The upcoming new Scream film, the sixth in the franchise following the most recent Scream 5, is going to be moving forward without its biggest returning star. Neve Campbell, Sidney Prescott herself, announced on Monday that she won’t be coming back as she “felt the offer that was presented to me did not equate to the value I have brought to the franchise.” The announcement was both a rather surprising and disappointing one. Considering her integral role in the series up to this point, one would have thought she would have been welcomed back with open arms for however long she wanted. While it’s still exciting to see what Campbell will bring to other future projects, she was the face of Scream for decades and remains the most essential part of the series. From the very beginning, when the late Wes Craven first introduced audiences to the notorious Ghostface in 1996, she was there to lead us through each phase of the story with a confidence that will be sorely missed in the ongoing story.
So while it represents a bittersweet moment to see her go, it is still worth looking back on the evolving presence and performance that Neve Campbell brought to the screen. Even as Sidney, to put it lightly, kept getting put through the wringer and couldn’t seem to catch a break, Campbell continually gave it her all. She was able to hit both the comedic notes and the dramatic ones, making for a compelling core amidst the escalating chaos. It was her commanding performance that often elevated the material, pushing it through some occasionally repetitive sequel territory. Every time Campbell came back on screen, she was able to make things feel endlessly fresh without losing sight of what made the series so great. Every subsequent entry saw her character grow, bringing a depth to her journey that could have easily become too repetitive. Yes, she kept having to fight off familiar masked killers though it was her performance that ensured it was given new life.
Going from being a high school student who confronts the menacing murderer with a mask to a more wary college student having to deal with a copycat to an adult trying to put it all behind her, she was pitch-perfect in each entry. Campbell captured the darker moments alongside the more silly ones, walking a tonal tightrope with precision. She anchored the story each time so that, even when it occasionally floated adrift, she could bring it back to shore and get things back on track. She proved to be the very best of the so-called “final girl” trope, surviving attack after attack by a maniac that bit off far more than they could chew in taking her on. Yet, try again and again these naive killers did, never knowing what they were getting themselves into by going after her until it was too late. Campbell was unmatched, bringing a gritty and resourceful edge to each new film as things continued to spiral out of control. Even as Sidney had to keep outsmarting the gruesome killers, there was never a second that we didn’t believe she was capable of pulling it all off and surviving once again.
Campbell’s performance was worth the price of admission by itself. Even her smaller part in the most recent film was a bright spot as she slipped back into the role with ease, making the character her own once again. From the moment she first gets a call about how the killings have resumed, you can feel both the exhaustion and resolve as she realizes she has to go through it all again. When she makes her triumphant return, savvier to the conventions of the story and not falling for any tricks, her performance becomes the highlight of the final act. Campbell was able to instill the character with both wit and wisdom that made her stand out even in just a short amount of screen time. Without her, the films would not have managed to navigate the combination of both horror and comedy as effectively as they have. While the new cast was all solid in their own right, even doing some good back-and-forth with members of the old cast that returned, there will never be a character as iconic as Campbell’s Sidney Prescott. Without her carrying the torch for so long, there would not have been such a strong foundation to build upon.
Through her tenacious performances that just kept coming, she continually raised the bar for herself as well as the films themselves. If there is anything good that can come out of the unfortunate reality that Campbell won’t be in the upcoming film, it would be that her presence in the franchise be fully recognized and appreciated. Such long-overdue praise for this impressive run could have certainly come under better circumstances, though it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give it now. The films would have not been the same without her, a reality that we will have to contend with when the next film comes around. While she was certain to leave at some point, one wishes it had come on better terms. In every single film that we saw her in, there is not a scene that Campbell doesn’t make better just by being there. Whether it was in the beginning as she was struck with fear or when she grew into being a fearsome force in her own right, she remained a consistent strength that shined through at every possible opportunity. Thankfully, we will always be able to go back to where it all began to remember all over again the indelible mark that Neve Campbell left on the series and the genre.