Maybe Ghostface Finally Wins
Troubles Brewing for Scream 7
Today is lessons on "How to Tank a Franchise": ScreamWhat started as a meta-commentary on slasher media became just another slasher series in its own right, the Scream series then reinvented itself as a meta-commentary on meta-commentary.. As has been reported Online over the last week (while we were all off enjoying out Turkey Day festivities), Scream series star Melissa Barrera (who played the daughter of Scream '96 killer Billy Loomis) was fried from the franchise after comments she made about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war on social media. We can get into the weeds debating the ins and outs of that conflict, but suffice it to say that her comments, when viewed as a whole, were not particularly shocking or despicable. There were some who threw the term "anti-semitic" at her simple because she wasn't completely in support of Israel, but as a Jewish person living in the United States, I can agree that not everything Israel does is great, especially with their conservative government who seem to go out of their way to do hateful things to the displaced Palestinians living along the Gaza Strip.
Put another way, her comments were fairly well moderated and didn't cross the line that would seem to warrant and over-the-top backlash. And yet that's exactly what happened as studio Spyglass Media removed her from the upcoming seventh film in the franchise and, days later, has still made no motion to reverse that decision. Barrera, for her part, did not back down and continued commenting on the conflict on her social media. We're sure she'll be fine, eventually, but for now the franchise she was a big part of is spiraling with no one to lead it.
This is partially because the producers decided not the bring back Neve Campbell for Scream VI after she'd been in all the previous films. We discussed this before, but suffice it to say that Neve Campbell, being the star that she is, has a certain value she expects for her salary. If she took a pay cut it would affect her future salaries (because that's how Hollywood works), so she had to go for what she's worth and the producers weren't willing to pay it. She Neve's Sydney Prescott skipped a movie and, frankly, it seems unlikely she'd return without the producers throwing a ton of money at her... and maybe not even then.
A ton of celebrities have come out and said they support Barrera and think her firing was uncalled for. These are stars from the liberal side of Hollywood, too, which should show you where sentiment is on this topic. We've seen people get "canceled" in the past, but usually its for say dumb shit they should have known better about. People railing against LGBTQ community members, or Trans kids, or the like; yes, cancel the lot of them. But Barrera's points about the damage being done to the people of Gaza, not Hamas and their terrorist actions by the normal citizens of Gaza themselves, are fair. Being canceled over that is wrong, and the stars in support of the actress agree. So you really expect Campbell to cross that line to come back to a franchise that already said they could go on without her? Maybe, but I do doubts.
And to be clear, they can't just go with the other sister from the last two movies. Jenna Ortega played Tara Carpenter, half-sister of Barrera's Sam Carpenter, and many expected that she'd be the natural one to take the lead of Sam wasn't going to be in a film. Except, nope, Ortega was already looking to get out of her contract and leave the series, in large part because she had scheduling conflicts, such as the second season of Wednesday, that precluded her being in the seventh film. They say this was in the works months before Barrera was fired, but it's hard to think that's the case. Someone turning down being in a movie so they could go make a second shitty season of a NetflixOriginally started as a disc-by-mail service, Netflix has grown to be one of the largest media companies in the world (and one of the most valued internet companies as well). With a constant slate of new internet streaming-based programming that updates all the time, Netflix has redefined what it means to watch TV and films (as well as how to do it). series feels... unlikely.
There are ways to get around this, of course. They could recast one or both of the sisters. Find someone new to play Barrera's Sam or Ortega's Tara, although that would be easier if the other actress was around to smooth everything over and get audiences to accept the recasting. Considering the fact that even series fans are mocking Spyglass Media over this decision, it's unlikely that they'd accept a recasting of either sister now. That, of course, screws up the ongoing storyline with Sam hearing the voice of her dad father, telling her to kill, and that plot line now (unless they decide to bring Barrera back after all) will go unresolved.
There are other characters, of course, that they could turn into the stars of the franchise, if they wanted. Although I don't see Courtney Cox's Gale Weathers taking over the lead, I suppose it's possible. Better are the younger actors in the franchise, though, since there's time to build them further and have them do a few movies before they might want to retire. A movie could be done focused on the Meeks-Martin twins, letting one of the self-aware movie watchers finally have a lead role. That doesn't sound like an entirely terrible idea, although let's do it with Jasmin Savoy Brown's Mindy and not her brother, Mason Gooding's Chad. He's had improbable plot armor for two movies now, surviving injuries that absolutely should have killed anyone else. It's time to actually let him die and end that bad joke.
A film or two could also be built around Hayden Panettiere's Kirby Reed. She's an FBI agent (at least I think that was real and not another fake out in the sixth film) so she could be called into investigate another Ghostface copycat killing. Maybe she comes in and then that Ghostface recalibrate his plans to integrate her into his fun. "One of the survivors. I can do what no one else has managed and take her out." It's an interesting twist, having Kirby actively looking for these spree killers instead of them just coming along and surprising everyone. That's a storyline that could work.
Other characters have been bandied about as well, such as Patrick Dempsey's Mark Kincaid, who (last we knew) had gone off and married Sydney. But bringing him back without Sydney feels desperate, to be sure. Her husband is now the target but she gets to go off and be safe? That just seems weird. It speaks to the spot Spyglass is in, without any of the true leads of the series available and no easy way to move forward without them. Scream isn't like other slasher franchises. In those you can just get another Final Girl and her friends and go about killing them for the heck of it (that was the modus operandi of the Friday the 13thOne of the most famous Slasher film franchises, the Friday the 13th series saw multiple twists and turn before finally settling on the formula everyone knows and loves: Jason Voorhees killing campers 'round Camp Crystal Lake. franchise for its entire run). Scream, though, is serialized. The same characters, getting stuck in similar situations, and learning to move past it as killers die left and right.
Frankly, though, Spyglass needs to get their heads out of their asses and bring Barrera back. It's doubtful they can lure Tara back, but they could keep her out of this movie. Hell, spend the cash, and get not only Barrera back but also Campbell and let those two women lead a movie. Then, in the inevitable eighth film, they could recast Tara if they had to (if they can't get Ortega back at that point) and continue on from there. Because, let's be honest, this franchise will never end. One way or another someone will find a way past this current impasse even if it means waiting five or ten years to launch once again. The next film was supposed to be out in 2024 but, let's be honest, that's not seeming likely at this point. And the longer this drags on, the more likely it is that we'll have to see some kind of revival reboot again just to get the series back on its feet.
But there's an obvious way forward and Spyglass Media just needs to take it. Apologize to Barrera, throw a gob of money at her and Campbell, and make the seventh film they clearly needed to so the fans are happy. Anything else is going to feel like a half-assed half-measure. Do the right thing, guys.
Editor's Note: After publishing this article it's come out that Barrera was fired at least a month before the reports stated, when the Isreal-Hammas attacks first happened. Ortega, meanwhile, was let go over a salary dispute, asking for a seven-fgure payout, which is what she's worth at this point, and the studio wanting to continue paying in the six-figure range as she was paid in her previous appearances. At this point, it is doubly-doubtful either actress will be back.