For the fifth installment of a 25-year-old horror franchise being released in the typically dead month of January, this wasn’t half-bad!
“Scream” is the fifth film in the storied scary movie franchise, started by the film of the same name in 1996 (though this is not a reboot or remake). Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette all reprise their roles, while Melissa Barrera, Mason Gooding, Jenna Ortega, Dylan Minnette, and Jack Quaid join the cast. In the film, a new killer has donned the infamous Ghostface mask and begun a new crime spree, forcing Sidney Prescott to return to her hometown of Woodsboro once and for all. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett take over directing duties from Wes Craven, who passed away in 2015.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big “Scream” fan. The first film ranks among my all-time favorites, and the subsequent sequels (even the mediocre third one) hold a place in my heart (I saw 4 with my mom and late aunt and it was also the first review I ever had published). For a long time it seemed like we were never going to get a fifth installment to the franchise, especially after series creator Wes Craven’s passing. But in 2019 it was announced we would in-fact be getting a new installment, and much like “Scream 4” in 2011 it comes 11 years after the release of the previous film. A lot has happened in the world and to horror movies since then, and in true “Scream” fashion this film makes sure to offer commentary on that and introduce us to “the new rules.”
All due respect to Jamie Lee Curtis, who I truly do adore, Neve Campbell is the one true scream queen. Since her debut in 1996, Campbell has carried these films and given some of the most badass performances for any heroine in all of cinema, not just horror films. Her role here is much lighter than in “Scream 4” (and obviously the first three films) as it focuses more on being a torch-passer than the lead, but Campbell gets her one-liners to spew back to Ghostface and remind us why she has survived four different killing sprees. You do feel her and Cox’s absence in the first act (David Arquette’s Dewey is arguably the only legacy character with a starring role), but once she shows up it’s a welcome boost.
As the new lead of the show, Melissa Barrera (known for last year’s “In the Heights”) gives a solid performance as a young woman with a complex family dynamic. After her sister is the first target of the new Ghostface, we slowly learn more about Barrera’s troubled past, and it ends up being one of the most complex characters in the franchise to-date.
The rest of the new cast does a fine-enough job, with Jack Quaid getting a few fun quips and Jasmin Savoy Brown being amusing as the film geek know-it-all, including breaking down toxic fandom, recent “elevated horror” films like “The Witch” and “Get Out,” and why reboot/sequels (or “requels”) like the new “Halloween” are so popular now. We don’t get full fleshed-out characters from all of the newbies, some of them are just here to be cannon fodder for the audience’s sick delights, but I thought they all did what they had to do well.
As far as Ghostface goes, I loved what they have done with everyone’s favorite masked killer. The film makes a comment itself about how unlike Michael Meyers or Jason Voorhees, the Ghostface killer is someone new every time and doesn’t get the benefit of having the “threat” of coming back, but I think that works to the film’s advantage here. This version of Ghostface is way more brutal than previous renditions, breaking bones and thrashing his victims. Because of that, this is the bloodiest “Scream” to-date, and while I’m not complaining it may catch some viewers off-guard.
The motivations of the Ghostface killers in the “Scream” movies are usually pretty good, covering everything from achieving internet fame to good old fashion revenge to simply, nothing. I thought what the screenwriters came up for here worked well as a commentary on certain modern topics and the new rules of cinema, though it didn’t hit as hard as in previous installments.
The film is titled “Scream” purely for marketing purposes to try and not alienate those who have not seen the other films, but make no mistake: this is “Scream 5.” It pays tribute to the previous films (mostly the 1996 original but also 4), and while certain character motivations may not make complete sense to the uninitiated, I think those who just want to watch a horror film that loves horror films can go into this blind and still enjoy themselves. If this is the final installment of the “Scream” series then I think it is something that would make Wes Craven proud and be a nice send-off to one of my favorite franchises. If they choose make “Scream 6” (whether in three years or another 11) then I’m here for that, too, as there will always be something to take a stab at when it comes to scary movies.
Critics Rating: 8/10