Scream’s two best characters are largely in the background. But if the narrative had focused on them, it would have been much better satire.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Scream, currently playing in theaters
Scream is theoretically centered on Sam (Melissa Barrera) and her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega). The film 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 part of this underserved group and arguably should have been the protagonists. Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) are quietly the stars of Scream and could have pushed the film in a more overtly satirical direction.
As Tara is attacked because of her bond with 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 are framed specifically to resemble the original group of teenagers from the first Scream. This includes Chad and Mindy, whose uncle is revealed to have fallen victim to the first film. Chad and Mindy are both sardonic but not overtly cruel, delivering sarcastic comments about their lives. Chad is the jock of the group, with a hint of empathy and restraint that makes him a particularly straightforward character in the otherwise twisty cast. Meanwhile, Mindy is the expert on horror, delivering the most devious jokes and breaking the rules of the genre. The two seem acutely aware of the danger they find themselves in and almost flaunt it.
But due to their tangential connection to the rest of the plot, they find themselves in an increasingly macabre horror scenario that they can barely survive. It’s actually a clever idea for a Scream movie, effectively setting up a hybrid horror movie that incorporates elements from other overt meta-comments like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are dead. Considering that the overall theme of the movie is about the motivations behind “requels” and toxic fandoms, it’s clear the movie wants to explore those elements. As such, Chad and Mindy get strong character beats where they subvert character expectations or show just enough self-awareness to avoid getting killed. It works in the end, as they flirt with the actual plot, avoid the melodramatic finale, and even survive the movie.
Yes Scream had it largely focused on this pair trying to survive the chaotic, morphing situation around them, it could have provided an amusing satire of a horror movie. It also could have raised the stakes, as the pair’s near-constant proximity to danger doesn’t come with the plot armor that dramatic leads like Sam and Tara possess. The film could have leaned more into the meta-commentary with Mindy accurately predicting the film’s twists during her monologue. His straightforward observations about gender could have provided the film with an easy way to delve deeper into themes of fandom legacy, expectations, and era differences. They could have even played cameo comedy by having Mindy and Chad completely out of the loop, but still trying to survive the chaos they unleashed upon arriving on the scene.
Instead, Mindy and Chad are largely comic relief. Scream ends up dividing its focus between the teenagers, the returning characters, and the drama between Sam and Tara. There’s some dramatic weight to the pair’s story, but it almost feels like a quirky shift in tone towards more schlocky jump scares or character comedy. Had the film engaged in a strong central tone, it would have been much improved. Mindy and Chad’s story was one of the most interesting aspects and contains the DNA of funny and subversive horror satire – all hidden in a well-constructed but overstuffed sequel.
To see how Mindy and Chad steal the show, Scream is playing in theaters now.
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