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The Scream Franchise: Mastering Misdirection and Suspense

The Scream franchise, created by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven, is known for its clever use of misdirection and suspense to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. With its unique blend of horror and comedy, the series has become a classic in the horror genre, inspiring countless imitators and sequels.

Hope you don't scare too easy, this one is a scream...




At the heart of the Scream franchise's success is its ability to surprise and scare audiences through the use of misdirection. Misdirection is the art of leading an audience to believe that something is going to happen, only to reveal something completely different. This technique is used throughout the Scream movies, particularly in the way the killers are revealed.

In the first Scream movie, for example, the audience is led to believe that the killer is one of the main characters, only to discover that it is actually two different people working together. This twist completely upends the audience's expectations and creates a shocking and memorable moment.

The first Scream film, released in 1996, is set in the fictional town of Woodsboro, a quiet suburb of California. The film's setting is an important aspect of its overall tone and atmosphere, as it contributes to the idea of a seemingly idyllic small town hiding dark secrets and hidden dangers. The film's suburban setting also plays into the idea of safety and security being an illusion, as the killer is able to strike even in a seemingly peaceful community.

Drew Barrymore in Paramount Pictures Scream

The newest Scream film, released in 2022, is set in New York City, which is a significant departure from the series' previous settings. The move to a big city setting is reflective of the franchise's evolution over the past 25 years, as it has become more self-aware and meta. In the new film, the characters are aware of the horror movie tropes and conventions that have come to define the series, and the move to a big city setting allows the filmmakers to play with those conventions in new and interesting ways.

Scream 6 Official Poster

One major difference between the two films is the way they approach the idea of misdirection and suspense. The first film relies heavily on misdirection to keep audiences guessing as to the identity of the killer, whereas the newest film is more focused on subverting audience expectations and playing with established horror movie tropes. For example, the new film features several twists and turns that subvert audience expectations, such as the identity of the killer and the way in which the murders are carried out.

The use of misdirection is also seen in the way the movies play with audience expectations. For example, the killer's identity is often kept hidden until the very end, leading audiences to speculate and guess who it could be. This creates a sense of tension and suspense that keeps viewers engaged and invested in the story. The fact that beloved actors took on roles

that portrayed vile humans. Capable of terrible things. Making the suspense even more grounded.

Another key element of the Scream franchise's success is its use of suspense. Suspense is the feeling of anticipation and uncertainty that comes from not knowing what is going to happen next. The Scream movies are expertly crafted to keep audiences in a state of suspense throughout, constantly teasing them with clues and red herrings.


Side note... wtf dude.


 Back on track...

One of the ways that the Scream franchise creates suspense is through its use of foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is the technique of hinting at something that is going to happen later in the story. In the Scream movies, the killers often leave subtle clues that hint at their true identity, creating a sense of unease and anticipation in the audience.

The Scream franchise also uses suspense to build tension in individual scenes. For example, the famous opening scene of the first movie, in which Drew Barrymore's character is terrorized by the killer on the phone, is a masterclass in suspenseful filmmaking. The scene uses tight close-ups, fast editing, and a nerve-wracking score to create a sense of impending doom.

In the first film, the cold open features actress Drew Barrymore in the role of Casey Becker, a high school student who receives a threatening phone call from the masked killer known as Ghostface.

The scene is notable for its tension and suspense, as Casey is forced to answer a series of horror movie trivia questions in order to save the life of her boyfriend, who is being held captive by the killer.

Despite Casey's best efforts, the killer ultimately murders both her and her boyfriend, setting the stage for the rest of the film.

The cold open of the second film features actress Jada Pinkett Smith in the role of Maureen Evans, a movie theater employee who is attending a showing of the fictional horror movie "Stab" with her boyfriend. Like the first film, the scene is tense and suspenseful, as Maureen is forced to confront the masked killer in front of a crowded theater. Despite her attempts to fight back, Maureen is ultimately killed by the killer, setting the stage for the rest of the film.

The cold open of the third film features actress Beth Toussaint in the role of Cotton Weary's girlfriend, Christine Hamilton. The scene takes place in Cotton's home, where Christine receives a threatening phone call from the masked killer while Cotton is out running errands. Like the previous films, the scene is tense and suspenseful, as Christine is forced to confront the killer and attempt to save her own life. Despite her best efforts, Christine is ultimately killed by the killer, setting the stage for the rest of the film.

Overall, the cold opens of the Scream films are an important aspect of the franchise's success, as they help to establish the tone and atmosphere of the films while also setting up the main storylines. The use of well-known actresses like Drew Barrymore, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Beth Toussaint in these scenes also helps to create a sense of familiarity and recognition for audiences, making them more invested in the storylines that follow.

Another key difference between the two films is the way they approach the idea of nostalgia. The first film is often credited with revitalizing the slasher genre in the 90s, and as such it has become a touchstone of nostalgia for many horror fans. The newest film is aware of this legacy and incorporates elements of nostalgia into its storytelling, but it also works to establish its own identity and relevance for a new generation of horror fans.

Overall, while the first Scream film and the newest installment share many of the same thematic and storytelling elements, they are also distinct in their approach and execution. The move to a big city setting for the newest film allows the filmmakers to explore new territory while still staying true to the series' roots, and the result is a fresh and exciting addition to the Scream franchise.

In conclusion, the Scream franchise's success can be attributed in large part to its expert use of misdirection and suspense. By keeping audiences guessing and constantly surprising them with unexpected twists and turns, the movies have become beloved classics of the horror genre. If you're a fan of horror movies, or just looking for a thrilling and suspenseful ride, the Scream franchise is not to be missed.


"The Art of Misdirection in Filmmaking" by Mark Heidelberger (Medium)

"Foreshadowing in Film: How to Create Suspense and Keep Audiences Hooked" by Andrew Mercado (MasterClass)

"10 Suspense Techniques You Can Use In Your Writing Today" by Peter Gelfan (Writer's Digest)


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