Scream is a franchise that paints its women with a strong, independent flourish of kickass brilliance. Sidney Prescott, who is arguably horror’s greatest final girl, and Gale Weathers, are two of the genre’s greatest heroines, both encompassing the sheer determination and will mandatory to survive four separate attacks. While thinking of Scream, these characters are deservedly revered for their contributions to the slasher subgenre, however, an equal hero tends to fall by the wayside.
We first meet Dewey Riley in Scream as the 25-year-old deputy sheriff of Woodsboro. The older brother of Sidney’s best friend, Tatum, Dewey takes on the responsibility of keeping Sid safe when she becomes the target of a local serial killer. When famed reporter/Sidney’s mortal enemy, Gale Weathers, rolls into town to report on the string of murders, Dewey teams with the reporter, developing feelings for her as they attempt to uncover the mystery. During the film’s climax, Dewey’s sister is murdered by the killer, and Dewey himself is stabbed in the back, with his survival not being revealed until the end of the movie.
In the first film alone, the charming performance of David Arquette establishes exactly who Dewey Riley is, and who he would continue to be throughout the series. With a “cool” sense of humor that only he finds funny, Dewey is a pure, light-hearted character that lends elevated soul to a franchise filled with death. He is an ever-selfless protector of the law and the people he loves most in the world.
In Scream 2, which turns 20 years old this year, Dewey returns again (this time with a limp due to the severe nerve damage in his back) to protect Sidney, who he views as his only remaining family after the death of Tatum. Angry at Gale over her “inexperienced” depiction of him in her new book about the Woodsboro murders, he still agrees to work with her as they try to find the new killer.
After rekindling the blossoming romance from their first encounter, Dewey and Gale realize that they’re in the same building as the killer. The pair become separated, with Gale being chased into a soundproof room. Dewey enters the room on the opposite side of the window and is attacked by the killer. As a final selfless act before he is presumably murdered, Dewey grabs the microphone and tells Gale to run. Miraculously, Dewey again survives being stabbed in the back by a killer.
In the third installment of the Scream franchise, Dewey Riley remains a police officer, though he appears to be on leave so that he may serve as the “technical adviser” on the set of Stab 3. However, Dewey was actually investigating the appearance of a new potential killer because he found out that someone was searching for Sidney with bad intentions.
After the new killer surfaces and begins claiming victims, Dewey immediately aids Gale and the others in the investigation. Later, when Sidney is attacked and almost killed by the new Ghostface, Dewey shoots the killer in the head, finally managing to bag a killer for himself – his only act of murder throughout the entire series. At the end of the film, he and Gale become engaged.
Fast forward several years and Scream 4 finds a more serious Dewey married to Gale and living in Woodsboro. Now the local sheriff, Dewey is in charge of the newest slew of dead bodies. Alongside his deputy, Dewey works to stop the new killer(s), finally realizing her identity just in time to stop her from murdering Sidney. Though he again is roughed up by the killer (his head is bashed with a bedpan multiple times), Dewey survives and is finally able to live in peace, knowing that the two people he loves most are finally safe from harm.
Though David Arquette’s Dewey Riley isn’t the biggest badass of the series, he remains the most pure, selfless, likable person in a stellar group of characters. He’s an all-around good guy and an unsung hero of one of horror’s greatest franchises. Here’s to you, Sheriff Riley. Here’s to you.