Why ‘Scream’s Real Villain Isn’t Ghostface
This article contains SPOILERS for all the Scream movies, from Scream to the new movie that is also just called Scream.
The weirdest thing about the Scream franchise – apart from the fact that it apparently takes place within the same fictional universe as Jay and Silent Bob – is its villain. Unlike other slasher horror series, which focus on recurring killers like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, the Scream movies feature a conveyor belt of assorted murderous baddies, allowing for each story to be its own unique whodunnit.
But for the sake of narrative consistency, each killer adopts the Ghostface aesthetic, donning the same costume, wielding the same knife, and using one of the same voice changing gizmos – which, incidentally, are waaay less impressive in real life, making you sound like more of a broken Speak & Spell than a Satanic FM radio DJ.
Each Scream killer basically takes on the Ghostface character and all of its ephemera the way one might open up their own Arby's franchise. But in doing so, they also seem to take on certain, almost supernatural, powers that allow them to, say, silently vanish whenever someone's back is turned. It's as if each killer is possessed by Ghostface, even though, in the world of the movie, the killers are always revealed to be simply regular people making terrible life decisions.
So if Ghostface isn't a person or even a supernatural entity, what is it? There must be some commonality between the killers of all five Scream movies other than simply a penchant for Halloween costumes and prank phone calls. What unites the killers of each movie?
The running theme of the Scream franchise is that people who expect, and believe they innately deserve, everything they desire, at any cost, are the true villains. In the first Scream, even before he's outed as one of the killers, Billy Loomis' raison d'etre is to pressure Sidney into having sex with him. Billy acts as if he's entitled to sex because it's been a whole year since Sid was first traumatized by her mother's brutal murder.
In the end, we learn that Billy and his pal Stu were behind her mom's murder since Mrs. Prescott's affair with Mr. Loomis led to Billy's mom leaving town. But we never really get a motive for the Ghostface killings beyond the fact that Billy wanted to sexually conquer, then kill, his girlfriend, along with a bunch of other people to cover his tracks – as if this were all somehow owed to him.
And while And while each subsequent sequel featured a killer, or killers, with wildly different motivations, that theme of entitlement always factored into the story to some degree. In Scream 2, Mickey thinks the murders will give him the infamy he delusionally thinks he deserves as a killer and a media commentator. In the third movie, it's Sidney's estranged half-brother who resents the loving family he believes should have been his, and in Scream 4, Sidney's cousin Jill thinks that she should be gifted the same degree of fame and adulation as her beloved cousin, contriving a series of murders that will position her as the new final girl.
And this pattern became even more apparent in the recent 2022 Scream, which is all about toxic fan entitlement; the killers are revealed to be Stab nuts who resent that the film-series-within-a-film-series isn't satisfying their own personal tastes anymore – the latest entry, somewhat unsubtly, having been directed by The Last Jedi's Rian Johnson. Which fits with the previous movies; it's as if all of these broken jerks are able to summon the Ghostface persona purely through their own petulant belief that the universe and Sidney Prescott owe them something.
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Top Image: Dimension Films