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Scream: Why Matthew Lillard's Ghostface Is The Most Ruthless In The Franchise

The "Scream" formula has become somewhat predictable since the 1996 meta-slasher first hit theaters. Although fans will mostly agree that the series has been solid, each new movie must think of new ways to surprise fans while keeping to the franchise rulebook.

The iconic twist of 1996's "Scream" was that there wasn't just one killer, but two. The first, of course, was final girl Sidney Prescott's (Neve Campbell) boyfriend, Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich). Throughout most of the movie, he'd been accused of being Ghostface and kept jump-scaring Sidney, only adding to his suspicious behavior. Because the film focused on him so heavily, he seemed like the too-obvious choice. Still, his reveal was shocking enough due to all the cleverly placed misdirections. And if that wasn't enough for fans, Billy's reveal also came with a second Ghostface: Billy's best friend, Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard).

Each Ghostface has tried to outdo the last, upping the stakes, the body count, and the gory kills. That said, even after six films, Stu is a fan favorite. Since the 1996 "Scream," fans have theorized that Stu isn't actually dead. The franchise has even eluded to this fan theory numerous times, including in "Scream VI."

Fans so badly want Stu to be alive because despite being Billy's lackey, he was one of the most ruthless killers in the franchise. Stu authentically treated killing like a game and had no real reason for doing it.

The rule of two

Since Billy and Stu set up the narrative of the mastermind Ghostface (Billy) and the henchman Ghostface (Stu), most of the "Scream" films have followed this formula. "Scream 3" was the only film to feature a solo killer and focused on Sidney's mysterious, unknown sibling. This didn't go over well considering it's one of the worst-received films in the franchise. "Scream VI" upped the ante by having three Ghostface killers.

The reason "Scream" has stuck to this formula is because Billy and Stu proved that it works. Billy was angry that his mother left after finding out that his father was having an affair with Sidney's mother. His anger quickly turned violent as he pulled Stu into a scheme to kill Maureen Prescott and they left Cotton Weary, another man Maureen was sleeping with, to take the fall.

What made Billy and Stu such an iconic duo was their chemistry. Billy was an uncomfortable presence on screen. Always lurking about and jump-scaring Sidney (and the audience), he felt like a threatening person. Stu, on the other hand, was over-the-top, fun, and easygoing. Billy made himself look guilty constantly throughout the movie, which made him seem like too obvious a choice for the killer. On the other hand, Stu seemed way too chill to be capable of killing. Despite how different they were, though, they agreed on one thing: Learning from horror films and playing by their rules.

Two Ghostfaces makes a lot of sense for their plan to work. Having two killers means that each could give the other an alibi for separate killings and throw off suspicion on them both. In the case of the original "Scream," the reveal of the second Ghostface was also a huge twist that no one saw coming.

Stu shows little to no remorse for his actions

Despite the reports of a killer on the loose, Stu seems carefree and acts like a typical teenager throughout most of "Scream." He's hanging out with his friends, going to parties, and joking around. Even his darker jokes about the killings can be written off as normal because dark humor is a common coping mechanism.

Once Stu's involvement in the Ghostface murders is revealed, though, it brings a lot of his behavior throughout the movie into question. In addition to the fact his ex-girlfriend Casey (Drew Barrymore) is the first murder victim, he's also seen with his current girlfriend, Tatum (Rose McGowan), multiple times. He seems like a goofy but genuinely kind boyfriend who cares about her. He's able to go through the motions of being a normal partner despite his plan to kill her. The same can be said about his willingness to joke with Randy (Jamie Kennedy) about being Ghostface.

During the house party, Stu's having a great time despite killing people that same night. When he's revealed as the second killer, he laughs at Sidney as he and Billy taunt her. Stu's having the time of his life. Not only is he enjoying the violent murders, but he's also acting like everything's fine — like there's nothing wrong with what he's doing.

Stu never seems angry, fearful, or remorseful. His only moment of rage is when Billy stabs him too deep and he retaliates by stabbing Billy back. Even when faced with the question of why he's killing people, Stu says, "Peer pressure. I'm far too sensitive." The answer emphasizes that he's not taking this seriously. Stu only shows remorse when Sidney calls the police and he mutters, "My mom and dad are gonna be so mad at me."

Stu stands out because he has no confirmed motive

The film buckles down on Stu having no motive. Billy pulled him into a murder spree and Stu agreed because he wanted to. He doesn't understand the consequences of his actions and he shows no signs of feeling guilty. So why does he do it? For Stu, it was ostensibly about the thrill of the game. For this reason, Stu's easily the most ruthless of the Ghostface killers.

Every other Ghostface has some sort of primary motivation, no matter how ridiculous. Billy wanted revenge on Sidney's family for destroying his. Laurie Metcalf's Mrs. Loomis ("Scream 2") wanted revenge for the death of her son, Billy. Roman Bridger (Scott Foley), Sidney's unknown half-brother and the only solo Ghostface, terrorized "Scream 3" because Sidney's mother rejected him. During "Scream 3," it's revealed that Roman met Billy before he killed Maureen, and edged him into killing her. Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts) wanted Sidney's fame in "Scream 4," so she staged a new killing spree that would make her the final girl.

Even the sidekick killers that came after Stu had more motive to participate in the killings than Stu did. Mickey Altieri (Timothy Olyphant) from "Scream 2" wanted to use the fame of the "Stab" movies to get famous while also demonizing horror movies by blaming them for his actions. In "Scream 4," Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin) thought he'd get to be Jill's boyfriend as they stepped into fame as the new survivors.

Richie and Amber (Jack Quaid and Mikey Madison) from 2022's "Scream" were "Stab" superfans and wanted to fix how horrible the films had gotten by making their own movie. All three Ghostfaces in "Scream VI" wanted revenge for Richie's death as it was revealed that they were Richie's father and younger siblings.

There are some discrepancies in Stu's kill count

Deciphering which Ghostface was responsible for which killing has always been a little tricky with the "Scream" films, and the original is no exception. The commonly accepted theory, however, is that Stu was responsible for three murders in total. Obviously, a year before "Scream" takes place, he helped Billy stab Sidney's mother to death. In the film's opening scene, Casey and Steve's deaths are likely a joint effort of both killers. While Billy torments Casey over the phone, Stu guts Steve in her yard. Most assume that Billy ran Casey down and killed her after. Stu was also responsible for slitting Kenny's throat.

This kill count supports the theory that you can tell the killers apart based on how they hold their knives. Stu uses both hands and therefore all of his strength when wielding Ghostface's signature hunting knife. Billy always uses the blade one-handed.

Once Stu's involvement is revealed, it can be theorized that Casey's death might have been the reward he wanted in exchange for helping Billy. "Scream" never confirms that suspicion, but Casey and Steve's deaths are particularly gruesome. Steve is literally disemboweled while tied up in the backyard. After Casey is run down and stabbed to death, Billy and Stu string her up in the trees, covered in her own gore to make a spectacle out of her body.

Considering Stu was angry with Casey, the brutality behind her death speaks to how savage Stu is. Even when he wasn't the one personally responsible for a kill, he was content to allow his friends and girlfriends to be butchered.