The Scream franchise is built around a meta-awareness of horror, effectively weaving in social commentary on the genre while racking up a body count. The first sequel, Scream 2, took that to a new level with the introduction of Stab, the beginning of a long-running franchise within a franchise. Stab became irrevocably intertwined with Scream ever since, serving as plot devices, wry in-jokes, or meta-winks to the audience.
Will the Stab series continue in the new Scream? We’re mere days from finding out, but in the meantime, we’re embarking on a Stabathon to revisit the fictional Stab movies and how they reflect on their respective Scream sequels!
We begin at the beginning…
Stab’s great introduction into the world of Scream came in the opening kill of Scream 2. Maureen Evans (Jada Pinkett Smith) and boyfriend Phil Stevens (Omar Epps) attend a rowdy sneak peek of the movie based on the book “The Woodsboro Murders” by Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), aka the events of Scream. Maureen gets visibly and vocally annoyed by the on-screen character of Casey, played by Heather Graham, as the altered opening kill plays out in the theater.
The Stab version sees Casey leaving popcorn on the stove while she prepares to shower, only to get interrupted by a deranged caller. Her ultimate capture and demise by Ghostface play out on the theater screen as Maureen gets stabbed to death on stage while the audience cheers on, assuming it’s part of the show. The commentary on Hollywood’s glamorization of tragedy and the audience’s desensitization to violence is clear.
A later clip of Stab mirrors a Scream scene that sees Sidney (played by Tori Spelling) and Billy (Luke Wilson) discuss their relationship and trust issues. Scream 2 credits Robert Rodriguez on screen as the director of Stab, though it was Wes Craven behind the camera per Rodriguez in a recent interview with Inverse.
Stab 2 only appeared in the franchise in poster form during Scream 3. It can be glimpsed in producer John Milton’s (Lance Henriksen) office. Only the tiniest bits about this sequel are revealed during the scenes involving Milton and Sunrise Studios, including casting details.
Scream 3 centers around the filming of Stab 3, giving us a look at the universe-within-universe playing out on screen. It takes meta to a whole new surreal level for its core characters. Actors Angelina Tyler (Emily Mortimer) and Tom Prinze (Matt Keeslar) took over for Tori Spelling and David Schimmer as Sidney and Dewey, but Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey) returned as Gale. In a feud with Stab 2 director, Milton hired up and comer Roman Bridger (Scott Foley) to direct. Then Ghostface interrupts production by slaying his way through cast and crew.
Spoiler: the killer is none other than the director of Stab 3. Sunrise Studios had to start all over again to make this sequel after the events of Scream 3 murdered their cast and crew.
The poster for this unseen sequel can be glimpsed in the Woodsboro High School Cinema Club room. It’s the first Stab not based on Sidney Prescott.
“Stab 5 has time travel, which is by far the worst,” Jenny Randall (Aimee Teegarden) explains to her friend in the opening of Scream 4. She runs down a brief overview of the Stab series, dropping insight into Sidney Prescott in the process, who sued after the third Stab movie was released. Considering Sidney saw firsthand the bloody struggles of getting Stab 3 made, it’d make sense that she’d want nothing to do with Hollywood at this point.
Scream 4 opens with a nesting doll of opening kills: Stab 6 within Stab 7 within Scream 4’s introduction. Stab 6 sees Trudie (Shenae Grimes) lament to Sherrie (Lucy Hale) about the “torture porn” trend currently dominating horror. Trudie cites a lack of character development and an overemphasis on gore and body parts as the issue. She quickly establishes herself as the more cautious of the two when Ghostface comes calling. It doesn’t end well for either, of course.
In Scream 4, Rachel (Anna Paquin) and Chloe (Kristen Bell) watch Sherrie and Trudie’s deaths from their couch, which incurs Rachel’s wrath against the current state of horror. She rails against how tired self-aware horror and horror sequels have become. “They just keep recycling the same shit,” Rachel complains of sequels not knowing when to quit. Chloe gets tired of her complaints and stabs her to death; it then cuts to the Stab 7 title card.
The Stab movies are essential to Scream 4’s rules and the motive to one of the killers. Through the Stab fans, many of the rules of this sequel get presented. Cinema Club VP Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin) explains, “Working on less of a Shrequel and more of a Screamake.” In other words, through Stab’s history, he tells Gale and Sidney that this Ghostface is rewriting the original’s rules.
Now seven fictional movies deep, the Stab movies expand beyond in-universe commentary to demonstrate how far-reaching the series has become and how its fandom has permeated pop culture through generations. The current high school class is so far removed from the events that initially rocked Woodsboro; it’s all a distant memory made more interesting by a popular slasher series. A fan-hosted Stabathon in a barn becomes a significant set piece for Ghostface to attack, tying Stab to Scream in a new way.
Where there’s a Scream, there’s likely a Stab, and with it a peek behind the curtain.
Scream returns to theaters this Friday. Hopefully Stab does as well…