Synopsis – A new installment of the ‘Scream’ horror franchise will follow a woman returning to her home town to try to find out who has been committing a series of vicious crimes.
My Take – By looking at the current Hollywood landscape, it seems like no intellectual property is ever going to stay dead. These legacy sequels, or rather dubbed ‘requels’ aim to win over the current generation by using an older yet still known film or franchise to introduce a new story, very much on the lines of the older film, but also sees the older characters fittingly passing off the reins to a bunch of new/younger characters.
Keeping up with the trend, this week saw the release of the fifth entry into the ‘Scream’ franchise, which honestly seemed impossible due to the passing of horror legend Wes Craven, who had directed all the previous four installments, but here we are back on the murderous streets of the fictional town of Woodsboro.
Released in 1996, ‘Scream’ turned out to be an instant classic and helped re-define the slasher genre for the new millennium. Although it paid homage to classic films like Halloween, Friday the 13th, When a Stranger Calls, Prom Night and director Wes Craven‘s own A Nightmare on Elm Street, it didn’t exactly follow the set rules of a typical slasher, but instead director Craven and writer Kevin Williamson mixed things up by combining jump scares and gore elements with teenage angst and a meta comedy.
Even the identity of the killer, titled Ghostface, changed from one film to another, only to be revealed at the end of the film, leaving only the characters of the series, the final girl Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the bumbling but endearing Dewey Riley (David Arquette), and the obnoxious reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) to act as the thread connecting all the films.
Now helmed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who along with producer Chad Villella, form the collective known as Radio Silence, who found instant fame following the success of the 2019 horror comedy Ready or Not, this new installment with an aim to relaunch the franchise promises to deliver more of that particular mix of comedy, horror and adventure with a cast of young actors more than appropriate for a slasher.
All the while seeking to re-popularize the slasher genre for a new generation of horror fans who are now armed with smartphones, sending/receiving text messages instead of phone calls.
Thankfully, the resulting film is as delightfully bloody and entertaining as one could have expected. Right from its opening moments it is evident that the film is clearly made by fans of the series, who want to retain director Wes Craven‘s styling, but are also willing to twist the formula enough to make it stand on its own.
Set years after the events of Scream 4 (2011), the story follows Sam (Melissa Barrera), who following an attack on her estranged younger sister, Tara (Jenna Ortega), returns to Woodsboro, with her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid). But upon facing an attack herself, she approaches retired Deputy Sheriff of Woodsboro Dewey (David Arquette), informing him that a new Ghostface is in town, asking his help to protect her sister from a killer, who has already begun slicing and dicing his way through town.
Though Dewey is hesitant at first, but based on his experience, he immediately puts the spotlight on Tara’s friend group, which includes Amber (Mikey Madison), Liv (Sonia Ammar), Wes (Dylan Minnette) and siblings, Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding), because if they aren’t victims, they’re the killer.
Not only is this new film an enjoyable horror on its own, but it also enfolds other slashers with a deft touch by directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick. They satirize the slasher genre, with its ready-made tropes, in a way that freshens the genre while still being hilariously derivative. As expected, the film uses its plot as a meta-commentary on whatever the tropes of Hollywood filmmaking are at that moment. Here, you have a film examining what it means to revisit an iconic franchise decades after it debuted for a requel of its own.
To that end, it uses the same naming convention as 2018’s Halloween, while also pointing out the missteps many franchises have made, including picking and choosing what lore to follow and not treating the character you’ve grown to love with a proper level of respect. And as it points these things out, the film itself manages to easily sidestep practically every single one, bringing the franchise back to its roots whilst still finding a way to say something new about the current state of horror.
From calling out the snide elitism of the term elevated horror to plenty of digs at toxic fandom, who demand that the sequels to their beloved films are done exactly as they want them. This one truly does feel like a Scream for 2022 that manages to stay on topic, as opposed to Scream 4’s last-minute swerve into a critique of internet celebrity culture mostly removed from horror tropes.
Also the film is brutally violent. That probably sounds like a silly thing to say about a ‘Scream’ film, but it felt like they took it up a notch this time around. Some of the kills are absolutely ruthless and frankly a little hard to look at.
In terms of the familiar faces, David Arquette gets the most to do as the reluctant mentor type often found in these legacy films, and he does a solid job playing a more downtrodden and sloppy version of his usually straight-laced character. Though, Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox appear in smaller roles, they crush their already well layered out roles. The new cast that does most of the heavy lifting here.
Both Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega are incredibly believable as the Carpenter sisters, and they absolutely shine in their roles. Their sibling chemistry is believable and the strained relationship between them is heartbreaking. Jack Quaid too shines as the completely unprepared for the situation but lovable boyfriend.
They are equally well supported by Mikey Madison, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Dylan Minnette, Mason Gooding, Sonia Ammar, Kyle Gallner and Marley Shelton. On the whole, ‘Scream’ is a fun addition to the franchise that expertly blends the source material while creating something new.
Rated – R
Run Time – 114 minutes