Randy Meeks: A Comprehensive Look at the Heart of Meta-Horror in ‘Scream’

A still from 'Scream'. Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) stands to the left of the frame, in mid shot, next to a TV. Some ugly floral and lace curtains are behind him. A slasher movie plays on the TV. Randy is a young white man in his 20s, he has short brown hair in a crew cut, spiked up with gel. He wears a green ringer t-shirt and tan cargo pants. He holds a drink in one hand and is holding up his left arm in explanation.
Dimension Films

In 1996 the release of Scream began the legacy of the horror franchise that became an immediate post-modern horror classic, and truly brought late director Wes Craven’s talent for meta-filmmaking to the mainstream. The series — which spans 15 years into the life of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) — earned its fan base by actively paying homage to the slasher genre it coincidentally parodies, and for many this quality is what makes it such a remarkable accomplishment in horror. In honour of a Scream 5 release date being announced, many fans have been sent into a reminiscent phase of re-watching and rediscovering our favourite moments from the series. As my own love letter to the beloved horror franchise, I’d like to dedicate some time to explore the importance of my favourite character in Scream; Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), and not only gush about how I’m in love with him (although this is true), but more importantly discuss the significance of his character as a tool for Craven’s meta-horror masterpiece.

To start looking at the impact Randy has on the entire series, of which he is merely included in the first two films (and has a small return in the third), it’s important to look at what Scream did and what film scholars such as Valerie Wee call “hyper-postmodernism.” Wee describes the advanced level of postmodernism in Scream as a product of the digital age, and being able to reference the entire canon of horror films that led up to its release. With this unique aspect of borrowing styles from film and digital content, the birth of a critic and fan-favourite was born.

The combination of Craven’s success as a director (A Nightmare on Elm Street already under his belt), and his love of film that is so visible in Scream, Randy’s character is created as probably a semi-autobiographical version of the director himself. As a self proclaimed “love slave of Sidney Prescott”, Randy diegetically brings his knowledge of film and horror tropes to his friends at Woodsboro High, but in reality is one of Craven’s tools of acknowledging to the audience that the film is a self-referential piece. In the first Scream, Randy is a video store employee who shares his knowledge of film ad nauseum to the other characters, but with the evolution of the series comes a greater appreciation of his expertise from the characters. Setting up “the rules” for a slasher film, in the first Scream Randy is able to also set a part the way the film differs in the ‘90s postmodern era of horror. In the best example of his tendency to incorporate meta-horror to the film, he explains “the rules” to survive a horror movie which include avoiding sex and drugs, but ultimately set a precedent for the rest of the franchise. Additionally, one of his consistent strengths as a tool for meta-writing is that he acknowledges the constant fluctuation in traditional horror tropes; “It’s the millennium; motives are incidental.” 

Wee’s concept of hyper-postmodernism is really able to flourish in Scream 2, where we are introduced to the film within the film, Stab. This time around, Randy turns film geek to film major (ugh) and within the film, begins to unravel the reputation of sequels to their predecessors. One of the scenes that best demonstrates conflicting views of the credibility of sequels in the film world, takes place in Randy’s college film class, in which he and Mickey (Timothy Olyphant) debate whether sequels are capable of originality. What’s so tongue-in-cheek is Randy’s view that “Sequels suck,” and that “by definition alone they’re inferior films.” Introducing the killer in Scream 2, Mickey’s role in the film is to somewhat challenge Randy’s notion that sequels are destined to be overshadowed by their originals. It’s clear that in the Scream sequel, Randy is trying to move past the horrific events of his hometown of Woodsboro years before, and this is possibly what gives way to his eventual death in only the second film of the franchise. As heartbreaking as it is, Randy’s death marks the beginning of a new era of horror movie “rules” that are broken within the next two films in the series.

Dimension Films

Where in Scream 2, “the rules” begin to break, in Scream 3 an entirely new dynamic is set, and this is almost completely explained to the three main survivors by Randy — in video form. Though Randy’s role in the film is small, his influence on the third installment is one that is used as a guide for how to survive a hyper-postmodern horror movie. In an updated “Super Trilogy” list of his rules, Randy explains to the main three; Sidney, Gale (Courtney Cox) and Dewey (David Arquette) how the genius of a third film is that the rules no longer apply. “You are not dealing with a sequel,” he advises. “You are dealing with the concluding chapter of a trilogy.” As he literally sets the new standard for the remaining films, Randy simultaneously invites the idea that everything the Scream franchise does is to both introduce and break horror movie clichés.

This brings me to the fourth installment of Scream, and possibly the best fourth installment of any horror series, let alone movie franchises as a whole. The evolution of Randy’s character reaches its full potential in Scream 4 and this comes in two-fold. One, that he is finally recognised for creating the how-to on surviving in Woodsboro, and two, that the youth of his hometown have also gained an appreciation for film and horror, and have become almost disciples of his theories (to speak very dramatically.) The new, younger characters of Scream 4 in the emerging social media era are vastly different than the generation Randy and Sidney grew up with. Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) and Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin) emerge as the products of Randy’s legacy as the first in Woodsboro to begin to understand the horror dynamic in which the town is forever trapped in. As far as Wee’s concept of hyper-postmodernism goes regarding this fourth addition, there’s an entirely new realm that opens with the levels of intense self-awareness that occur in Scream 4. What I love about it the most is that it gives a gratifying experience to those who are upset about Randy’s death, by keeping so much of his qualities alive in the last directorial credit of Craven in the series. 

There’s so much to ponder about the future of Scream, especially after the passing of Wes Craven himself in 2015. Scream 5 directors, Matt Bettinili-Oplin and Tyler Gillett (Ready or Not)  have promised to honour the career of Craven and his clear love of horror. In asking Neve Campbell to rejoin the cast, the directors claimed their love for the Scream franchise and how much it inspired them to begin their directorial journeys. Hopefully, with Craven’s legacy in mind, the directors will continue the trajectory of where Scream 4 left us, and will embrace the influence of its most distinguished charaters as a tool for the longevity of the best horror franchise ever made.

by Danielle Kessler

Danielle (she/her) is a journalism major and cinema studies minor from California. She’s an avid Twitter user (@reserv0irthots) who loves Kristen Stewart, the Scream franchise, coming of age movies, and Community. Some of her favorite films are Almost Famous, 20th Century Women, Thelma and Louise and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but she also reviews some guilty pleasure flicks on her letterboxd

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