Two weeks into 2022 and the first major tentpole release of the new year arrives in cinemas. The movie is Scream – the latest entry in the ever-popular slasher franchise, which goes on general release today.
This new movie opens 26 years after the release of the original film, or 25 years and 25 days according to the marketing bods. For those keeping track, Scream is the fifth instalment in the series, following Scream (1996), Scream 2 (1997), Scream 3 (2000), and Scream 4 (2011).
Why isn’t this new movie called Scream 5, I hear you ask? Because these days, the trend is to name belated sequels after the original film that spawned it, rather than get bogged down in pesky numbers (see: 2018’s Halloween, 2021’s Candyman, and so on).
Irrespective of its confusing title, Scream is a bona fide sequel and not a remake, reimagining, or repeat. It continues the story set out by its predecessors, and features all the key cast members who have made it this far in the series, which includes Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Marley Shelton, and Roger L. Jackson.
Joining the legacy players are newcomers Mason Gooding, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Mikey Madison, and Jack Quaid. Meanwhile taking over directing duties from the late Wes Craven (director of Scream 1 – 4) are duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett.
As for the story, I’ll try not to give too much away, but Ghostface has returned to the town of Woodsboro and has started slicing up teens. Thing is, this can’t be any of the previous seven Ghostfaces, as they are all dead, meaning a new killer is in town.
This latest Ghostface appears to have zeroed in on Sam Carpenter and her sister, Tara. But as neither of these siblings have experience in escaping the clutches of serial killers, Sam turns to Dewey Riley, former Sheriff of Woodsboro, for assistance.
With Dewey involved, it’s not long before Gale Weathers-Riley and Sidney Prescott are also brought back into the fold, to help end this latest run of killings. But will they all survive the ordeal, or will this Ghostface succeed where others failed?
For those who are not completely into horror movies, I believe it’s important to begin this review by pointing out the Scream series is a big deal. The original film was a hugely influential picture in late ‘90s horror, and there is a lot of love in the community for the series as a whole.
Not every entry has been stellar – Scream 3 I am looking at you – but even during the weaker moments, the series has always remained entertaining. As such, there’s a significant amount of goodwill and excitement whenever a new film is released, even if the gap between instalments gets further and further apart in the process.
On a personal level, the Scream series is one of my favourite horror franchises, with the first movie in particular holding a special place in my heart. Scream was one of my gateway horror movies, along with Psycho (1960), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), and Halloween (1978), and I’m sure others will tell you a similar thing.
Going into this movie I was excited to see where the franchise would go next, while also a little apprehensive. None of the previous films had completely dropped the ball (despite wobbles with Scream 3), but would this be the sequel to buck the trend?
Well, I’m pleased to say Scream is a good entry in the series. It’s not the franchise at its peak, nor did I expect it would be, but it is a fine instalment.
As with previous movies, Scream finds a new way to inject meta dialogue and self-referential material into its story. It follows the tried and tested formula of playing with the ‘movie within a movie’ concept, with characters constantly being self-aware of their actions.
This kind of stuff does get a little stale in places, but thankfully Scream manages to circumvent too many self-referential problems by chucking in plenty of gore, some well-placed kills, and of course, the return of key characters from franchise past. No matter how many times they are wheeled out for sequels, it is always a joy to see David Arquette, Courtney Cox, and Neve Campbell back on the big screen, and once again they don’t disappoint.
One of the strengths of the Scream franchise is the way it has kept these characters a constant driving force of the series, and it wouldn’t feel like a Scream movie without them. Regardless of whether there are any further Scream sequels beyond this latest one, it is nice to see this trio again.
The other strength of the series is the ‘whodunnit?’ element of each movie, and this new film is no exception. As with all of the previous films, there is a central mystery begging to be solved, and well done to you if you manage to work it out before the finale.
I played along with the guessing game, then had my theory blown out of the water pretty early on. I continued trying to work it all out as the film progressed, until the narrative saved me the hassle and gave up the goods during the big showdown.
And speaking of showdowns, Scream’s finale is a strong one and one of the highlights of the movie. There are a couple of grizzly deaths which don’t hold back and are sure to stick in the mind long after the film concludes.
The same can be said for a hospital sequence which takes place roughly midway through the film. I expect this to be a memorable moment for fans, although for a different reason, and certainly a sequence that will get talked about.
Of course, not everything in Scream works quite so well, and I do feel the film suffers a little from a slow start, including a rather uneventful opening sequence. The Scream films are known for their strong opening scenes, which usually hook the audience, and yet this one is a bit of a dud.
It’s not terrible, but it just feels like too much of a re-tread of what has come before. Plus, it includes something truly preposterous: the sight of a teenager answering a landline telephone!
OK, I know that plenty of people still own landlines, but come on, do youngsters still answer them? Really?
But jokes aside, landline or no landline, the opening is a little flat, and the film stumbles a touch before finding its footing. However, as I say, it’s not terrible, and things soon get going.
The movie then follows the usual Scream template of misdirection and continuous death scenes, and while this may seem a little worn in places for some, I believe the humour and commentary keeps things fresh. There’s a good balance of old and new here, which should please both long-term fans and newbies equally.
Is the film scary? No, not really, but there are a couple of jump scares that may catch some audiences off guard.
I don’t expect audiences who are new to the franchise to come away from this film feeling the same way that ‘90s audiences felt about the original Scream, but then ‘00s audiences didn’t have that reaction to Scream 3, and ‘10s audiences didn’t have that reaction to Scream 4 either. That original movie was lightning in a bottle, with only Scream 2 coming close to matching it, and I can’t see that ever changing.
I believe the best we can hope for is a sequel that doesn’t bugger the whole thing up, and Scream certainly doesn’t do that. It offers enough of the things fans like, without bringing any major problems, and it delivers an enjoyable ride along the way.
It is fun, likeable, and ultimately satisfying. Don’t expect the world, hope to be entertained, and you won’t be too disappointed.
If there is another movie, then I would be more than happy to return to Woodsboro, to see what could possibly come next. Scream has left the franchise in a place whereby more films could come along, so I guess it is up to the box office to determine if there is an appetite for further stories.
For my money, we will be seeing future films, and that’s fine. So long as they can find new ways to re-spin the formula, while maintaining the mythology this franchise has built up, then count me in.
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