Anatomy of a Scream Queen: Neve Campbell

Neve Campbell (“Sidney Prescott”), left, and Courteney Cox (“Gale Weathers”) star in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group's "Scream." Photo by Brownie Harris.
Neve Campbell (“Sidney Prescott”), left, and Courteney Cox (“Gale Weathers”) star in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group's "Scream." Photo by Brownie Harris. /

Scream Queens. A term used to describe actresses famous for a role or roles within the horror genre. They’re the audience’s hope to horror’s hate, a beacon of light within the darkness of despair, a much-needed breath in the face of suffocating odds. We love them unconditionally and horror films would never be the same without them. We’re looking into Neve Campbell.

Our first (and certainly not least) featured Scream Queen is known for her pragmatic realism and tenacious toughness. She helped bring a franchise to life solidifying it as a bonafide classic among the very classics it was imitating.  Join me, horror fam, as we delve into the Anatomy of a Scream Queen with Neve Campbell.

Neve Campbell: Birth of a scream queen

Neve Adrianne Campbell was born in Guelph, Ontario, Canada (a city close to Toronto) to a family of performers. Her father taught high school drama and both sets of grandparents were performers, her maternal pair ran a theatre company in the Netherlands.

She began acting at age 15 in a theatre production of Phantom of the Opera in Toronto. From there, Campbell eventually landed her first professional role in Coca-Cola ad followed by an uncredited cameo in the Canadian TV show My Secret Identity (1988-1991) which starred Scream 2 (1997) actor Jerry O’Connell. She had roles on various Canadian shows until she moved to Los Angeles and was ultimately cast in Party of Five (1995-2000).

Neve Campbell: Rise to prominence

Now before you ask, “When do we get to the Scream Queen stuff?” just hold your horses, we’re almost there. Campbell’s rise to fame wasn’t overnight. She slogged it out in the trenches of both Canadian and Hollywood industries auditioning and auditioning for close to a decade before landing the role of Julia Salinger in Fox’s 90’s drama Party of Five. While the series ran for a solid six seasons and Campbell was a huge part of the show’s success, it wasn’t until she was cast in one film that her star would launch into the stratosphere.

Scream (1996) is the Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984) directed meta-slasher that tells the story of a group of friends stalked by a horror movie-obsessed killer in the small town of Woodsboro, California. Campbell was cast as Sydney Prescott, the main protagonist in the film and her legendary face off against the killer known as Ghostface is the stuff of horror cinema magic.

Neve Campbell: Do you like scary movies?

Audiences agreed as the $15 million budgeted film grossed over $179 million at the box office. Scream’s popularity meant that a sequel would follow and one year after the release of the first, Campbell, now a household name, was back to reprise her Sydney Prescott. Scream 2, also directed by Craven, saw the surviving characters from the first return with a new batch of victims for Ghostface to taunt and dispatch. This time the setting had changed from small town Woodsboro to Windsor College where Sydney is enrolled.

The film took the self-referential gimmick to new heights as it features a fictional movie called Stab based on the events of the first Scream film. This version of the story featured Tori Spelling (Scary Movie 2, 2000) Sydneyin Campbell’s Prescott role and Campbell herself reprises her role as the actual Sydney where she once again goes head-to-head against Ghostface.

Neve Campbell: The unholy trilogy

Scream 2’s $170+ box-office haul certified another installment for the fledgling franchise and in true Scream fashion, the survivors of the last were tapped to appear in the next. Campbell once again donned the Prescott moniker and dodged swiping knife blades from none other than Ghostface for what was meant to be the final film in the trilogy.

It seems Hollywood is making a trilogy too (this is a Scream film after all) and a real-life Ghostface is back to drop the final curtain on his long-time nemesis, Sydney. Campbell is back as Prescott who has more grit in this outing, as is Courteney Cox (TV’s upcoming Shining Vale, 2022) as opportunistic reporter Gale Weathers and David Arquette (The Cottage, 2012) as screw up cop Dewey Riley.

Neve Campbell: A new beginning

Like most horror franchises the promise of a final chapter usually means there will be more to come and the Scream franchise is no different. 10 years after the events of Scream 3 closed the door on the Ghostface saga,  Sydney was back with Campbell bringing a brand-new set of meta-inspired problems back to Woodsboro in Scre4m (2011).

In his final directorial effort before he passed away in 2015, Wes Craven brought his 90’s franchise into the new millennium as Sydney embarks on a book tour to promote her best-selling self-help book. The problems begin when she makes a final stop in Woodsboro and Ghostface shows up to spoil the party on the fifteenth anniversary of the original murders.

Neve Campbell: Not just playing it for screams

While the rest of Campbell’s work falls into the more dramatic genre with projects like House of Cards (2016-2017), Drowning Mona (2000) and Wild Things (1998), she has also snuck in a couple of horror genre gems that most people forget about.

The Craft (1996) saw Campbell in this coming of age story set against the backdrop of witchcraft. This angsty 90’s classic, which saw a reboot in 2020 from horror aficionados Blumhouse called The Craft Legacy. The original film was a smash hit having been released just after the Scream’s climb to box-office dominance and featuring Campbell Scream co-star Skeet Ulrich (Escape Room, 2017).

She also starred in the TV movie The Canterville Ghost, a family-friendly horror adaptation of the Oscar Wilde comedic short story where she played a teenage girl with the capability of freeing a trapped English ghost inside a haunted mansion. Starring alongside Sir Patrick Stewart (Green Room, 2015) Campbell stole the show as the salty Ginny Otis who misses her friends back home in America when she’s uprooted and dragged to dreary old England to live in a haunted mansion with a mischievous ghost as her perpetual roommate.

Neve Campbell: Certified scream queen

While her catalog isn’t rich with a multitude of horror genre fare, Neve Campbell is without a doubt a Scream Queen in every meaning of the phrase. Her work in the Scream franchise alone firmly plants her in this position but throw in her work in The Craft and The Canterville Ghost and her horror cred get almost unbeatable.

You can catch Neve on January 14th when she reprises her iconic Sydney Prescott role facing off against Ghostface once more in Scream (2022) released by Paramount Pictures and only in theatres.

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