Big spoilers ahead for this deep dive into Mikey Madison’s incredible portrayal of Amber.
This article contains major spoilers for Scream.
Wes Craven is a horror master and a true legend of the slasher subgenre. He paved the way for many directors, gave the audience one of the best stories and most importantly invented Ghostface. The infamous character recently had a chance to shine as the fifth installment of the Scream Franchise debuted on January 14th. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, aka Radio Silence, have done an excellent job creating a chapter worthy of Wes Craven’s legacy.
After the rise and fall of the previous “co-ghostface”, Jill Roberts, aka Sidney Prescott’s cousin, you wouldn’t think we’d get another more twisted villain. But these assumptions were wrong. At that moment, Amber Freeman (Mikey Madison) enters the room, a faint smile on her face as if she’s hiding something. That’s not to say she’s any better than her female predecessor – she’s unique, well-made, and the ideal villain for Gen Z.
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The latest installment is filled with character complexity, plot twists and nostalgia, especially with the return of the original trio: Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette). Ghostface is hunting Tara (Jenna Ortega) and her sister Sam (Melissa Barrera), who is harboring a dark secret that ties them to the original. When Ghostface strikes, everyone becomes a suspect, including Tara’s friends: Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding), who happen to be Randy Meeks’ niece and nephew, and Wes Hicks—Judy Hicks’ son—Amber (Mikey Madison) and Liv (Sonia Ammar). Sam soon joins them in Woodsboro, accompanied by her boyfriend, Richie (Jack Quaid). But all is not as it seems, and the killer is closer than Sam ever thought.
There are many amazing things to say Scream. One of them is without a doubt the inevitable but always surprising revelation of the Ghostface. Richie, Sam’s boyfriend, and Amber – Tara’s girlfriend – are behind the mask and the murders. The couple met online at a horror fansite and decided to bring Ghostface back to life. What didn’t help was Amber’s move to the infamous mansion of a certain Stu Macher. From there it only got worse. The dangerous duo kills in the name of their revered genre, often scoffing at the term sublime horror. The definition categorizes a newly invented horror subgenre that features an often complicated, mind-altering narrative about grief, motherhood, etc., alongside the horror elements.
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Even more spectacular is the final act. The climax of the action takes place in the legendary kitchen where Stu and Billy tried to carry out their heinous deeds 25 years ago. With their attention to detail, they are Ready or Not Creators excel and deliver an episode that meets the expectations of both older and younger audiences.
Amber’s character and personality are thoroughly altered once the masks are removed. It reveals an incredibly cunning, sinister woman who is also a bloodthirsty killer with a maniacal obsession with the horror genre and the idea of ”going back to the original”. In fact, the death scenes are depicted in Scream are extremely cruel, especially those performed by Amber. If it’s not the slit throat straight through the cheek, then it’s the bones that break. Though Jill, as the girl’s predecessor, continues to earn plaudits and attention as a female slasher killer, Madison’s character amplifies the killings. This eventually leads to one of the franchise’s most heartbreaking death scenes – the murder of Dewey Riley.
“It’s an honor,” Amber’s words echo, before turning the knives lower and “It’s done[es] the work.” Madison’s character becomes an integral part of the franchise as he kills off a member of the iconic trio, cementing her position as one of the main villains. Through it all, Mikey Madison gives a truly brilliant performance to remember.
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The new Scream is all about going back to the original. Though the entire franchise essentially mocks horror fans and invites us to debate the genre and whether movies influence our actions, something about the fifth installment feels more sinister and even gory. Richie and Amber become the ultimate “new and improved” Billy and Stu, targeting those related to the original characters. The film introduces and becomes a requel at the same time; a new subgenre about going back in time and connecting generations. In the final act, Amber doesn’t shy away from expressing her deep love for slashers, her obsession with Stu’s mansion, and her dislike of “sublime horror.” Especially the latter, just like Stu, makes her drool. Once again, the incredible eye for detail is evident in this scene. It’s a perfect nod to longtime fans.
The character is written in a way that is both amusing, complex, and terrifying. “See, we had to bring back the old characters for it to matter. Can’t have a bonafide Halloween without Jamie Lee!” she exclaims. In another scene, after being hit by a bottle of sticky liquid, Amber exclaims, “Fucking hand sanitizer?” The line may be a reference to the global pandemic and the use of hand sanitizer by almost everyone in the world.
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Mikey Madison stuns audiences and transforms into a new breed of serial killer who will stop at nothing. Amber essentially becomes a “sublime” version of the true horror fan during her hateful and murderous rampages. The character is a showcase for the toxic side of fandoms, full of gaslighting and cyberbullying. Amber aspires to be the new icon as she believes Sidney, Gale and Dewey should retire, preferably straight to the coffin. Regardless of who Amber is or what her character represents in terms of genre (a genre largely ignored by the Academy of Motion Pictures), her demise and the way it’s executed are simply the best aspects from that Scream.
If you’re a fan of Mikey Madison, you might remember her as Sadie, one of the Manson girls, in Quentin Tarantino Once upon a time in Hollywood. The film is a recreation of history as we know it, starring Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. Madison’s craftsmanship and skill are immediately apparent and stun audiences, especially after her brilliant “flamethrower” death at the hands of DiCaprio’s Dalton. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet go further by recreating the scene in and referencing it directly Scream
Despite the polarizing debate about Once upon a time in Hollywoodd, the correlation between both sequences was a brilliant idea, especially when trying to highlight Mikey Madison’s talent. From start to finish, her performance is solid and thought-provoking. As she establishes herself as the new female villain Screamshe joins the ranks of other versions of Ghostface as one of the most complex and interesting killers to be featured.
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Amber’s sick ambition is unmistakable; She tries to be of the new generation with Richie Billy and Stu and they continuously make progress on their crimes. Finally, in one of her final moments, she yells, “Time to pass the torch!” as he chokes Gale. Moments later, her position changes drastically to the true Last Girl’s leverage. “Have fun with that torch,” says Sidney, her gaze fixed on Amber’s lifeless body after being killed by Gale; it’s the perfect revenge. But according to the legendary rules, a killer is always there for a final scare. Sure enough, badly burned but still inside, Amber runs towards the group with a knife but is quickly stopped by Tara.
The torch mentioned above can be read symbolically and is meant to be shared rather than passed on. and Scream demonstrates this. The viewer is treated to a solid, bloody story, elaborate killings, and a serial killer straight from hell who takes horror movies a bit too seriously. With a perfect combination of features related to both the new and old generation that have “lived and breathed” the franchise, is the fifth installment becomes an important part of the franchise. It fits in there perfectly as Amber claims her place as the most brutal female villain around Scream.