sydney Prescott (it was great seeing Neve Campbell again). Maybe I’m being a tad unfair as Campbell has had four movies to get this character right and to her credit Barrera handles the role well, as Sam comes across as both capable and likeable, but there’s just something missing here and the same can be said for all the others who are modern day versions of noteworthy characters like Stu, Randy, Tatum and hell, even Casey. I bet in five years no one even remembers the names of the kids in this Scream movie and while I don’t blame the actors who handle the material well, I can’t help but think Craven would’ve written them a bit wittier and more charismatic.
The movie was also very predictable. Maybe it was just me being an old hand at this horror thing or maybe it’s the fact that a horror movie about horror movies isn’t the most subtle when it comes to the whodunit portion of the script, yet while I DID manage to figure out the identity of one of the killers in the first film (Billy Loomis if you’re wondering), I never guessed (or expected) there to be two of them. I so hoped part five would’ve thrown some kind of wrench in the works by turning that particular plot thread on its ear, instead they doubled down (get it?) on this so by the first act I pretty much nailed it when it came to who our killer or killers were. It made the reveal anticlimactic and took some bite out of the conclusion for me. Still I have to give them points for a very entertaining final act.
Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Taylor Gillett are definitely fans of Wes Craven and the love and respect for his work and the iconic first film is on full display here. I can’t help but wish the late master of horror was still around to punch up the writing/directing, making these characters as memorable as the first. But even as a standalone slasher, Scream 2022 is a solid horror movie and an entertaining one at that.
#1 Scream (1996)
The winner and still undefeated champion!
As theatrical memories go, seeing Scream back in ’96 is as clear as if I saw it yesterday. The opening scene that completely subverted your expectations (the crowd I saw this with went crazy when Drew Barrymore got taken out) and from that moment forward even the most devoted of horror fans knew this wasn’t going to be just another slasher flick. Wes Craven visited this Meta style of directing once before in his grossly underrated New Nightmare but where that movie explored why horror movies need to exist it’s with Scream he took the horror fan’s knowledge of the slasher genre and flipped it on them.
With one of the most memorable casts of characters to date in the genre (I’ve seen hundreds of slashers and Scream is the only movie where I remember everyone’s names) and the introduction of Neve Campbell as Sydney Prescott (who even though she hasn’t starred in a variety of horror movies is STILL considered a Scream Queen) plus a stellar screenplay by Kevin Williamson that dissected horror movies while delivering a horror movie, Scream set the bar exceptionally high and changed the landscape of slasher horror forever. Often imitated, never duplicated, 1996’s Scream is simply in a league of its own.
So that’s my ranking. Do you agree with the list? And for more of my thoughts on Scream (2022) you can watch my video review here:
And you can check out more great horror content below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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