Over the past 25 years (and counting) the Scream franchise has carved itself quite the legacy. Ready Or Not's Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s confusingly titled fifth instalment Scream is poised to start a new era for the slasher series when it arrives in cinemas on 14 January, but it’s time to look back at what could’ve been.
2022’s outing is the first not to be helmed by the dearly departed Wes Craven, but across the first four movies and scripts from Kevin Williamson (Scream, Scream 2, Scream 4) and Ehren Kruger (Scream 3), the stories have left a bloodbath of drafts on the cutting room floor.
With different characters behind the Ghostface masks and shock departures early on, how could the Scream movies have been completely different?
Dewey nearly died in Scream (1996)
Going back to the start, things were fairly simple (in terms of how Scream is these days). Despite the jaw-dropping twist of two killers being novel for the time, Stu Macher and Billy Loomis were locked in as the big bads from early on.
Things culminated in a stabby showdown at Macher’s house, where everyone from Tatum Riley to Kenny the cameraman kicked the bucket. The surviving quartet of Sidney, Gale, Randy, and Dewey all had their scrapes with death, but in the original draft, Dewey was supposed to leave in a body bag.
Read more: Where are the cast of Scream now?
Early on, those at the top were quick to call out Dewey’s death and ask why he wasn’t included in Williamson’s outline for a sequel. A quick U-turn added a scene of David Arquette's character being wheeled into the ambulance. With a simple thumbs-up, Arquette secured his survival for a sequel the following year.
Gale nearly died in Scream 2 (1997)
Things were bigger and bloodier in Craven’s sequel, as we left Woodsboro behind for the Windsor College massacre. It was more of the same as the body count rose, but this time, the killers weren’t two unhinged teens.
Even though Scream 2’s made Timothy Olyphant’s Mickey and Laurie Metcalf’s Mrs Loomis (as a nod to the original Friday the 13th) the killers, a series of dummy drafts offered a host of different combos. There was the audience-shattering potential of Dewey being the killer, however, it was quickly written off as only ever being a decoy.
One of the most famous dummy drafts was a pairing of Sidney's roommate and her boyfriend, which would’ve been a homage to Billy being the killer in the OG. Alongside Jerry O’Connell’s Derek, Hallie was also going to be unmasked as the second Ghostface. She was played by Elise Neal, and at the time, the idea of having a black female killer would’ve given Scream 2 a twist on a par with the first’s two-killer reveal.
Another major death(s) was thankfully scrapped. Williamson had originally wanted Gale to be killed in the auditorium finale. Similar to the finished movie, Debbie Salt/Mrs Loomis tried to turn Cotton Weary to her cause. Seeking revenge for his time behind bars, Cotton was going to stab and kill Gale, then tussle with Sidney. The final credits would’ve rolled with Cotton and Sidney lying lifeless on the stage.
Scream 3's lost meta-twist (2000)
In the franchise’s most famous case of “what could’ve been”, Scream 3 didn’t have Williamson writing the story. The writer had prior commitments, so offered a 20-30 page draft instead, and Arlington Road scribe Ehren Kruger was brought on board to adapt Williamson’s notes.
Williamson has originally planned a meta twist for the ages. Sidney was due to walk into the house after everyone had been killed. The “dead” would have faked their murders, then risen up and confronted her as a group of Stab-obsessed fans who wanted to become famous. Taking the wacky one step further, others claim the death of Maureen Prescott was also a hoax and part of an elaborate plot to drive Sidney crazy.
Ironically, the motive of becoming famous is what spurred Scream 4’s Jill into her killing spree, meaning not all of these ideas were lost. It’s a meta twist that some argue would’ve “ruined” an already maligned outing, while others have said it would’ve saved the oddly supernatural Scream 3.
Kruger went with a completely different story and Williamson eventually adapted his idea for the series The Following. In the end, Scream 3 was chopped and changed more than any other instalment, in the wake of the Columbine High School massacre.
Scream 4's killer survived (2011)
Years after the trilogy tied up most of the loose ends, Scream rose again eleven years later for Craven’s final hurrah. As well as Dewey and Gale having a child in several drafts, the proposed opening had Sidney being attacked by Ghostface, only to pick up the story two years later after she’s recovered.
As for the ending, Emma Roberts’ Jill was always going to be the killer, but instead of being exposed, she would continue her wicked ways in Scream 5. After Jill presumably won and left Sidney for dead, the ending was going to echo Gale’s sign-off from 1996’s movie. Journalists swarmed the scene and Jill was left to tell her story as the final girl.
Williamson’s early draft ended with the police shouting “We have one alive. A woman.” You might think Jill’s schemes came undone and Sidney lived to fight another day, but there were two more options. Craven confirmed Hayden Panettiere’s Kirby was always supposed to survive, while Marley Shelton’s Deputy Judy Hicks was killed off-screen and tipped to be a potential survivor.
None of this occurred in the final film. Instead of the brilliantly snarky Jill returning in the new Scream, the script pasted on a hospital swan song where she was killed by a defibrillator to the brain and bullet to the chest.
Watch a trailer for 2022's Scream below
Just think, if Williamson had got its original wish to kill Dewey off in the first movie, the franchise might not be what it is today.
As the corn syrup starts to flow again with Scream, we’ll have to wait and see whether any of those wild theories come to pass, canned alternate endings find a new lease of life, and if we’re already queuing up a mythical sixth entry.
Either way, we’re warned to expect the unexpected. Even when the final curtain falls, remember it takes a double-tap to take out the seemingly immortal Ghostface.
Scream is in cinemas 14 January.