Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera out: Is this the death knell for the Scream franchise?

Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera out: Is this the death knell for the Scream franchise?

Following yesterday’s news that Scream and Scream VI star Melissa Barrera was fired from the horror movie franchise due to the actress’ social media posts about the Israel Hamas war, it has been confirmed that another mainstay of the new films has dropped out.

Indeed, Wednesday star Jenna Ortega has exited the upcoming Scream 7 due to her shooting schedule on the second season of the exec-produced Tim Burton series – confirmed by Deadline, who broke the news.

Ortega’s departure was apparently not influenced by Barrera’s firing and was in the works months ago before the SAG-AFTRA strike began. Ortega also needs to wrap filming on Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice 2.

Ortega and Barrera co-starred as sisters Tara and Sam Carpenter in the 2022 revival of Scream and this year’s sequel Scream VI. They brought life back to the dormant horror franchise along with new and returning stars.

Ortega was a massive draw for audiences. She received several nominations (including a Golden Globe Comedy TV Actress nom) for her turn as the title character of Wednesday. Her presence in the films led the last Scream instalment to become the franchise’s best opening ever at $44.4 million in the US and a gross of $67 million (€61.3 million) globally.

The seventh instalment and third chapter in the revival set of films was announced earlier this year, with director Christopher Landon (Happy Death Day, Freaky), after Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett stepped away after steering the franchise revival.

From left: Devyn Nekoda, Liana Liberato, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega and Courteney Cox attend the world premiere of 'Scream VI' - March 2023
From left: Devyn Nekoda, Liana Liberato, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega and Courteney Cox attend the world premiere of 'Scream VI' - March 2023 - Evan Agostini/AP

As a reminder, Barrera was fired from Scream 7 earlier this week due to her social media posts supporting Palestine amid the ongoing conflict with Israel.

In a post on her Instagram Stories, she wrote: “I too come from a colonized country. Palestine WILL be free. They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds.”

In another post, she added: “Gaza is currently being treated like a concentration camp. Cornering everyone together, with no where to go, no electricity no water. People have learnt nothing from our histories. And just like our histories, people are still silently watching it all happen. THIS IS GENOCIDE & ETHNIC CLEANSING.”

Spyglass Media Group stated that Barrera’s posts were interpreted as antisemitic.

“Spyglass’ stance is unequivocally clear,” said a statement from the studio. “We have zero tolerance for antisemitism or the incitement of hate in any form, including false references to genocide, ethnic cleansing, Holocaust distortion or anything that flagrantly crosses the line into hate speech.”

After Barrera’s firing, Landon posted and deleted a statement on X that read: “Everything sucks. Stop yelling. This was not my decision to make.”

Additionally, fans called to boycott Scream 7, with the hashtag ‘#BoycottScream7’ trending on X.

Barrera released a statement a day after being fired: “I condemn Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. I condemn hate and prejudice of any kind against any group of people,” she began the post. “As a Latina, a proud Mexicana, I feel the responsibility of having a platform that allows me the privilege of being heard, and therefore I have tried to use it to raise awareness about issues I care about, and to lend my voice to those in need.”

She continued: “Every person on this earth- regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or socio-economic status- deserves equal human rights, dignity and, of course, freedom. I believe a group of people are NOT their leadership, and that no governing body should be above criticism. I pray day and night for no more deaths, for no more violence, and for peaceful co-existence."

“I will continue to speak out for those that need it most and continue to advocate for peace and safety, for human rights and freedom,” she added.

Hollywood clearly has a pro-Palestine issue and it faces many challenges over an extremely divisive geopolitical issue.

In the case of Scream, considering the franchise's two lead actors are now out, is it time to call it quits on the franchise?

Is it time for Scream to end?

Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega - the sisters at the heart of the revived Scream films
Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega - the sisters at the heart of the revived Scream films - Philippe Bosse/PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Scream is one of the most beloved modern horror franchises, with the identity-shifting character of Ghostface stalking and butchering teens in each instalment since 1996.

The films shook up horror movies with a use of self-awareness and meta-textuality, which created a distinctive relationship between them and their audience.

The 2022 revival of Scream brought back original stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, and successfully introduced franchise newcomers Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Mason Gooding and Jasmine Savoy Brown, as the “Core Four”.

As things stand, the key question is: Considering how the two sisters played by Barrera and Ortega have been set up as the central narrative focus point, can the seventh film continue without them?

On the one hand, losing both actresses, especially Ortega, will make it difficult for the franchise to continue. As previously stated, she was a massive draw for fans, and thanks to Scream and Wednesday, she’s become one of Hollywood’s brightest stars. As for Gooding and Savoy Brown, they are great in their roles but can’t keep the franchise going as a duo.

So, it’s not looking good, with the franchise's current path having been well and truly derailed.

On the other hand, and while it would be disrespectful to write off both Tara and Sam Carpenter after having asked a new generation of Scream fans to invest in their ongoing storyline, the sixth instalment of the franchise does offer some closure to the sisters’ arcs. As such, while it is tempting to bury Ghostface, there’s little doubt that the studio and writers can find a way around these disappointing exits.

The Scream films, with all their highs and lows, have been one of the most consistent horror franchises of all time. And this isn’t the first time that the series has run into trouble.

After all, Scream 3 had to be completely rewritten after the Columbine school shooting hit too close to home with the original script, which would have seen one of the original Ghostface(s), Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard), alive and scarred after the events of the first Scream film, leading a cult of high school Ghostface killers. The rewritten Scream 3 ended up being the franchise’s low point, but it survived.

And then there’s the matter of OG heroine and ultimate ‘90s final girl Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, who did not return with other legacy cast member Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox) in Scream VI. But more on that in a bit.

Let’s also not forget that considering the six films so far have raked in profits of $911 million, the seventh film stands to take the series into the $1 billion global box office sphere. And no studio is going to let that opportunity slip through its fingers.

However, will the fans remain faithful to the beloved series?

There’s only one way they can assure this: Bring back original Scream Queen Sidney Prescot.

Making sure Ghostface continues to slice and dice

Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott
Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott - Paramount Pictures

For Scream VI, franchise linchpin Neve Campbell declined to return for the first time due to a pay dispute.

This left Courteney Cox as the only actor who has appeared in every Scream film since the beginning. Because *spoiler alert* David Arquette’s Dewey didn’t make it out of the fifth film with an oxygen habit.

At the time, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet expressed hope that Campbell would come back to the series in the future.

There is no news yet on whether she was expected to be part of Scream 7 or not.

However, recent interviews have suggested Campbell might be done with the Scream franchise.

In September, Campbell told KiSS 92.5 FM: "As much as I love the characters that I’ve played and the ones that I’ve had a history with, the concept of equal pay is also very important to me. We’re still not there yet. I really do believe that the offer would have been different had I been male. I can’t prove that, but it’s the feeling I have – the way I was treated was not great. It feels disrespectful, so at what point does self-respect come into play? It always needs to be there.”

Now is the time for Spyglass to grow up, graduate to modern times by embracing equal pay (it’s hard to fathom why this is still an issue in 2023) and smell the blood in the water...

If they don’t patch things up with Campbell and get her on board for Scream 7, in a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency move, then and only then will fans be legitimate in considering the Scream franchise dead after six films.

If they let the golden opportunity to bring back the films’ favourite protagonist slip, they’ll be doomed to rehash the same formula with a new cast. And another franchise reboot isn’t what Scream deserves right now. The excellent Christopher Landon deserves better to play with for Scream 7. So do the fans.

Sidney to the rescue? Let’s hope so.