20 years ago, Wes Craven proved that slasher films could still offer something fresh and original with SCREAM. For a film that constantly pointed out all of the tropes and cliches in slasher films, SCREAM offered one of the more original twist endings by revealing more than one man was behind the mask.
The more obvious choice throughout the movie was that Sidney’s boyfriend Billy was the killer, especially since his moody outsider personality clashed the most with his peers. At one point, Randy even goes on a tirade explaining Billy being the killer fits the slasher movie formula, let alone SCREAM’s penchant to introduce Billy with jump scares and musical stings. But even if Billy was just another cliché that SCREAM followed in its adherence to slasher movie law, his partner-in-crime, Stu, broke the mold.
One of the things so many people felt was terrifying about John Carpenter’s original HALLOWEEN was the fact that there was no true motive given to Michael Myers’s actions. Other than it being known that he killed his sister as a child, there is no explanation given for why he stalked and murdered several teenagers. This is part of the same reason as why Stu Macher is such a terrifying character in SCREAM: with Billy being the obvious suspect to everyone, Stu was able to carry out most- if not all- of the killings without ever being suspected.
The climactic scene in the kitchen showed that Billy was truly the brains of the operation, while Stu was mostly a lackey, nevertheless ready, willing, and able to commit grisly attacks on his friends and neighbors for no other reason than because Billy wanted him to. Stu didn’t even truly know why Billy wanted to kill Maureen Prescott, or anyone else for that matter, before he agreed to take part in his plan. When Billy revealed to Sidney that his mother left when she discovered his father and Maureen were having an affair, Stu is shocked. This could be due to just how serious Billy had become in that moment, but it could also be argued that Stu never actually knew this detail. That means Stu never asked for a deeper motive or reason to Billy’s bloodlust, and instead was willing to accept any excuse that allowed him to kill and disembowel people.
Upon reviewing Stu’s actions and personality throughout the film, one can see various signs that he suffered from some form of antisocial personality disorder, but sadly the teenage climate at the time was the perfect cover for him. There was not a single point in the whole film that Stu showed any sort of remorse for his actions, or even understood the concept of empathy for others. When Sidney, haunted by the death of her mother, asks her friends how someone could bring themselves to gut another person, everyone understood that she meant it in a figurative sense of morals and ethics. Stu didn’t get this. Stu explained the literal, physical actions that would be required to do so. Everyone wrote it off as being a tasteless joke, but there was nothing in that moment to truly suggest he was kidding. Instead, Billy had to step in to have him watch what he said, and Stu’s “liver alone” pun shows him attempting to recover by over-compensating on making jokes.
Stu didn’t understand her question, because Stu had no concept of ethics or morality. This is why Billy had to remind him so many times throughout the movie to watch what he said around people, because Stu was borderline sociopathic. This is why Billy made sure to keep him under-thumb for his plan, because when left to his own devices Stu was unpredictable. The killings throughout the movie show that Stu was a showman in his work. Most of his kills involved brutal demonstrations of gutting the victims and then hanging them up for other people to see. He loved the attention he got and the fear he could create. Even when he killed Gail’s cameraman Kenny, it was quick slash across the throat to get him out of the way, but he later took the time to pick up Kenny’s lifeless body and place him on top of the news van in a way that would have the most gruesome effect once discovered. Stu took pride in his work, bragging about how it “takes a man” to gut someone and string them up, and referred to it as “Christmas” seeing how much attention and chaos surrounded the killings he committed. With this sort of mentality, it would only be a matter of time before Stu was caught without Billy holding his leash. Billy, however, understood this, and had a plan for Stu as well.
As Billy and Stu explain the extent of their plan to Sidney, Stu makes a comment that some don’t pay much attention to. Stu states that the reason he and Billy will be the only two people to survive the massacre is because they have to be alive to “plan the sequel.” For the audience, it played as another meta-joke about slasher films, but it also meant Stu planned to keep on killing. As far as he revealed, Billy had no plans to carry on with the killings after exacting his revenge on Sidney’s family. As we’d seen throughout the movie, Billy’s plan was the only thing keeping Stu in control, and he was volatile enough to go off and do it on his own if Billy did not want to participate. His sociopathic nature meant he’d make no plans about who he would kill or how, and would become far more likely to get caught. This explains why Billy planned to kill Stu that night as well, and make it seem like an accident by cutting him too deep. Billy obviously knew what kind of damage Stu could do if he survived, and at one time that was exactly where the series planned on going.
In 2009, Matthew Lillard, the actor that portrayed Stu, spoke in an interview on the BOB BENDICK PODCAST about the character and the SCREAM franchise in general. During the interview he revealed that he had talked with screenwriter Kevin Williamson at one point about bringing Stu back for the third film in the franchise. Originally Williamson planned for SCREAM 3 to have Sidney return to Woodsboro, and a new group of teenagers would fall victim to Ghostface. Ultimately the major twist would be that Stu survived his supposed death in the first film, and organized the killings from prison. A fan club of the STAB films, the film-in-a-film series based on the events of SCREAM, would stage several murders in order to trap Sidney in a sick game that would ultimately target her as their victim. This storyline would have crafted Stu into a character much more akin to Charles Mason, with a band of loyal followers willing to commit violence at his command. This plot was ultimately scrapped after the events of Columbine, but showed just how twisted Williamson felt Stu could truly become.
People usually don’t put too much thought into Stu Macher when they think back on SCREAM. Even when rewatching the film, the revelation that Billy was involved in the killings overshadowed the reveal of Stu’s involvement. What may be most frightening is how no one in the film ever suspected Stu, either. Everyone was too busy focusing on Billy and how well he fit the slasher film formula to realize that one of the several brash, insensitive, loud-mouth kids making jokes about the murders was actually the one killing everyone. Stu wasn’t a demon haunting people’s dreams, an unstoppable zombie in a hockey mask, or even a suspect in the murders. As far as everyone knew, he was just another teenager, but he actually wasn’t. There was something unexplained about Stu. Something that will never be explained, in a movie that constantly claims everything follows a formula. That is what makes him the most terrifying; he’s an exception to the rules.