This year is shaping up to be a big one for icons of horror. Michael Myers will be back with his chef’s knife in Halloween Ends, and Leatherface will be up to his old antics again in Netflix’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – but before either of those titles arrive in 2022, we will first see the resurrection of Ghostface in Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s Scream. The new sequel, colloquially referred to as Scream 5, is heading to theaters very soon, and we’re not only excited to see all of the slasher mayhem that the movie promises, but ecstatic to see the return of some of our favorite genre heroes on the big screen.
We’ll see the iconic Ghostface mask again, but also the Scream cast originals Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott, Courteney Cox’s Gale Riley (née Weathers), and David Arquette’s Dwight ‘Dewey’ Riley – all returning following their adventures from the first four movies in the franchise. This in mind, the best way to approach the new film is going to be watching all of the previous Scream movies in preparation… but just in case you don’t have time for that, we’ve put together this handy guide for you. Allow us to reintroduce the heroes of Woodsboro!
Spoilers from the previously released Scream movies ahead!
If we’re being honest, the life of Sidney Prescott hasn’t been all that great. It’s a horrible circumstance when a person discovers that someone they know has been planning to kill them, but that’s a dream compared to what Sidney has gone through, as she has spent three decades escaping the deadly intentions of seven different acquaintances/friends/lovers.
All things considered, the beginning of Sidney Prescott’s nightmare dates back to 1995 – one year prior to the events of the first Scream. That was the fateful year when Sidney’s mother, Maureen, was murdered. The local police in Woodsboro, CA initially arrested and successfully charged Maureen’s lover, Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), with the crime, and Sidney was a key witness during the trial that rendered a guilty verdict.
Around the one year anniversary of her mom’s death – a.k.a. during the events of Scream – Sidney is horrified to discover that she accused an innocent man. As it turns out, Sidney’s boyfriend, Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), held a vendetta against Maureen because she broke up his parents’ marriage, and he killed her with the help of psychotic toady Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard). Not satisfied with the revenge, the two go on a spree wearing a ghost mask and murdering other students (Drew Barrymore, Kevin Patrick Walls, Rose McGowan), the school principal (Henry Winkler), and a news cameraman (W. Earl Brown).
Sidney is the main target, of course, but she evades and eventually kills both of the original Scream movie villains.
Two years later, Sidney is trying to start a normal adult life, enrolled as a theatre major at the fictional Windsor College, and once again the body count of people in her life starts to rise. It’s a copycat crime with a local killer slaying more fellow students (Omar Epps, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sarah Michelle Geller, Hallie McDaniel) her boyfriend (Jerry O’Connell), and Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), her fellow Woodsboro alum.
It turns out that the principal killer this time – a.k.a. in Scream 2 – is Debbie Loomis (Laurie Metcalf), who is Billy Loomis’ mother and blames Sidney for the death of her son. She gets help in this endeavor from Mickey Altieri (Timothy Olyphant), a killer she hired over the internet who has been posing as a classmate. Once again Sidney survives the masterstrokes of their plan, and kills both of them, the latter with some help from Gale Weathers (more on her in a bit!)
Sidney drops out of college, and three years later – a.k.a. at the start of Scream 3 – she lives a life of purposeful isolation. As it turns out, this instinct to try and stay safe is at least somewhat smart, because it does mean she is ready when yet another killer comes out of the woodwork. During the production of Stab 3, a sequel to the sequel to the movie about the original Woodsboro Murders, a mysterious psycho begins killing members of the cast and crew (Lance Henriksen, Matt Keeslar, Jenny McCarthy, Parker Posey, Deon Richmond) and also both Cotton Weary and his girlfriend (Kelly Rutherford).
The individual in the Ghostface costume this time is Roman Bridger (Scott Foley), who is the director of Stab 3 and Sidney’s half-brother. It’s revealed that Maureen Prescott (née Roberts) spent a couple of years in the 1970s trying to become an actress in Hollywood under the stage name Rina Reynolds, and after she was raped at a party she gave birth to Roman. Giving her baby up for adoption, Maureen moved back to Woodsboro and started a family with Sidney’s father, Neil (Lawrence Hecht).
Revealing that he was the one who pushed Billy Loomis to kill Maureen, Roman attempts to murder Sidney after trapping her in the room where his mother was sexually assaulted – enraged that Maureen chose to raise her and not him – but Sidney is able to defeat/stab him, and then Dwight ‘Dewey’ Riley (again, more on him in a bit!) takes him down with a bullet to the head.
After the insanity in Los Angeles, Sidney decides that she has to live her life, and in time for the fifteenth anniversary of the Woodsboro Murders she even writes a memoir about her experiences. Promotion of the book brings her back to her hometown – a.k.a. the start of Scream 4 – and once again blood starts to spill.
This time around it is Sidney’s cousin, Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts) who is revealed to have an axe to grind. Having spent her whole life hearing about Sidney’s trauma and developing extreme jealousy in a celebrity-obsessed world, Jill teams up with horror movie-obsessive Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin) to orchestrate a plan that will turn her into the world’s new favorite final girl.
The young killers snuff a number of their friends (Hayden Panettiere, Marielle Jaffe, Nico Tortorella, Erik Knudsen, Britt Robertson, Aimee Teegarden), a couple of cops (Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody), Sidney’s publicist (Alison Brie), and Jill’s mom (Mary McDonnell) – and Jill even kills Charlie – but Sidney walks away the victor again after defibrillating her cousin’s head and then shooting her.
Gale Riley (née Weathers)
She may have been born with the name of a meteorologist, but when Gale Weathers is introduced in Scream we get to know her as a journalist of the yellow variety. She doesn’t demonstrate much of an interest in reporting real news, as she is more of a fame hound who wishes to put herself at the center of any big story, but over the course of the series she evolves in a significant way.
In the first movie she is very much an antagonist at the start, having literally written the book on the murder of Maureen Prescott and in doing so not become Sidney Prescott’s best friend. With the one year anniversary coming up, she hopes to continue to exploit the case by developing a follow-up story – and while she does some terrible things in going about that project, she is right in one particular arena: she doesn’t think that Cotton Weary is the real killer.
For her efforts in following up her hunch, Gale is nearly killed when her news van crashes into a tree, but she winds up saving Sidney’s life when she recovers from the wreck and shoots Billy Loomis while he is preparing to stab the franchise’s central protagonist. It’s also during this time that she meets and gets to know her future husband, Dewey Riley (but, again, it’s not his turn yet).
Gale only becomes more famous in the aftermath of the Woodsboro Murders, having actually written a book called The Woodsboro Murders, and said tome gets adapted into the first Stab movie. She flies out to Windsor College and reunites with Sydney, Dewey, and Randy Meeks after there are more Ghostface killings (once again hoping to further her career), and she even gets pulled into the final confrontation because Debbie Loomis has been pretending to be a press colleague named Debbie Salt. She gets shot in the shoulder during the showdown, but survives.
At the end of Scream 2, she forgoes shooting a story about the murders with her cameraman (Duane Martin) and opts to ride with Dewey to the hospital instead.
By the time the events of Scream 3 start up, Gale’s relationship with Dewey is fractured, and she flies out to Los Angeles after the news of Cotton Weary’s murder. Her personal connection to the production of Stab 3 – a movie in which she is a character – further ties her into the growing mystery, and she is on the scene once again when the killer is unmasked… and also once again she is able to repair her relationship with her ex-beau.
In time for the fifteenth anniversary of the Woodsboro Murders, Gale is celebrating 10 years being married to Dewey (becoming Gale Riley), but her happy romantic life is matched with an unsatisfying professional life. Attempts to start writing fiction have turned fruitless… but things start to turn around when the new wave of murders starts. Against Dewey’s wishes, Gale starts investigating, and she does eventually help expose Jill Roberts as the real killer, but she takes a knife to the shoulder in the process.
Dwight ‘Dewey’ Riley
Say what you will about Dwight ‘Dewey’ Riley, but the guy is a survivor. The character has come very close to being killed many times over the years, but he has regularly managed to escape the cold grip of the grim reaper and has endured to try and better his life.
When we first meet “Deputy Dewey” in Scream, he is basically last on the pecking order in the Westboro Police Department, but he gets personally involved because his sister, Tatum (Rose McGowan), is best friends with Sidney Prescott. He tries to protect the girls, staying in the area during the big house party thrown by Stu Macher, but he is taken out of the equation when he takes a knife in the back and collapses on the front porch.
In the years that follow, Dewey not only suffers nerve damage, but also hurt feelings, as he doesn’t precisely come across as heroic in Gale Weathers’ The Woodsboro Murders. All the same, he works alongside the reporter and Sidney to undercover the identity of the new Ghostface amid the slayings at Windsor College… and again he gets stabbed in the midst of the investigation.
At the start of Scream 3, he doesn’t have to travel to Los Angeles when the new murders start because he is already there. Having broken up with Gale, he starts to date actress Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey)… who is best known for playing Gale in the Stab movies. He is heartbroken when Jennifer is killed by Roman, and he does get a kind of revenge by being the one who kills him, but the events of the film also drive him to be with the woman he is meant to be with.
In Scream 4, Dewey is not only happily married, but he has also become the sheriff of Woodsboro – though that’s not exactly a plum job when Jill Roberts and Charlie Walker starting slaughtering people. At the end of the movie, Dewey is momentarily fooled by Jill’s ruse, and he is knocked unconscious with a metal bedpan, but he does walk away from the action both alive and still married.
Now you’re all caught up and ready for the new sequel! Look for Scream in theaters everywhere on January 14, and to learn about all of the scary films headed to the big screen and streaming in the coming months, check out our upcoming horror movies guide.