Warning: The following contains a minor plot detail from the beginning of the film.
Hollywood’s obsession with franchise revivals continues with Scream as the latest to adapt its source material for a new generation. This fifth installment is the first since the untimely passing of Wes Craven – director of the previous four – and sees Ready Or Not directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett helm the relaunch of the franchise.
Scream, or Scream 5 if you prefer, sees the return of Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette who all reprise their iconic roles, as well as newcomers Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Dylan Minnette, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, and Jasmine Savoy-Brown who add fresh blood to the series.
Reverance for what came before is evident to see. Everything from the opening sequence to the very last shot pays homage to the series, connecting the present to the past, whilst adding a new focus along the way. As self-aware as ever, the film knows its place and tells us as much. It describes itself as a “requel,” and makes no apologies for it. Following in the footsteps of franchises like Star Wars and Halloween, the film makes use of its legacy characters to guide newcomers into the new terrain.
Set twenty-five years after the original series of murders in Woodsboro, a new Ghostface emerges, targeting a new set of teens for their ties to the past. Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega lead the way as Samantha and Tara Carpenter – sisters separated since Sam left Woodsboro a few years prior. In a thrilling and tense recreation of the original film’s iconic opening, Tara is viciously attacked by the returning Ghostface, who leaves her broken and bloodied in the hospital. The attack draws Samantha back to the town to reunite with her sister and face the horror that awaits.
Barrera and Ortega steal the show here, with both delivering very strong performances. The pair bring their own struggles to the screen and the film takes the time to flesh out their dynamic. Adopting the role of “final girls,” with a few little twists along the way, the Carpenter sisters provide the relaunch with worthy protagonists that you can really get behind. The rest of the new cast also rise to the challenge, adding humor and disfunction to the group. The internal conflict keeps us questioning who the killer could be, with each member constantly referencing motives in one another. Jasmin Savoy Brown deserves a special mention as the “new Randy,” detailing the new rules of which everyone must be aware.
As is the case with “requels”, legacy characters tend to take a step back in favor of fresh material and Scream follows this trend. Sidney, Gale, and Dewey all make their welcomed return to the big screen but those hoping for a deep dive into their lives all these years later will be left a little disappointed. Sidney and Gale are more heavily involved in the latter half of the film leaving Dewey as the only real constant throughout. His role as the expert brought in to assist the teens gives him time to breathe and shine. It also allows Arquette to deliver his strongest performance in the series.
The meta-commentary that the franchise became synonymous with is as relevant as ever and adapted for the change in horror over the past decade. Elevated horror is a key discussion point which the film touches upon with films like The Babadook, Hereditary, and The Witch heavily referenced. Scream intelligently navigates its way through the discussion, acknowledging the changes in demand whilst gutting certain sections of the fanbase.
Speaking of gutting, Ghostface is back and more violent than ever. This is a crueler, less comical version of the infamous character. The kills are brutal and bloody and are all heightened with effective use of sound design. In a genre packed with over-elaborate slasher sequences, Scream grounds itself in gritty realism that packs a disturbing punch. Ghostface has rarely been this relentless as the stakes are well and truly raised. The identity of the killer is teased right up until the reveal, and the motive behind the murders is clever and timely.
The franchise has been known for its satirical self-examination, and although it still features, it is less prominent. Humor is used but the preference for a more serious tone is felt. While scriptwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick craft a sharp and witty screenplay, it does lose a little magic that made the original so iconic. That been said, the third act is as strong as anything since the first film, as events unfold in a visceral and savage way.
The filmmakers set about honoring the legacy left by Wes Craven and they achieve this in abundance. Stepping into the legendary shoes of Craven is an unenviable task but Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett rise to the occasion. Scream reconstructs its past in a brutal and heartfelt way that honors its legacy whilst carving its own bloody path – even if it sticks a little too close to the previous formula.
Scream is now showing exclusively in cinemas.