Scream’s two best characters are largely in the background. But if the narrative had focused on them, it would have been a far better satire.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Scream, now playing in theaters
Scream is nominally centered around Sam (Melissa Barrera) and her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega). The movie also explores the lives of survivors from the original films, Gale (Courtney Cox), Sidney (Neve Campbell) and Dewey (David Arquette). On top of that, Tara’s friends are present — albeit in very minor roles in the overall narrative.
However, two of the film’s most entertaining characters are actually in this underserved group and arguably should have been the protagonists. Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) are quietly the highlights of Scream and could have pushed the movie into a more overtly satirical direction.
While Tara is attacked because of her connection to Sam (and her own secret ties to the original film), her friends end up playing minor roles in the story. Almost always seen together, they’re framed specifically to be similar to the original group of teens in the first Scream. This includes Chad and Mindy, whose uncle is revealed to have been a victim from the first film. Chad and Mindy are both sardonic but not openly cruel, delivering sarcastic commentary on their lives. Chad is the jock of the group, with an edge of empathy and restraint to him that makes him a uniquely straightforward character in the otherwise winding cast. Meanwhile, Mindy is the horror expert, delivering the snidest jokes and breaking down the rules of the genre. Both seem keenly aware of the danger they’re in and almost flaunt it.
But because of their tangential connection to the rest of the plot, they find themselves in an increasingly grisly horror scenario that they can barely survive. It’s actually a clever idea for a Scream movie, effectively setting up a hybrid horror film that incorporates elements from other openly meta commentaries like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Considering the overall theme of the movie is about the motivations behind “requels” and toxic fandoms, it’s clear the film wants to explore those elements. As such, Chad and Mindy get strong character beats where they subvert character expectations or showcase just enough self-awareness to avoid getting killed. This works out in the end, as they flirt alongside the actual plot, avoid the melodramatic finale and even survive the movie.
If Scream had largely focused on this pair trying to survive the chaotic and morphing situation around them, it could have provided a fun satire of a horror film. It could have also raised the stakes, as the pair’s near-constant proximity to danger doesn’t come with plot armor that dramatic leads like Sam and Tara possess. The movie could have leaned further into the meta-commentary with Mindy, who accurately predicts the film’s twists during her monologue. Her straightforward observations on the genre could have provided an easy way for the movie to dive further into the themes of fandom legacy, expectations and differences in era. They could’ve even played up the comedy of the cameos by having Mindy and Chad be completely out of the loop, but still trying to survive the chaos they unleashed by arriving on the scene.
Instead, Mindy and Chad are largely comedic relief. Scream ends up dividing its attention between the teens, the returning characters and the drama between Sam and Tara. The pair’s story has some dramatic weight to it, but it almost feels like an off-setting tonal shift to the more schlocky jump scares or the character comedy. If the film had committed to one strong central tone, it would have been much improved. Mindy and Chad’s story was one of the more interesting aspects and contains the DNA of a funny and subversive horror satire — all hidden in a well-constructed but overstuffed requel.
To see how Mindy and Chad steal the show, Scream is playing in theaters now.
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