This article contains major spoilers for “Scream” (2022).
Back in 1996, Wes Craven’s “Scream” redefined the horror genre with a meta masterpiece that simultaneously celebrates and roasts all that horror has to offer. If you’ve ever sat down and thought about your favorite scary movies collectively, it’s not difficult to notice the patterns and amped-up tropes that most films follow within the genre. Sure, we’ve come a long way with horror since the ’90s, and some of these often toxic tropes get thrown to the wayside, but they still play out in many films — including the 2022 requel “Scream.”
By repeating the same title as the original film, “Scream” (2022) honors the legacy cast, characters, and tropes while putting a fresh spin on the plot and introducing a new generation of scream teens (not to be confused with scream queens). “Scream” is best-known for its meta-commentary, so along with the parody of its tropes, the movie references a plethora of horror movies and characters. However, given how much has changed within the genre since the OG film first debuted, there’s a whole new slate of films for the characters to excessively namedrop. Of course, we still get the classics, but Jordan Peele and films like “Hereditary” and “The Babadook” get their time to shine, too. Does your favorite movie make its way into the vast catalog of “Scream” references?
“Hello, Tara. What’s your favorite scary movie?” The opening scene is often one of the best sequences in any given “Scream” movie, but Tara offers fans a twist — she survives. The first characters to tango with Ghostface typically meet a bloody end in this franchise, but Sam’s sister Tara makes it out alive with a nasty stab wound as a parting gift. While Casey Becker (Ghostface’s second on-screen kill in 1996) is a fan of the classic horror movie “Halloween,” Tara opts for a more modern answer: “The Babadook.”
She criticizes the slasher genre as a whole, calling her favorite horror films “elevated horror.” These movies focus more on emotion and fear to create a psychologically disturbing film rather than blood and guts with a chaotic and underdeveloped (or repetitive) plotline. In fact, a good number of the horror movies referenced in “Scream” (2022) fit under this more prestigious umbrella — including the works of directors and writers like Jordan Peele and Ari Aster.
“The Babadook” has so many layers to it that the movie’s self-titled villain has become something of a queer horror icon. The 2014 film stars Essie Davis as Amelia and Noah Wiseman as her son Samuel, who has visions of this creepy monster from a picture book. At the end of “Scream” (2022), Tara notes, “I still prefer ‘Babadook'” after she shoots Ghostface in the head, allowing the film to come full-circle.
There’s one film that certainly isn’t elevated horror, and that’s the “Scream” in-universe meta film “Stab.” As it turns out, despite living in Woodsboro, Tara is not impressed with Gale Weathers’ movie franchise. She’s more than happy to criticize her hometown horror story while she’s unknowingly on the phone with Ghostface, calling it overlit with weird hair. Come on, Tara — the first rule in “Scream” is to never mention Gale’s tragic ’90s bangs.
Despite her lack of enthusiasm over the “Stab” films, Ghostface forces Tara to answer trivia to save her best friend, Amber. She may not be a big “Stab” fan, but you can’t grow up in Woodsboro without getting a few things right. Tara knows that Sidney is the main character, remembers that Gale Weathers is the writer of the books, and recalls the actress who played Casey Becker.
Like Becker — Drew Barrymore’s “Scream” character — Tara messes up a trick question. While Casey says Jason is the killer in “Friday the 13th,” Tara recalls that Billy is the killer from the first “Stab.” However, she forgets that Billy is only one-half of the deadly duo. What about Stu, Tara? Due to her fumble, she gets stabbed, but unlike Casey’s bloody demise, it’s not fatal. Back in 1996, director Wes Craven received a lot of raised eyebrows for bait and switching audiences by immediately killing Barrymore’s character (the film’s rising star) instead of making her the final girl. However, this fakeout has become one of the most iconic decisions in horror history. Still, it’s cool to see the debut character survive the opening scene in this iteration of the franchise.
Given Tara’s disdain for “Stab” and slasher movies like it, she tries to bargain with Ghostface to pick different movies for the trivia. One such film is another elevated horror movie called “The Witch.” Written and directed by Robert Eggers, the 2015 film takes fans back to 1630s England at the height of the witch trials and paranormal panic.
“The Witch” features a stellar cast with “The Queen’s Gambit,” “The New Mutants,” and “Peaky Blinders” actress Anya Taylor-Joy starring as Thomasin. She plays a questioning Christian — an easy target for the devil to entice — after becoming disillusioned with her family’s puritanical hypocrisy. Despite the family’s own parallels to the seven deadly sins, they choose to aim their rage at Thomasin, inching her closer to the dark path she takes. The film also features Julian Richings (“Supernatural”) as governor and Ralph Ineson (“Harry Potter” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”) as William. Given Tara’s own messy family history with her absent father and runaway sister, it’s not surprising that she would connect with a film that depicts even worse family dynamics. Misery loves company, right? Just ask Annie Wilkes.
It only follows that Tara is also a fan of the movie “It Follows” — another trivia suggestion from the stalling horror savant. However, whether Tara likes it or not, the David Robert Mitchell film boasts a classic scary movie trope: the horror virgin. If you ask Randy Meeks how to survive a horror movie, he’ll tell you not to have sex.
Apparently, Jay (Maika Monroe) never got that memo. So, what does a romp in the sack with some guy named Hugh (Jake Weary) get her? A dreadful curse in the form of a paranormal stalker. Seriously, can women not catch a break? It’s bad enough horror nerds coerce the ladies of Woodsboro into answering deadly trivia on the phone, but now they’re getting stalked on another plane of existence? Do they have catcalling in hell?
Despite its utilization of this outdated trope, the film still falls under elevated horror. “It Follows” is a deep dive into psychological horror that intently studies the human condition. Basically, Hugh carries the STD from hell (literally), and like most horror movies, the moral of the story is to avoid sex or live a life of misery (or death). It just does it in an arthouse kind of way instead of using buckets of fake blood.
Who wants regular generational trauma when you can have the paranormal variety? In Tara’s quest to get Ghostface to lighten up about the “Stab” trivia, she tries to sell him on the 2018 film “Hereditary.” The movie hones in on Annie, played by Toni Collette. Though horror fans might recognize her as Cole’s mom Lynn from “The Sixth Sense,” she also played Sheryl in “Little Miss Sunshine.”
Yet there’s no sunshine or rainbows in “Hereditary.” Ari Aster’s deeply unsettling directorial debut boasts a creepy dollhouse, family secrets, and possibly one of Satan’s demon sidekicks. Some families knit together, and some worship demons. No judgment. Like any good psychological horror film, however, it’s not wholly clear what’s real and what’s possibly a product of mental illness. The film is essentially an amped-up character study of the gifts (or curses) that families pass down through their lineage. The movie tackles the exploration of nature versus nurture and how much generational trauma is inevitably inherited compared to what’s actively embraced. But one thing’s certain: No one wants to be born into this family. Tara definitely has a thing for horror families that make her feel better about her own messy family.
Tara may love her elevated horror, but “Scream” (2022) follows in the footsteps of its OG predecessor when it comes to the most-referenced film in the movie. That’s right — the “Halloween” homages come pouring in during the updated film just as much as its 1996 counterpart. There’s no denying that John Carpenter’s “Halloween” has irrevocably altered the course of horror history since its 1978 release. In fact, “Scream” 2022 using the OG film’s title for the requel is the very same thing “Halloween” did in 2021.
Beyond the film title similarities, though, when Sam explains Woodsboro’s history to her outsider boyfriend Richie, he says, “Like ‘Halloween’?” The reference is a significant clue that Richie might not be as oblivious as he pretends to be about all of this horror stuff. Additionally, when we meet Tara’s friend group, Chad mentions Michael Myers when they callously discuss how Ghostface stabbed Tara.
Later in the film, Sam gathers everyone to interrogate the friend group with Dewey, and “Halloween” gets another shoutout when the group explains the concept of a requel. And finally, when Amber monologues after her Ghostface reveal, she explains why she needed Sidney to return to Woodsboro: “You can’t have a bonafide ‘Halloween’ without Jamie Lee.” After all, Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie) is one of the most iconic scream queens, but none of the new movie’s references can top Randy’s “Look behind you” scene when he watches “Halloween” in the OG movie.
Ah, yes, another reference from supposed horror newb Richie. Despite knowing nothing about scary movies (wink, wink), Richie mentions Jason Voorhees from “Friday the 13th” when he tries to wrap his head around the history of Woodsboro and the disturbing amount of teenaged serial killers the town produces. (Has anyone checked in on this school system? What are they teaching these kids?) Now, Richie’s innocence might be a bit more believable if he calls Jason “that hockey mask guy” or refers to “Halloween” as something like “that creepy movie about Halloween.” But he’s just straight-up throwing down fully correct references. Very convincing, Richie. Horror? What horror?
Richie likely feels a kinship with Jason, as he, too, became a killer after being a misunderstood kid. Sorry to break it to you, serial killers, but plenty of people have awful and bullied childhoods and don’t resort to going on murder sprees. Richie’s reason for killing is far more frivolous, however. He’s just mad that no one respects his obsession with a movie inspired by real-life, in-universe serial killers. Additionally, Liv’s creepy stalker Vince has a tattoo of Jason Voorhees that the camera pans in on when Ghostface kills him.
There’s nothing like a sequel of a ’90s movie that references a remake of another ’90s movie, right? The Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, and Julia Roberts movie “Flatliners” released in 1990 before getting remade 27 years later with Elliot Page, Nina Dobrev, Diego Luna, James Norton, and Sutherland snagging a new role. Sound familiar?
While the “Flatliners” remake isn’t a requel, there’s just about the same amount of time between the OG and the remake as “Scream” (1996) and “Scream” (2022). During Dewey’s interrogation of our new group of wayward teens, they randomly throw out the “Flatliners” reference in yet another meta moment. The movie reference feels a bit out of place against the likes of “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th,” but the 2017 cast is no doubt popular with Gen Z crowds. It also has the elevated horror element that Tara loves so much. The film centers on a gaggle of medical students with near-death wishes who try to get a taste of the afterlife by stopping their hearts to see what lies in the beyond. While tackling the notion of heaven and hell, the movie shows the group’s earthly actions put to the test when they continue to tread the water between this realm and the next.
The name of the horror game is changing, and Jordan Peele is here to lead the charge. Dwindling are the days of horror movies immediately killing off Black characters or putting them into stereotypical boxes for cringe comedy relief. Sadly, these awful trends aren’t entirely gone, but directors and writers like Jordan Peele are giving a new generation of horror fans inclusive films that don’t fall into these toxic tropes. In fact, many of Peele’s projects — like “Us” and “Get Out” — position the movie plots around tackling insidious racist ideology. These concepts make his films even scarier, as they center around real-life issues that impact people on a daily basis.
That’s where the elevated horror concept comes in. Peele’s films stick with you forever, as they should. While the “Scream” characters don’t reference Peele’s specific movies (and why they’re brilliant), the teens do say that “Jordan Peele rules” when they’re playing the whodunnit game with Dewey. The film also takes a page from Peele’s book by offering a diverse cast that doesn’t immediately die, and many even make it through to the end. That’s certainly a step up from the horrific opening scene in “Scream 2.”
When it comes to horror franchises, none are more twisted, brutal, and hard-to-watch than the “Saw” series. Though the James Wan-directed movie debuted in 2004, by the time of “Scream” (2022)’s release, “Saw” already produced nine films. Whatever happened to the implications of the seventh movie’s title, “The Final Chapter”? Yet when there’s a sequel, prequel, or character study that can get milked from a popular franchise, it inevitably happens. Hell, that’s the entire reason the 2022 Ghostface killers start their murder spree — they want a better sequel.
During the social group interrogation scene with Dewey, the teens namedrop the “Saw” series, though it’s vastly different from most of the movie’s references so far. However, you could argue that there is a psychological component to these movies. Though Jigsaw gets off on brutal torture, he’s testing what length people will go to in order to survive as he copes with his own terminal diagnosis. Bruh. Just buy a copy of “Chicken Soup for the Serial Killer’s Soul” and be done with it.
Few horror moments are more iconic than Marion Crane’s (Janet Leigh) deadly scene in “Psycho.” Ever since the film’s 1960 premiere, horror films have replicated the sequence to death. Yet despite how often it’s referenced and copied, the homages never seem to get old. “Scream” fans will recognize the newly-minted Sheriff Hicks from “Scream 4,” and the follow-up introduces her son Wes. The sheriff’s son is clearly a mama’s boy, which makes the infamous “Psycho” scene the perfect choice to emulate before the subsequent deaths of the mother-son duo.
When Ghostface goes after Wes, he calls Sheriff Hicks and asks, “Ever seen the movie ‘Psycho’?” Wes is busy taking a titillating showering when Ghostfaces makes his threats, but unlike Marion, he’s spared from a shower death as Ghosty goes after Hicks first before getting Wes. The “Psycho” scene’s heavy impact on pop culture is no surprise, given that film legend Alfred Hitchcock helmed the movie. Even more, Norman Bates has since become the epitome of mommy issues, spawning sequels, references, and spinoffs like “Bates Motel.” It really is the perfect choice for this scene.
The “Halloween” references in “Scream” (2022) and the OG movie don’t stop at verbal quotes. To fans’ delight, the requel offers one major surprise that fans didn’t see coming: the return of Skeet Ulrich as Billy Loomis. No, the franchise doesn’t become paranormal all of a sudden with his resurrection, but he’s ever-present in the film nonetheless.
As it turns out, our new final girl has a dirty little secret. After discovering that she’s Billy Loomis’ biological daughter, Sam works through some mental health struggles. As a result, her insecurities manifest her serial killer biological father into hallucinations that egg her on and feed into her darker tendencies. These moments are a pretty clever way to bring the fan-favorite character back, but fans who didn’t watch “Halloween” closely might not realize the connection Billy has with series staple Donald Pleasence — their characters share a last name.
That’s right. Our very own Billy Loomis is named after Michael Myers’ psychiatrist. Does this mean the two universes are connected? Unlikely, especially given the number of heavy references and movie-watching that occurs throughout the franchise. However, it’s a fun nod, just the same. Pleasence reprised his role as Dr. Loomis right up until “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers,” which was released the year of his death.
Original “Scream” director Wes Craven is nothing short of a genius. Between “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” and “Scream,” the writer and director just loved deconstructing the horror genre with dozens of Easter eggs, parodies galore, and more than a few meta moments. It’s totally like a Wes Carpenter film, right?
The cast of “Scream” was relatively young in 1996, and the project marked the first major film for many of them. During an exclusive interview with Looper, Neve Campbell said of her former director and friend, “Wes was a master. He was the best with this genre. Well, with other genres as well, but just a phenomenal talent and amazing energy and a father figure to us. And truly changed our lives in the most wonderful ways and fun to work with. So we miss him, and he was well missed on this film. We felt his absence, but we certainly felt his presence as well.”
Beyond the fact that Campbell cited “Scream” (2022) directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett as “uber fans” of Wes Craven, the movie is clearly a love letter to fans and Craven himself. In another Looper exclusive interview, “Scream” actress Melissa Barrera described how often Campbell would give input into how she thought Craven would do things throughout filming. In addition to the directors dedicating the film to Craven, Dylan Minnette’s character Wes is even named after the director. Indeed, Craven would no doubt get a kick out of the fact that his namesake is one of the first characters to bite the dust. This one’s for you, Wes.