We have made it, fellow Scream fans! We are officially only a few days away from Scream VI’s arrival in theaters, and it’s something that I am very excited about as a longtime fan of this franchise. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to take a look back on the five franchise deaths that have impacted my own fandom the most over the years. What I think is so great about the Scream series is that every single death truly matters (which is very different from a lot of the slasher movies that preceded this series), so honestly, omitting a few key Scream figures from my list hurts, but sacrifices must be made.
Writer’s Note: The following contains spoilers from several different Scream movies. So just in case you haven’t seen them all just yet, be forewarned that the following will discuss the fates of several characters from the first five movies.
5. Maureen Evans (Jada Pinkett): Poor Maureen. All she was doing was supportively going to a movie with her boyfriend, Steve (Omar Epps)—one that he dragged her to, nonetheless, while Sandra Bullock was playing down the street—and she ended up on the wrong end of Ghostface’s knife for her efforts. I know Maureen’s a character we barely get to know in Scream 2 (and imagine how fun she would have been had she lived!), so it’s not like we get the same emotional gut punch as some of the other entries on this list.
But I think that because her death ends up feeling like a publicity stunt gone horribly wrong is what makes the killing of Maureen so inherently sad (and extremely shocking for the time) in Scream 2. Something that I appreciated about how her character was written was that Maureen was clearly someone who understands the "rules" of horror—like when she yells at Heather Graham in the opening of Stab to hang up and "Star 69 his ass!" (which was very much a thing back then, kids).
Maureen wasn't a hapless victim by any means, but alas, she still got outsmarted by Ghostface all the same. And the circumstances surrounding her death make the whole thing even worse. Pinkett’s character gets violently stabbed while sitting amongst hundreds of other people, and she even manages to make it to a "safe distance" from Ghostface, crawling up on the stage and begging moviegoers for help, who are unaware of just how horrifically real her attack is. But before she can be saved, she collapses on stage, with a theater full of movie fans bearing witness to her untimely death.
There's no doubt that Maureen's murder in Scream 2 was Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven's collective commentary on what was happening in society at the time (and wow, things have not gotten a whole lot better in the 21st century in this regard), which is why her death still hits me just as hard now as it did in 1997. So many people could have helped her, but no one did. That’s real horror right there.
4. Derek Feldman (Jerry O’Connell): Scream 2 had an array of deaths that just really knocked me on my ass, and Derek’s brutal demise during the finale is definitely a worthy entry on my list alongside the other deaths mentioned here. After the events of Scream, Sidney deserved to have a loving and supporting partner in the sequel, and she found one in fellow Windsor College classmate Derek (yes, I know his character was technically one of the Ghostfaces in a previous iteration of the script, but it was changed, so it is irrelevant here).
Derek was an ideal love interest for Scream’s premier Final Girl—he was genuinely concerned about Sidney’s safety—so much so that he puts himself squarely in harm’s way during the Delta Lambda Zeta attack—and he even goes so far as to give her his Greek letters, which is a big no-no (as explained by Elise Neal’s character, Hallie). Derek performs this ritual at the end of his very public performance of “I Think I Love You” that is dedicated to Sidney, which is one of the rare genuinely smile-inducing moments in the entire Scream series. Oh, and a quick aside—I’ve seen a bit of backlash over the last few years toward this scene in Scream 2, and I just do not get that whatsoever. It’s just supposed to be a cute moment between two college kids in love, and Derek’s willingness to look like a total dork in front of everyone was just his way of demonstrating to Sidney that he was “all in” with her. And it’s just a really sweet moment where we get to see Sidney experience genuine happiness, which doesn’t happen all too often in the Scream movies.
So, when we get to the scene in Scream 2’s third act where Sidney discovers Derek tied up in the theater after being hazed by his fellow frat bros and other members of Windsor College’s Greek system, the way everything unfolds in that sequence between Mickey and the young couple feels like a tragic gut punch for both of them (but especially Derek because he, like, dies and everything). But Mickey falsely accuses Derek of being his partner in crime, which causes Sidney to pause and do a double-take before untying him (totally understandable considering what happened with her last boyfriend), and that hesitation results in Derek being shot in the chest by Mickey (and that gunshot is gnarly as all hell, so kudos to KNB EFX on totally nailing that effect).
As Mickey mocks Sidney by saying, “He’s the kind of guy you could bring home to your mother…if you had a mother,” there’s a sliver of truth in his harsh sarcasm. Derek was the real deal, the kind of guy who never hesitated in trying to make sure Sidney was safe, and he died a horrible death simply because of his love for her (breaking curfew didn’t help either, though).
3. Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy): I can still remember the utter shock that hit the entire theater I was sitting in when Randy’s death was revealed on the opening night of Scream 2—I think most of us would have mimicked Gale’s shrieks of terror if we could actually speak, because no one really could. The collective gasp was so loud and mighty that you could feel the oxygen levels lower in the room, and the nervous energy that followed amongst us moviegoers was palpable simply because we knew at this point, all bets were off in the Scream-iverse after Randy was brutally butchered inside of Gale’s van.
In the first two Scream movies, Randy established himself as the go-to passionate film geek who never shied away from offering up his opinion on a movie or an opportunity to inform others about “the rules” of cinema. And of course, he was the unrequited love slave to Sidney Prescott, which made him another person that Sidney could count on when times got tough. In fact, if you notice, Sidney sets out to find Randy immediately after learning about the Stab screening murders at the start of Scream 2, not anyone else. Plus, Dewey also spends time with Randy running through potential suspects for the new Ghostface in Scream 2 over some milkshakes, demonstrating just how crucial Meeks’ insights were when it came to solving the mystery of the killer(s) hiding behind the Ghostface mask that time around.
Perhaps Randy gets a bit too cocky for his own good in Scream 2, which is why Mrs. Loomis (Laurie Metcalfe) gets as knife-happy as she does, but he had already experienced a fair share of pain by the time his death came about, and it’s a bummer that he died as early as he did in the franchise (even if I do believe it was a necessary moment so that Williamson and Craven could pull the proverbial rug out from underneath the movie watchers out there who thought they knew what to expect from a Scream movie).
One thing I will say is that I think the impact of Randy’s death has lessened for me as a fan over the last 25 years, simply because it feels like there are a whole lot of folks out there who decided that being an overly corrective cinephile is their go-to personality while on social media. But at the time, Randy being absolutely slaughtered in broad daylight was a moment that truly rocked fans (this writer included), and I do love how the legacy of Randy Meeks continues to be honored in the new Scream series.
2. Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber): Look, I know not everyone out there is a hardcore “100% Cotton” fan like I am, and there are many out there that consider Scream 3 to be the weakest of the franchise (there are no weak entries in my book, but that’s just my meager opinion), but it’s a film that I love and its opening sequence is a real nail-biter for a lot of reasons. For me, Cotton was a character who just never quite got a fair shake by the franchise—albeit, the conclusion of Scream 2 does help. But Cotton is just a guy who happened to have an affair with the wrong person, and while that would be a huge mistake for anyone to make, what he endures as a result of the decision to get down and dirty with Maureen Prescott is so much more extreme than just being labeled a "homewrecker" or something to that effect.
Not only does Cotton get accused of rape and murder, but he is subsequently sentenced to the death penalty for his “misdeeds.” Adding insult to injury, Cotton’s entire life is made public due to the nature of Maureen's murder and the press surrounding the case as well, and as he’s incarcerated, he’s unable to maintain any sort of control over how people perceive him. In turn, when the truth comes out, regardless of his actual innocence, Cotton is still someone generally untrusted by the public, and especially by Sidney, in Scream 2 (which is fair, albeit a little harsh).
But by the time we get to Scream 3, the tables have turned for Cotton. Rather than being subjected to tabloid fodder status any longer, Cotton goes on to have his own salacious talk show, becoming, quite literally, the type of person who would have had a field day with someone like him just years prior. In many ways, Cotton has taken control over his life, and sure, it may not be an “honest” living per se, but that's hardly a reason to murder the dude—or his apparently very patient girlfriend, Christine (Kelly Rutherford), who has been open to playing "Stab games" with him.
Plus, beyond having to contend with the legacy of his life in Woodsboro, as well as a new Ghostface who is hellbent on murdering him simply because he doesn’t know how to contact Sidney (and why would he?), Cotton also has to deal with L.A. traffic, and let’s just say that’s a pain I’m all too familiar with myself. In any case, the death of Cotton Weary will always bring on big-time bummer feelings whenever I’m doing a Scream 3 rewatch, as he’s a character that I think would have been fascinating to see exist within the context and play by the rules of the new Scream films.
1. Dewey Riley (David Arquette): We’ve lost a lot of people throughout the five (so far) Scream movies, but If I'm being completely honest, the death of Dewey Riley has been the toughest for me to endure as a fan. I recently completed what was like my 8th or 9th viewing of Scream (2022), and right as Dewey began to take that ill-fated walk down the hospital hall, loading his gun in anticipation, I still got a lump in my throat even though I knew what was coming. I completely understand why this moment needed to happen in Scream (2022), but it still hurts to watch all the same.
Dewey has been a favorite character of mine since the very beginning of the Scream franchise, and I love and appreciate how Arquette's character has evolved from the lovable comedic relief that we meet in the first film into the patron saint of Ghostface lore by the time Scream (2022) rolls around. So much of that is due to Arquette’s performances in the Scream series and I don’t think he’s gotten enough credit for just how much heart the character of Dewey pumped into the franchise over the years because fans were always rooting for him to survive, regardless of how impossible it might have seemed at the time.
One of the reasons that I connected with Dewey over the years is because his character always remained good-natured and well-meaning, despite everything that had happened to him over the course of 25+ years, whether it was all the different Ghostface attacks or all that he endured throughout his relationship with Gale as well. If anyone deserved a free pass to survive after the first four Scream movies, it was Dewey.
In Scream (2022), Dewey owes the new characters absolutely nothing—if he were called into action to protect Gale or Sidney, that is probably a scenario in which he would feel some obligation considering their shared history. But when it came to Sam and Tara, he didn’t have to step up and go back to try and stop Ghostface at the hospital, and yet he does so without hesitation. And you get the sense that he knows it's a fool’s errand, but Dewey goes anyway—because that’s who he is. Gale said it best when she told him that he wasn’t a coward in last year’s Scream, because out of the legacy characters, Dewey is quite possibly the bravest and most resilient out of the trio. He stayed behind in Woodsboro as a guardian of sorts (akin to Mike Hanlon in Stephen King’s IT) because he always knew that someday, there’d be a new Ghostface to contend with, and he was right. So, when it came time to step up, he took his final showdown like a total champ.
Look, I know Arquette's character wasn't even supposed to be around this long to begin with, so I thank the cinematic gods for Wes Craven deciding that this franchise needed to keep David along for the ride for as long as it did. And the humor and heart that Arquette delivered in every single performance he gave throughout this franchise is something that I will always hold close to my heart as a devoted Scream fan. Ghostface may have declared, "It has been an honor," when he dispatched Dewey in Scream (2022), but truly, the honor has been mine all along. So, thank you Dewey for all that you've done in these films—and thank you, David Arquette, for just being so wonderful in this role for over 25 years.