Dear Scream Fans,
The first Scream movie was released in 1996 when I was in middle school. I was scared of everything at the time—I was once scared to meet a cousin from Puerto Rico because his name was Freddie, and I was positive he would be Freddy Krueger. My parents were always watching movies like Predator, Alien, Terminator, and Jaws, and all of them terrified me.
The things I remember most about Scream’s release are that my parents had the same cordless phone as Drew Barrymore’s Casey Becker (which I’d only seen in the trailers) and a girl walking ahead of me in the middle school hallway, saying, “That movie is gay. Drew Barrymore dies in the beginning.” My first big spoiler, alongside some casual homophobia!
Later that year, I rented Scream from Blockbuster with some friends and fell immediately in love. At that point, I’d never watched a movie that scared me so much that I genuinely loved and cared about all the characters. It felt so cool, so hip. The women were tough and fashionable, while the guys were all hot. I was fully in.
Scream 2 came out a year later and would become the first in the franchise I saw in theaters. Now we’re coming up on the release of Scream VI, which officially means this franchise has been releasing movies for over half my life. The last standing characters from that first film are my absolute favorite final girls, Courteney Cox’s Gale Weathers and Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott. Unfortunately, Sidney will not be in this new installment because Paramount wouldn’t pay her what she deserves. But, inversely, we are still getting the beloved shit-talking Gale Weathers—alongside the return of Hayden Panettiere’s fan favorite Kirby Reed from Scream 4. We are, of course, also getting the return of the new batch of survivors from 2022’s Scream. For me, this franchise has always been the horror franchise. The characters are always dynamic, and I always care about them. Sure, there are older franchises with more sequels and scarier villains, but this one is it for me. It’s why I love horror. But most importantly, no one tells someone to “fuck off,” quite like my gay icon Gale Weathers.
So, tell me why over the past year, I’ve had more Twitter accounts with Sidney Prescott as their avatar on social call me a “fake fan” than ever before in my life? What the fuck even constitutes a “fake fan”? If you’re a fan, you’re a fan. Hosting a queer pop-culture podcast (Slayerfest 98), cohosting a horror podcast (My Bloody Judy), and running the social media account for both over the last few years has taught me how even the fandoms I’m in, the fandoms I love, can be extremely toxic. The fact that any adult would even use the term “fake fan” would be truly laughable if it wasn’t also accompanied by a zillion more harassing tweets and comments.
Am I upset Neve Campbell isn’t coming back? Fucking of course I am! She is the face of the franchise—without Sidney Prescott there would’ve never been a Scream franchise. Does that mean I will take that anger out on the folks doing the new movie? No, I’m not a child—I know that’s all because of the higher-ups not caring. The original script for Scream VI had a role for Sidney—the creative team clearly did want her back. Do these people who have turned their whole personality into hating the current state of the Scream franchise know they could spend their time doing literally anything else? Do these people who say, “Wes Craven wouldn’t have wanted this,” talk to him from beyond the grave? Do these people know Wes Craven killed Heather Langenkamp’s beloved final girl Nancy Thompson in the 3rd Nightmare on Elm Street movie? Do they realize they sound just like the killers in 2022’s Scream?
Before the new film’s release, two horror podcasters told me they’d never cover Scream because the fandom was so toxic online. I was so young and naïve back then I assumed they were exaggerating—but, dear reader, they were not. My horror pod once did a recording on things we’d like to see the franchise do next, and foolishly, my cohost Zachary and I both said Sidney deserved a break. We felt the franchise should stop punishing Sidney and move on to new motivations for Ghostface; she deserved to live a happy life. We also talked about new opening kills they could do. I talked about my idea (aka my fanfic) of Gale getting attacked at a Stab-themed drag competition where she tells Trixie and Katya to “fuck off” backstage. So many comments asked us if we’d ever watched a Scream movie. When we did a livestream and talked about how much we wanted Kirby to come back, someone in the chat wouldn’t stop telling us how stupid we were to think they’d ever bring her back (well guess what Mimi).
What makes fans become this way? What joy does it bring them to find folks who enjoy the new additions to the franchise that they hate and tell them they aren’t real fans for liking it? These people clearly love the original movies—we love the same thing, so why fight? I don’t care if some random person online doesn’t share the same opinion on a movie as me, so why do they?
I have friends who didn’t like 2022’s Scream, and that’s fine! Why would I be mad at that? I disagree with it, and that’s normal. I haven’t liked many movies folks have loved, and I don’t go to their social media accounts to harass them for it.
And it’s, of course, these toxic folks who happen to be loudest online, unfortunately. They are absolutely not the majority of Scream fans. All of the Scream fans I’m friends with (the ones who did and did not like the newest one) are all fun and chill.
It’s like Star Wars! I love Star Wars, I grew up on Star Wars but the toxic fans who are the loudest online make it pretty impossible to post anything about Star Wars without drawing in at least someone telling you that your mom deserves to die over your opinion (I once had folks angry in my Twitter mentions over a viral tweet about loving Baby Yoda). It’s mostly turned me off from the franchise so I’ve become more of a casual fan now. My podcast Slayerfest 98 talks Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all things Marvel, and you can be sure I’ve encountered toxic fans with both. The toxic corner of Buffy fans are the ones who get furious over Sarah Michelle Gellar’s iconic slayer’s boyfriends—which is totally not the point of the show. It’s a discourse I truly wouldn’t give a shit about if not for the angry Spuffy fans that once campaigned for a publisher to drop one of my cohost’s novels and then told me I needed to fire her. All over her hot take on the beloved vampire, Spike. Then there’s the many toxic corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe where folks will get furious if you say anything bad about it or the folks who get mad if you say anything nice about any of the properties where, you know, a woman exists as more than a side character. Then there’s the corner of the internet that are Marvel Haters and will hate on anything Marvel.
The internet is a hellhole.
We are constantly dealing with exhausting election cycles, racists, homophobes, mass shooting news, and the ever-charming incels. Fandoms should not be like that. They should be fun! Celebrate what you love about the fandom! The killers in the newest Scream weren’t supposed to be models of how one should act in a fandom…and yet!
And if you can’t just enjoy the parts of a fandom that you love and just can’t help screaming online about how much you hate Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera (the franchise’s first non-white Final Girls), then at least leave me alone.
Ian Carlos Crawford
Why the Willy Wonka Boat Scene is Still the Scariest Thing You’ve Ever Seen
“There’s no earthly way of knowing, which direction we are going…”
If those words don’t immediately strike fear into your very heart, then someone was very good to you as a child. You were somehow spared the experience of being set in front of 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (adapted from Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), blissfully unaware of what you were about to get yourself into. And look, it’s not like the boat scene comes out of nowhere. There’s already a bit of murder and mayhem going on in the first act before the boat scene. Hell, mere minutes before we reach the boat scene, we have consigned Augustus Gloop to a fate of being slowly asphyxiated as his lungs fill with molten chocolate, like the world’s most delicious case of pneumonia.
But the boat scene. Nothing quite matches its raw power, even more than five decades later. Here it is, if you need a refresher:
Willy Wonka, Why Are You Like This?
There are a lot of different reasons that this scene exists. For one, Roald Dahl (who was also the film’s screenwriter, though he eventually disowned the film over some uncredited rewrites) was never afraid of including material that would rattle his audience a bit. Ever heard of The Chokey?
Dahl was in tune with the fact that children’s stories, largely being parables of one kind or another, do typically feature some kind of unsettling or downright horrifying element to help teach their lessons. This is a tradition that dates back to fairy tales and early folklore. Listen to your elders, or you’ll turn into sea foam trying to get a human prince to notice you. Don’t wander by the river at night, or La Llorona will drown you. And here’s a personal favorite: Make sure to sweep the floor, otherwise the Sweepings Demon Ahalmez and the Stabbing Demon Ahaltocob will lurk in those unswept areas and stab you to death.
That’s why the darker elements of Willy Wonka are present in the first place. However, the boat scene stands out among the rest because it is so brilliantly put together. The base layer of the footage playing out on the tunnel walls is creepy enough. There’s a sinister, unpredictable arbitrariness to what images are chosen and why. However, pair that with Gene Wilder’s outstanding performance as Willy Wonka and you’ve got pure magic. Wonka was never designed to be understood, and the way his eerie, partly sung monologue builds to a climax caught somewhere between abject terror and orgiastic delight is deliciously opaque and disturbing.
Not only is this downright terrifying to witness in the first place, it taps into the way that children’s fates lie in the hands of adults pretty much all of the time. This scene is an immaculate exaggeration of how, when you’re a child, the adults in your life are driven by motives that are murky to you at best, and trusting that they have your best interests at heart isn’t always an easy thing to do.
The Willy Wonka Boat Scene in a Broader Context
On top of all the stuff the Willy Wonka boat scene is doing on purpose, there’s something about the fact that this scene was put together in the early 1970s that helps lend it its undying potency. If you need proof of this, check out the same scene from Tim Burton’s 2005 re-adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s just not the same, sending Charlie and his pals down a CGI-laden log flume that’s so unmemorable I had to look up if the movie even had a boat scene.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory came to cinemas at a time that horror filmmaking was reaching a new creative peak, just three years after Night of the Living Dead and Rosemary’s Baby showed what horror masterpieces could look like on opposite ends of the spectrum, offering up infinite possibilities in between. Things were really cooking at this time, as grindhouse cinemas churned out grotty horror outings (like Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 1970 gross-out flick The Wizard of Gore) en route to a true explosion of exploitation cinema.
Willy Wonka’s boat scene is born from the same primordial ooze that gave us 1972’s The Last House on the Left, 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and 1978’s I Spit On Your Grave. It’s gross to look at, deeply disturbing, and feels genuinely unsafe.
Even though the way the images are projected behind the passengers doesn’t necessarily look real, it nevertheless looks tactile, grungy, and gross. This is thanks to the quality of film stock used to make these kinds of movies at the time. It has a tactility to it that digital cinema doesn’t possess, leaving you feeling like if you were to reach out and touch it, it would either abrade your hand or leave behind a trail of slime, something that enhances the viscerally repulsive sight of images that were already designed to poke at your lizard-brain fears.
Because all of this is found within the context of what is ostensibly a children’s movie, the juxtaposition of genres makes it even more powerful to witness. The Willy Wonka boat scene is well-made, well-timed, and well-suited to making your skin crawl, no matter what age you are when you encounter it, or how many times you may have seen it before.
My Final Girls Support Group: How Horror Helps Me Grieve
This article discusses topics that may be distressing or triggering to some readers. If you find such content uncomfortable, you may choose to proceed with caution or refrain from reading. Your well-being is important, if you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, there is help.
Sidney: I’ve seen this movie before.
Ghostface: Not this movie, Sidney.
Sidney: You really need some new material.
Ghostface: I got you here, didn’t I?
Sidney: You might actually be the most derivative one of all. I mean, Christ, the same house?
Ghostface: Maybe so. But you forgot the first rule of surviving a Stab movie. Never answer the—
Sidney (hanging up): I’m bored.
Seeing a Final Girl Come Full Circle
Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott hanging up on Ghostface is maybe one of my favorite moments from the entirety of the Scream franchise. She’s come so far since the first movie, and after 25+ years, she deserves to be able to hang up on her trauma.
On July 6th, 2023, I sat in my mom’s dark hospital room alongside my aunt, dad, and brother as we watched my mom take her last breath. On July 6th, 2015, I walked into my roommate’s room, who was also one of my best friends, to find him dead in his bed.
So, unfortunately, Sidney’s whole conversation with Ghostface in Scream (2022) right before hanging up on him has become quite relatable to me. It was a scene I could never shut up about, even before it became so painfully relevant. It’s a scene I’ve rewatched a lot since my mom’s passing. It’s a moment I want to be able to recreate someday—me, more annoyed than anything else when my trauma starts resurfacing.
The week after finding my friend dead, I found myself watching both parts of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 2 finale, “Becoming“—found myself crying every time I watched Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy Summers slow motion run to help her friends, knowing she’d already failed and when she caught the blade of the sword her evil ex hurled at her, hitting him with the hilt before kicking every inch of his ass. After my mom’s passing, I found myself revisiting the end of Buffy’s season 5, where she’s grieving the loss of her mom but still having to deal with the current apocalypse—even saying, “I just wish my mom was here,” before going into battle in the finale.
An Outlet Via Horror
It’s moments like these that draw me to horror, especially when I’m grieving. I am more drawn to slasher-type movies when grieving than horror movies dealing with grief. I love Hereditary and The Babadoook, but those movies don’t make me feel the way I do watching Sidney hang up on her trauma, aka Ghostface, or watching Buffy beat the shit out of her evil ex-boyfriend. I want to be Courteney Cox’s Gale Weathers telling Ghostface, “fuck you” even when she thinks she’s about to die in Scream VI. I want to be strong, I want to be able to survive—and also be witty about it. Watching final girls not only survive but be able to move on with their lives is something I find incredibly empowering—and inspirational.
I went to horror author Grady Hendrix’s book tour for his novel Final Girls Support Group. He did a full-on presentation before the actual signing and gave a history of horror that ended with him saying something like, “We don’t watch horror to watch people die but to watch them survive.” That notion has stuck with me ever since I saw it because it’s why I watch horror. The younger guy I was on a date with found it corny—I found it beautiful. I want to watch people survive odds that feel insurmountable—and not in a Hallmark movie way.
We’ve all seen the supercut of Jamie Lee Curtis saying, “It’s about trauma” at every single stop on her press tour for David Gordon Green’s Halloween trilogy. It became a meme-able moment, but also it’s true—I’m always interested in what the final girl or group of survivors from a horror movie do after they’ve survived. They would all clearly carry their trauma with them, not unlike me, but they’re still surviving. It’s why I hate any horror franchise bringing back a final girl just to kill her (I’m looking at you, Friday the 13th Part 2 and Final Destination 2). I’d rather never see her again than have her come back to die because that feels just too cruel and unfair—which, sure, life is unfair, but fictional stories don’t have to be.
In Halloween: H20, JLC’s Laurie Strode is shown to have had trouble moving on after the events of the second movie. But by the movie’s end, she’s saved her son (heartthrob Josh Hartnett) and his pals and goes to find Michael Myers for a final showdown—screaming his name while yielding an axe, no less! After defeating him, she makes sure he’s dead by chopping his head off (no, we won’t acknowledge Halloween: Resurrection). It’s why that movie stays my favorite in the Halloween franchise. It’s something I didn’t love about the newer trilogy, where they retconned all but the first movie and showed Laurie a total mess, prepping for an apocalypse with a zillion guns and living in the woods. But even that gave us a gratifying ending with Laurie, in front of the entire town of Haddonfield, throwing Michael into a trash compactor. I would love to crush my trauma into tiny little pieces that I leave in the bottom of a dumpster.
I often try to imagine what my gratifying horror moment would be. My trauma comes from real life—I have no monster to chop the head off of. No one is calling to scare me and telling me they’ll gut me like a fish. My horror movie is way more slow-moving with zero chase scenes. My horror movie is a boring one. But still, I find these women all empowering because, ya know, metaphors.
Finding Hope Through Horror
In Ready or Not, our final girl fights for her life against a family trying to kill her—only for her to survive long enough to watch them all explode due to a deal with the devil. In You’re Next, our final girl wields an axe and takes out the folks trying to take her out. In A Nightmare on Elm Street, our final girl tells her boyfriend, “I’m into survival” when he finds her reading a book on booby traps. These characters aren’t going down without a fight. In my life, I have yet to make it to the end of my horror movie—but when I do, I hope I can still be a badass final girl about it.
Having two of the biggest losses in my life happen on the same day really feels like a joke. The writers of my horror movie really do need to get new material. But seeing these final girls on their 89th movie and still not getting got—it gives me hope.
I want to not only outlast but go on in the ways folks like Sidney Prescott, Laurie Strode, Gale Weathers, and Buffy Summers do.
Sam: Are you going to be all right?
Sidney: I’ll survive. I always do.
For more on how horror can help us cope with tragedy, read here.