Is the New 'Scream' a Sequel or a Reboot? The Franchise's Timeline Explained

Scream is the latest in a line of sequels and reboots to be given a confusing title. This new entry in the meta-horror franchise comes more than two decades after the first Scream movie, which was released in 1996 and had three sequels.

Studios do not often give a sequel the same name as a previous film in the franchise. If they do, they might add a "The" to the title, à la James Gunn's The Suicide Squad. If a studio gives a follow-up the exact same name as the original, this usually indicates that it's a reboot, like the all-female Ghostbusters or the 2010s reimagining of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Hence the confusion around the 2022 release Scream. Is it a reboot or is it Scream 5, the follow-up to 2011's Scream 4?

Is the New 'Scream' a Reboot?

scream reboot cast
Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox in "Scream." Both are appearing in their fifth films in the franchise. Paramount

Despite its name, the 2022 Scream is in fact Scream 5—a sequel set within the same universe and within the same timeline as the previous four movies.

Why is it not called Scream 5? That seems to be because of the film's marketing. As teens and young adults make up a significant chunk of the audience for horror movies, Paramount will want plenty of them to go to theaters. They might be put off if they haven't seen the previous four films, which many likely have not. At least three of them, after all, were made before they were born.

This was hinted at by original Scream writer Kevin Williamson, who is an executive producer on this film, in an interview with Us Weekly. In October 2021, he told the outlet: "I think we just threw that name out, but I don't think they ever seriously were going to call it Scream 5. I don't think anybody wanted to see the number five after something."

It seems the vision for this film was to make what is known as a "legacy sequel"—a decades-later continuation of the original story that simultaneously pays tribute to the first film (and usually features character from it) while also providing a new jumping-off point for younger audiences.

Another recent horror film did this and, like Scream, it copied the name of the original movie in the franchise. That was the 2018 Halloween, which brought back Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) for a new generation. Like Neve Campbell's Sidney Prescott in the new Scream, Laurie is traumatized by the events of the original movie, but cannot help but be drawn in when the killing starts.

'Scream' Timeline Explained

Ghostface in the 2022 movie "Scream." The new film sees the original mask and costume return. Paramount Pictures

As the new Scream is set in the same timeline as the original, the story takes place 25 years after the Woodsboro Murders, when Sidney's mother was killed along with a number of teens.

Unlike other horror franchises, Ghostface is not one person but multiple killers. After the two original murderers wore the costume, a number of copycats have used the suit over the years to commit their crimes. Most of them had family links to Sidney or one of the original killers—spoiler ahead—Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich).

Scream also has a franchise-within-a-franchise, Stab, which acts as a commentary on neverending horror series. A screening of the first Stab movie is the setting for the first murder in Scream 2. Scream 3 is set partly on the set of Stab 3, where actors are being bumped off by a new person in the Ghostface costume.

In the Scream universe, there have been seven Stab films so far. The first three are closely based on the events of the first three Scream movies while Stab 5 is said to feature time travel, though we do not see it on screen. The openings of Stab 6 and 7 are seen at the start of Scream 4.

Stab 8 was originally planned to feature in the new Scream movie, but according to co-director Tyler Gillett: "We actually shot a lot of fun Stab 8 stuff that just ultimately, for various reasons, didn't end up in the cut."

What the 2022 film does bring back, however, are Sidney and two other characters who have appeared in all five Scream movies—journalist Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and former police officer Dewey Riley (David Arquette).

After a flirtation beginning in the first film, the pair got engaged at the end of Scream 3—around the time that Arquette and Cox married in real life. In a typically meta touch, the new film will show Gale and Dewey divorced, just like the actors who play them.

These characters, however, will be peripheral figures in the new film, which will introduce a new generation of teens ready to take on Ghostface.

Scream is in cinemas on Friday, January 14, and will be streaming on Paramount+ in early 2022.