Scream is in theaters now and if you haven’t seen it, that means you’re missing out on a slew of new and inventive Ghostface kills, plenty of meta jokes about movies, and the likes of Sidney (Neve Campbell), Dewey (David Arquette), and Gale (Courteney Cox) gracing the big screen once again. We’ve already talked about the biggest reveals in the film–including Ghostface’s identity –and the story behind the movie’s most shocking death . There’s another important topic to broach, care of a shocking surprise cameo appearance.
Warning: The following contains major spoilers for Scream, the latest film in the franchise. If you haven’t seen the movie, that’s your cue to walk away now, or else everything you don’t want to be ruined about the movie is going to be spelled out for you.
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While the death of Dewey might have been the movie’s biggest shocker, there’s no way anybody could have expected that, of all people, Skeet Ulrich would appear in the movie to reprise his role as Billy Loomis–otherwise known as one of the killers from the first Scream who is very dead. He appears sporadically throughout the film, though, as a figment of leading character Sam’s (Melissa Barrera) imagination, when it’s revealed that she’s actually Billy’s daughter. Now on anti-psychotic medication, she’s seeing visions of her father–as he was in the first film– telling her to embrace her murderous genetics.
As it turns out, getting Ulrich to return for the role of Billy was easy enough. “He was all in,” one of the movie’s directors, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, told GameSpot. “He was really excited and he was really game for it. And also, he was wonderful to work with. I mean, he fully embraced the return of ghost Billy.”
More importantly than a massive Easter egg for fans, though, Billy’s appearance is the perfect example of how the Scream franchise can have its cake and eat it too. The premise of the film is a couple of toxic fans of the Stab franchise are attempting to inspire their own rebooted sequel, which is something we see quite a bit of these days. Throughout the film, characters openly talk about the tropes in modern film, horror and otherwise, while the movie itself includes them–and sometimes improves on them.
One thing they don’t mention, though, it’s the trend of taking an actor and digitally de-aging them to make them appear younger. It’s by no means new technology, but one that’s been employed more and more in recent years–including in multiple Marvel films, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, and–most notably–recent Star Wars entries.
Who can forget the de-aged Leia Organa in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Leia and Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Luke again in the second season of The Mandalorian? While sometimes it’s mocked and others it’s accepted, it almost always stands out.
The issue with digital de-aging in most films is the actor who has gone through the process is shown front and center, giving them the spotlight that often shows that as good as they may look, something’s not quite right.
On the other hand, Scream handles showcasing a de-aged Ulrich by keeping him mostly in the background. Sam sees him mostly in mirrors–in her car, the bathroom, during the movie’s bloody climax in the former Macher house. The camera never lingers on him too long and, ultimately, his digital de-aging isn’t a distraction. It’s yet another moment of a Scream movie taking a trope that’s run itself ragged and making it feel fresh, which is something this series has been doing for over two decades.
“One of our favorite things about all of these movies [is] they’re simultaneously making fun of all of these ideas and all of these tropes, while also then doing those tropes employing them in a way that is interesting and in the most successful way you’ve maybe ever seen,” Bettinelli-Olpin said. “We certainly hope to achieve even a little bit of that in this movie… It’s something that’s so unique to this franchise and it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun to make something that is always talking about itself and it’s never really taking itself too seriously.”
Now they just need to find a way to resurrect Stu (Matthew Lillard).
Scream is in theaters now.
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