Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. This time, we consider the ending of Scream 5, or as these anti-elevated horror filmmakers would like you to call it, Scream. Spoilers ahead.
You walk into a Scream film with the same attitude you bring into an Agatha Christie novel. Everyone you meet is a suspect. This is the joy; this is the frustration. With your brain racing toward conclusions, you might jump ahead of the narrative, nailing the killer before the characters catch on. And somewhere within that investigation, you might write a script you’d prefer to watch than the one you have before you. A few past Scream entries have suffered this fate.
The fifth Scream, the new one ditching the numeral and embracing its “requel” (sequel/reboot) satirization, manages to keep the guessing game fluctuating right up to its reveal. Once again, there are two killers, and their motivation is deeply entwined with their obsession for horror films, the slasher kind, not that fancy-schmancy elevated intellectual crap. The Babadook and It Follows can GTFO.
Taking over for franchise director Wes Craven are the Ready or Not maniacs Matt Bettinelli–Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Their continuation holds tremendous reverence for the earlier movies while also spending a good amount of time busting their chops. Overlit nineties cinematography, watch your back, shots fired. As Craven himself was fond of doing, Scream 5 uses the in-film Stab adaptations as savage genre trope takedowns while mischievously mocking past Scream efforts.
The nudge-nudge, wink-winking, extends from a warm, loving place. The psychotic impulse fueling the new killers does not. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett wield sharp knives, and they gleefully plunge into the toxic, moronic fandom that frequently bubbles from our most cherished and popular movies.
Who are the victims?
The new Scream protagonist is Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera). She fled Woodsboro years ago after discovering her birth father’s identity: Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), one-half of the murderers in the original film. She left her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) behind, and the new film opens with Lil sis being attacked by Ghostface. Shockingly, Tara survives her encounter, but her near-death experience brings Sam back home.
Tagging along is Sam’s new boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid), who claims to be in the dark regarding Woodsboro’s connection to the Stab film series. Learning that his girlfriend’s blood contains the same DNA as a serial killer doesn’t phase him one bit. Together, they work their way through Tara’s friends, their suspect list, while recruiting former Woodsboro Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) into their manhunt.
Despite surviving nine previous stabbings, Dewey finally takes one blade to the body too many. While protecting Tara at the hospital, Ghostface and Dewey throw down. He gets a few shots off but misses the headshot. After seeing Sam, Tara, and Richie to safety, Dewey goes back to put a bullet in Ghostface’s dome, but he’s distracted by a phone call and the killer strikes. As Ghostface saws through Dewey’s torso, they exclaim their honor in snuffing him out.
Dewey’s death brings the OG scream queens back to Woodsboro. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) arrive at the hospital, asking Sam to be their bait. Sam wants to do the one thing no one ever does in these movies, get the hell out of dodge. She refuses to participate in Sidney and Gale’s plan and puts her sister in a car pointed elsewhere. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize she’s already ensnared.
Who are the killers?
Tara is an asthmatic. Somewhere in her flight from the hospital, she lost her inhaler. They gotta get a new one, and the closest replacement is located at her friend Amber (Mikey Madison)’s house. When they arrive, they find a party/memorial/murder spree in progress. The teens within are drinking and fornicating their sorrows away. Their pal Wes (Dylan Minnette) and his mom (Marley Shelton) are the latest to fall under Ghostface’s knife-fu action.
Thankfully, Sidney placed a tracker on Sam’s car, and when she and Gale see the house party’s address, they hit the gas. The residence is where the first film climaxed; it’s Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard)’s old place. By the time they show up, the killers have revealed themselves, and the bodies are piling high.
It turns out Richie does know a thing or two about the Stab movies. He’s a frothing fanboy, and he met Amber on a subreddit devoted to the slasher series. Amber first started obsessing over the Stabs after her parents moved into Stu’s home, while Richie has been gaga over them since day one. Through their online canoodling, they struck a plan to right the ship of the franchise they saw as failing.
Gosh, Stab 8 just totally ruined Ghostface’s integrity, introducing flamethrowers and slapping his mug with a gaudy metal mask. How dare Hollywood ruin their childhoods? By slaughtering Woodsboro teens associated with the Stab films, Richie and Amber are returning a “Based on Actual Events” honesty to the franchise and getting back to basics.
The Rian Johnson Connection
Richie and Amber envision Sam as the new Stab villain, the daughter of Billy Loomis accomplishing the impossible, killing Sidney Prescott. They howl their rage toward the “Knives Out guy,” aka Rian Johnson, the director who made the ludicrous Stab 8 and dared to remove the numeral as if his sequel could ever stand proudly next to the original.
As she’s want to do, Sidney mocks Richie’s horror movie preoccupation. It’s the same garbage Billy used to spew at her while trying to get under her shirt before he revealed himself to be as much a maniac as Norman Bates. Our heroes move onto the offensive, with Sidney and Gale taking on Amber as Sam scrambles with Richie in the hallway. Gale puts Amber down with a bullet, and her body drops on a lit stove which erupts her body into flames.
As Sam and Richie tussle in the hall, Billy Loomis appears in a window reflection, nodding his head toward a castaway knife. Sam lunges for it and falls atop Richie. He cries out, “What about my ending?” Sam responds with, “Here it is.” She punctuates the sentence by slowly dragging the blade across his throat.
They always come back, so Sam fires a round or three into Richie’s head. Amber pops up nice and crispy, but Tara appears and shoots her in the melon. The wannabe screenwriters are finally down for the count.
Scream’s Unseen Killer, Fanaticism
Scream reveals a third killer in its climax. Its name is fanaticism, a beast that springs from love but mutates when that love blocks your vision from observing anything else. Richie and Amber are folks who held on too tightly to their precious. When they weren’t looking, they went full Gollum.
The Last Jedi fried a lot of brains. Rian Johnson’s Star Wars, combined with our ability to unleash rage instantaneously via our social media platforms, resulted in a poisonous echo chamber. We’ve wrapped our identities into our favorite movies, comics, shows, etc. Having spent decades stewing on what should and should not be, we feel attacked when we’re met with interpretations that fly against these preconceived notions.
Bro, chill out.
Your favorite movies, comics, and whatever still exist. A new spin on them does not eradicate them from history or your brain. You can return to that comfort zone whenever you want. If you encounter a spin that doesn’t align with your imaginary version, let it drop. Write your Letterboxd review and move on. Rian Johnson is not your enemy. He’s just a guy who made a movie.
Gaze upon Richie and Amber. If you find their anger in your person, begin meditation practices immediately. And seek counseling.
Are we going to be okay?
Every thwack Sam delivers into Richie travels on a rage almost equal to the one that kickstarted these murders. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett are seemingly letting off some steam regarding these toxic pockets within fandom. They’re viciously obliterating those desk jockey’s propelling their disgust online.
Amber and Richie are ultimately revealed to be the most pathetic of psychopaths. And that tracks with Billy and Stu from the first film. They were just some dopes who hung their mommy issues on their horror movie faves, seeking to be more than they were by latching onto slasher extremity.
We should be concerned for Sam and the directors. She and they got a little Billy in them too. Sam’s not free of her dead daddy hallucinations, and Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett probably can’t shake their Wes Craven adoration either.
In Sam’s attack on Richie, we can sense the filmmaker’s frustration toward those misguided internet trolls. And we cannot blame them. But we also can’t allow these gremlins to turn us into monsters either.
Before Sam steps into the ambulance carrying her sister, she approaches Sidney and asks, “Am I going to be okay?” Sidney, the forever survivor, answers, “Eventually.”
We all go a little mad sometimes. Screaming it online does little good. Crafting it into a fictional horror may be more productive. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett are venting, and there is tremendous satisfaction in their emotional release. They’re showing us how to do the same thing. Don’t flock to Twitter; make your own damn movie.
Scream 5 is now playing in theaters.