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The 14 Best Deaths In The Scream Series

The 14 Best Deaths In The Scream Series

The 14 Best Deaths In The Scream Series

The “Scream” series has had one of the most curious developments among the entire slasher subgenre. Director Wes Craven’s “Scream” released to enormous success in December 1996, perfectly blending meta-awareness with conventional slasher thrills. It was funny, it was hip, and it was scary. Less than a year later, “Scream 2” released, and the franchise showed no signs of slowing down. Only, it did. It would be several years before “Scream 3” released to considerably less critical acclaim than the first two, and more than a decade before “Scream 4” would replicate the same lackluster arrival, with critics conceding that it only marginally improved upon its predecessor.

Yet, the series has endured. Distinct for having human killers — Ghostface is no Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger — and synthesizing Agatha Christie intrigue with splatter movie violence, there is no horror franchise quite like it. The mask is still the most popular Halloween costume in the world, and with a fifth entry on the way, Ghostface — some 25 years after his debut –- is back. Here, we’ll be counting down the 14 best deaths in the “Scream” series. Considerably more grounded than most slasher outings, “Scream” nonetheless delivered its fair share of metatextual, ooey-gooey deaths.

14. Jenny Randall's Death in 'Scream 4'

“Scream 4” originally had a radically different opening scene. While the movie-within-a-movie conceit remained, the original opening featured a reversal in the deaths of Britt Robertson’s Marnie Cooper and Aimee Teegarden’s Jenny Randall. In the theatrical opening, Marnie is killed off-screen before Jenny. In the original opening, however, Ghostface appears in-frame after Marnie closes the refrigerator door — it’s classic Craven blocking -– and presuming it’s a prank, doesn’t take it seriously until he violently kills Jenny on the couch. Marnie is then chased and killed. The fridge bit is an effective bit of subversion, but the scene ends too quickly, and it’s understandable why Craven would want to beef it up

The theatrical opening instead has Jenny chased into her garage after a sinister phone call. As she hides behind the door -– one that curiously opens outward -– Ghostface stabs her and pushes her down the stairs. She crawls away toward the garage door, and as she’s halfway under, Ghostface closes the door, crushing her spine before pulling her back inside. It’s a grisly kill, one made better by its in-universe connection. Much was made about the inaccuracies in Tatum’s garage death in “Scream,” and Jenny’s death is a long-anticipated course-correction. Yay, physics!

13. Billy Loomis's Death in 'Scream'

This one might be cheating a bit. Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott violated one of the cardinal rules of surviving a slasher movie when in the third act, she decided to have sex with boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich). Having done so, she was no longer a virgin and, as declared by Jamie Kennedy’s Randy Meeks, she jeopardized her chances for survival.

Yet, as Sidney is combing her hair (with another woman’s comb, I should add), she questions Billy about his one phone call. Earlier in “Scream,” Sidney was attacked in her home, and Billy was arrested under suspicion. He was since let go, yet Sidney opts to further interrogate him after the two have consummated their high school love affair. Billy stumbles with his answer, and just as Sidney grows more suspicious, Ghostface appears in the bedroom door. Sidney overcomes her temporary paralysis to warn him, but it’s too late. Billy is savagely slashed and stabbed until he falls onto the bed, bloodied and ostensibly dead. Now, Billy isn’t really dead, and the entire thing was a set-up planned by Billy and co-killer Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard) — but for first time viewers, it’s a savagely upsetting death, one that upends the entire mystery. Until the final reveal, viewers were left wondering: if not Billy, then who?

12. Derek Feldman's Death in 'Scream 2'

Continuing the trend of boyfriend deaths, Derek Feldman’s (Jerry O’Connell) demise is both tragic and twisted — likely accounting for Sidney’s reluctance to ever date again. After two of her boyfriends die, one of whom tried to murder her, it makes sense that celibacy reign supreme. In the third act of Craven’s gloriously inventive sequel, Sidney races toward the theater stage, drawn to the music she hears from across the hall. Upon arrival, she is cornered by Ghostface as Derek, tied to a cross prop, descends from the ceiling, looking nearly crucified.

He’s been strung up by Rebecca Gayheart and company after he serenaded Sidney in the campus dining hall and handed her his Greek letters. That, it appears, is a big “no no.” Sidney at first attempts to free him, but Ghostface reveals his identity to be Mickey (Timothy Olyphant), friend of both Sidney and Derek. He alleges Derek is his partner, and Sidney, fearing history is repeating himself, backs away and leaves him tied to the cross. Then, Mickey shoots Derek, killing him as he chastises Sidney for believing him. 

It’s a gut-punch of a death. In Mickey’s own words, Derek was a good guy, and had Sidney acted quicker, he might just have survived. Discerning fans might notice that, for the entirety of “Scream 3,” Sidney can be seen wearing Derek’s Greek letters.

11. Kate Roberts' Death in 'Scream 4'

Parallel with Derek’s death, Kate Roberts’ (Mary McDonnell) death in “Scream 4” makes the list on account of just how shocking and vicious it is. Lauren Graham of “Gilmore Girls” fame was originally cast in the role of Kate Roberts, though after leaving the cast, Mary McDonnell took over the role. Kate Roberts is mother to Emma Roberts’ Jill and sister to the late Maureen Prescott, Sidney’s mother. Her screen time is limited, but McDonnell imparts both empathy and curiosity as yet another variable in both Sidney and her mother’s life.

Midway through “Scream 4,” the somewhat irresponsible Kate leaves her daughter home for a quick jaunt to the store — shopping is her stressbuster. When she arrives later with boxes of cereal and bags of chips, Jill is gone and Sidney shares that Ghostface wants to kill her entire family. They flee out the back door, but Ghostface intercepts them. Back inside, Sidney suggests the front door. Once again, Ghostface appears. They slam the door, and Kate — her head against the mail slot — slumps down and uses her legs to keep the door shut. Ghostface then thrusts his knife through the slot, and as Sidney pulls away, she sees Kate fall over, dead. 

It’s a playful death, but it’s rendered more shocking with the final reveal: Kate’s killer was her own daughter.

10. Tom Prinze's Death in 'Scream 3'

Tom Prinze’s (Matt Keesler) death in “Scream 3” was the moment the franchise colloquially jumped the shark. Perennial Ghostface survivors Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courtney Cox) arrive at Jennifer Jolie’s (Parker Posey) house in the Hollywood Hills, presuming the new killer is targeting actors in the order they die in the script for “Stab 3,” “Scream 3’s” movie-within-a-movie. The lights go out, and naturally, everyone is certifiably freaked, especially once bodyguard Steven Stone (Patrick Warburton) stumbles into the frame, a knife lodged in his back.

The fax machine goes off, and when everyone rushes over, the fax, formatted as a script page, reads the killer is outside and intends to spare only one person. The group rushes outside at Gale’s behest, reasoning the killer says he is outside because he wants everyone inside. Tom is arbitrarily desperate to know who the killer intends to spare, and when he rushes back inside to read the next fax, he realizes it’s too dark. Tom lights his lighter and discovers the fax reads, “And the killer will give mercy to whoever… smells the gas.” Tom is then enveloped in flames as the entire house explodes, sending the survivors outside rolling down the hillside. It’s ridiculous, contrived, and so much fun.

9. Officer Richards' Death in 'Scream 2'

Officer Richards’ death is brutal. Played by stunt actor Christopher Doyle, he is one of two officers assigned to guard Sidney Prescott after Ghostface starts dropping bodies on her college campus. A Capricorn and divorced father of two children, he’s a subversive presence. He proves himself to be a semi-competent law enforcement officer, a rarity in the horror genre. After more murders, he and his partner, Officer Andrews (Philip Pavel) intend to drive Sidney and her friend Hallie (Elise Neal) to a safe location.

Stopped at a light, they are ambushed by Ghostface. Officer Andrews’ throat is slashed and Richards is thrown from the car. Ghostface enters the driver’s seat and speeds forward, though Richards — trooper that he is — jumps on the hood of the car. Ghostface weaves and bobs as Richards clings to the hood, though the car soon crashes into some construction material. Richards is violently impaled through the head by a metal pole. The aftermath is gruesome, even by “Scream” standards, and it remains one of the series’ most visceral deaths. The Dead Meat YouTube channel even awarded him the coveted “Golden Chainsaw” award for best death.

8. Rebecca Walters' Death in 'Scream 4'

Alison Brie of “Community” fame plays Rebecca Walters in “Scream 4.” Sidney Prescott’s publicist, she’s responsible for both the success of Sidney’s in-movie memoir, “Out of Darkness” and the decision to have Sidney return to Woodsboro as part of her book tour. Acerbic, conniving, and deeply self-centered, she’s a tremendous foil to not only Sidney, but Cox’s Gale.

Like the opening, Rebecca’s death was included in the highly publicized reshoots. Her original death is largely the same, though the cat-and-mouse nature of it is cut short. Rebecca receives a call and flees, dying shortly thereafter. The reshoots are simply extended, with more crouching, hiding, and running on Rebecca’s part. She is ambushed by Ghostface in a hospital parking garage and stabbed as she tries to escape. 

The stab itself is fine, if bloodier than most “Scream” kills. It’s the aftermath that sticks, though. Down below, Sheriff Dewey Riley is conducting a press conference about the new murders when Rebecca’s body is thrown over the edge. Her corpse crashes into a news van, blowing the windows out. It’s Craven playing Grand Guignol and it’s wonderful.

7. Cici Cooper's Death in 'Scream 2'

Cici Cooper’s death in “Scream 2” is noteworthy on account of the actress who plays her. Sarah Michelle Gellar, famous for subverting the final girl trope during her long-running stint on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” was killed in two Kevin Williamson-penned slashers in the nineties. Having died in “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” Gellar was ready to bite it again, this time at the hands of Ghostface.

Cici is home alone in her campus sorority house watching soaps. She’s “sober sister,” the sister left behind in case any others need a ride home. She chats with her friend (voiced by Selma Blair) on the phone before she gets that infamous call from Ghostface. Though she initially presumes him to be Ted, a quasi-boyfriend, Ghostface soon threatens her life. Cici creeps around the house, trying to reach campus security. Another sister arrives, and Cici’s fears are temporarily assuaged. Ghostface soon appears, though, and chases Cici up the stairs. In the attic, he throws her through a glass door, stabs her in the back, and then throws her over the balcony. She slams into the ground as the camera lingers on the pool of blood forming around her. (Discerning viewers might notice a crew member’s head in the bottom right corner of the scene where Cici is thrown over.)

6. Tatum Riley's Death in 'Scream'

The “Scream” series has few, if any, faults. In the hands of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson, even the weaker entries (e.g. “Scream 4”) deliver in a way that few other slasher franchises manage. The single nagging fault might be the lack of focus on Tatum Riley’s (Rose McGowan) death. Arquette’s Dewey is a major player in the franchise, yet it is never really acknowledged that his younger sister is brutally murdered in the first entry. (That said, a deleted scene from “Scream 4” does have a crestfallen Dewey making note of his sister’s death as it relates to another killing.)

In “Scream,” Tatum grabs some beers from the garage fridge — and as she heads back inside, Ghostface intercepts her in the doorway. Presuming it’s a joke, she plays along: “Please don’t kill me, Mr. Ghostface. I want to be in the sequel.” Ghostface slashes her arm and Tatum realizes it’s anything but a joke. She puts up a good fight, knocking Ghostface back with the freezer door and battering him with beer bottles, yet in a last-ditch effort to escape, she attempts to crawl through the garage’s doggy door. She gets stuck, and Ghostface presses the button to raise the door. Slowly, Tatum is raised toward the ceiling, and within moments, her head is crushed. The mannequin used is a little goofy, but it remains one of the series’ most shocking, gruesome, and upsetting kills.

5. Maureen Evans' Death in 'Scream 2'

The “Scream” series is famous for killing A-list stars in its opening scenes. The first had Drew Barrymore and the fourth had a grab-bag of known faces, including Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell. “Scream 2” interrogated elements of race in the horror genre, casting Jada Pinkett Smith and Omar Epps as Maureen Evans and Phil Stevens, respectively — a Windsor College couple with tickets to an early premiere of “Stab.” In classic Williamson fashion, both are exceptionally self-aware, acknowledging how frequently the horror genre excludes the “African American element,” with Maureen especially annoyed with having to sit through “some dumbass white movie about some dumbass white girls.”

In the auditorium, Phil leaves to use the restroom and is killed by Ghostface. He then dons Phil’s jacket and returns to the seat next to Maureen. She ignores him, presuming it’s Phil in costume trying to scare her. When she notices blood on his coat, she gets up, and Ghostface stabs her. He then follows her through the raucous auditorium, where most of the audience is in costume, and continues to slash and stab. Maureen makes her way to the front of the auditorium and lets out one final spine-chilling scream before collapsing. It’s indicative of how well Craven balanced the pathos and the humor. For as fun and funny as Maureen’s character is, Craven ensures her death makes an impact.

4. Jennifer Jolie's Death in 'Scream 3'

“Scream 3,” while still directed by Wes Craven, was the first and — until the release of the forthcoming fifth “Scream” — only entry not written by Kevin Williamson. Time has been kinder to its legacy -– “Scream 3” is especially prescient in its depiction of abuse in Hollywood -– but for large swaths of the audience at the time, parts of it simply didn’t feel like “Scream.” The one element that really works, though, is Parker Posey’s Jennifer Jolie.

“Scream 3” is noticeably funnier than the first two entries, and most of that is on account of Posey. As Jennifer Jolie, Posey plays the actress portraying Cox’s Gale Weathers in the “Scream” movies’ “Stab” series. On account of her “Party of Five” commitment, Neve Campbell’s shooting schedule was truncated, and Cox’s Gale was the de-facto lead of “Scream 3.” Her interplay with Jennifer Jolie is a highlight, and the two are the perfect foils for one another. Ghostface arrives at producer John Milton’s mansion in the climax and systematically picks off the remaining survivors. After a bedroom attack, Jennifer flees through a hidden door, though Ghostface is quick to track her down. She races back up but finds herself trapped behind a series of two-way mirrors. Dewey notices the glass shaking and shoots the panes out one at a time, yet when he finally reaches Jolie, she’s already been stabbed to death.

3. Olivia Morris' Death in 'Scream 4'

Olivia Morris’ (Marielle Jaffe) death in “Scream 4” is violent. Seriously, this is gruesome stuff. It’s not necessarily a death “Scream 4” earns, either. More than any other entry, “Scream 4” is a tonal mishmash, barreling from awkward laughs to gruesome kills with frightening speed. Additionally, for as violent as “Scream 4” is, the deaths barely register. As soon as someone is sliced and carved by Ghostface, it’s forgotten the next day.

Olivia Morris herself barely registers. She’s Jill’s next door neighbor, introduced while driving Emma Robert’s Jill and Hayden Panettiere’s Kirby to school. SHearrives home later that night. Jill and Kirby are watching “Shaun of the Dead” and invite Olivia over, but on account of Sidney’s presence in the house, she refuses and calls her the “angel of death.” Jill then receives a call from Ghostface as Olivia undresses in the window across from hers. Kirby takes the phone and hands Jill hers, so while Kirby talks to Ghostface, Olivia talks to Jill. Ghostface alleges to be in the closet, though when Kirby opens it, there’s no one there. He remarks, “I never said I was in your closet” before bursting from Olivia’s across the way. He throws her around the room and viciously stabs her. When Sidney arrives next door, she finds Olivia disemboweled on the bed. It’s a death “Scream 4” is never fully prepared to grapple with.

2. Casey Becker's Death in 'Scream'

Casey Becker’s death is a classic. One of the genre’s most famous opening scenes, Casey Becker’s (Drew Barrymore) encounter with Ghostface is unmatched even more than two decades later. It’s unclear who, exactly, killed Casey, though the death’s legacy is untethered to specifics. As Gale Weathers notes in “Screams” denouement, it all started with a scream over 911.

Casting an actor of Barrymore’s stature for the opening kill was sheer brilliance, as was Williamson’s patience in penning the slow descent into terror. Initially, Casey is somewhat eager to chat with Ghostface, obviously not realizing that he’s dangerous. They flirt, talk about popcorn, and denigrate the entirety of Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” series. Ghostface’s tone changes, though, and he soon threatens to gut her like a fish. After a game of trivia that results in the death of Casey’s boyfriend Steve (Kevin Patrick Walls), Ghostface throws a chair through the patio door and sends Casey running. He catches and kills her, but not before she removes the mask. The camera pans up and the audience never sees what she does, but the impact is already clear. She is then gutted and strung from a tree out front, all while her parents listen in through another line. It’s certifiably chilling.

1. Randy Meek's Death in 'Scream 2'

It was difficult to decide between Casey and Randy’s death for the top spot. Both are gut-wrenching and difficult to watch, and both — in their own way — raise the thematic stakes for their respective movies. Randy’s just narrowly inched Casey’s death out, however, largely on account of its resonance. The importance of a character’s death in the “Scream” universe varies, though Randy’s perhaps has the largest impact.

The original cut was more gruesome, with Craven -– annoyed with the MPAA’s cuts to “Scream” – filming extra-violent death scenes he never intended to release. He hoped that he could then cut these fraudulent deaths down to simultaneously assuage the MPAA and release the cut he intended. Randy is stabbed ad-nauseum in this cut, though in the actual release, he is pulled into a news van and stabbed off-camera. He, Dewey, and Gale get a call from Ghostface while seated in the Windsor College quad. He teases them to find him, and while Dewey and Gale go off together to track him down, Randy remains alone with Ghostface on the line. When he passes the news van, he’s pulled inside, and Gale’s scream upon discovering his body is one of the most enduring scenes in the series. 

The death was so controversial, Craven had no choice but to bring Randy back in “Scream 3” via a posthumous videotape.

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