The Scream franchise is among the most iconic and influential horror series in cinematic history. It also might have the best track record. Other slasher franchises have uneven results, often with euphoric peaks and embarrassing valleys, leading to that series fading away only to be rebooted later. However, Scream continues to deliver a thrilling experience for horror enthusiasts by deconstructing the genre from the inside with each new entry. If the series runs into a roadblock, the filmmakers pivot and try something new, often as a reflection of what’s happening in the horror genre at the moment. While each sequel adapts and reinvents itself, together, they satirize horror without neutralizing their function as slasher whodunits. That’s the franchise’s magic.
Horror maestro Wes Craven directed the first Scream in 1996, revitalizing the slasher genre and setting off a new wave of teen horror films, often penned by its screenwriter, Kevin Williamson. An instant critical and commercial hit, the film’s success stemmed from its genre-savvy references, clever self-awareness, suspenseful storytelling, and memorable characters. The original tapped into the zeitgeist the way few horror films have, ensuring—with its two immediate sequels by Craven, a flurry of imitators, and spoofs in the parallel Scary Movie franchise—an instant place in the horror pantheon.
Scream spawned five sequels and counting, with each installment evolving to meet the demands of its contemporary audience. Each film comments on the genre, ultimately situating itself within that context. From sequels to trilogies, from reboots to requels, the franchise maintains a meta-conversation with its ever-expanding mythology. Some films have been more successful than others creatively or commercially, but the franchise has always engendered a loyal fan base, ensuring its impact on popular culture and its enduring legacy.
A collection of Scream reviews on DFR can be found below (click the poster to read the essay/review):