Amidst a whole host of “legacy sequels,” the horror genre is catching up and, as usual, it’s subverting any trope it can find. The latest sequel-that’s-not-really-a-sequel is Scream — yes, with the same title as the first film — as the Ghostface Killer returns to Woodsboro once again for another murder spree. The final murder spree, perhaps? With the inevitable success of 2022’s Scream, not bloody likely.
Series mainstays Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette are back in action for Scream, but unlike the previous four films, they’re not the focal points. Melissa Barrera takes the reins as our “final girl,” Sam Carpenter, who returns to Woodsboro with her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) after her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) is attacked and gravely wounded. True to form, a new killer has donned the by-now trademarked Ghostface mask and black robes, and seems to be targeting victims connected to the original massacre, depicted in the original 1996 Scream.
I have to say, I do appreciate the attention to detail and continuity. This isn’t so much a commendation on this new Scream film as it is for the entire franchise, but the new film brings back elements and characters that many casual viewers may have completely forgotten about. Most of it’s better unspoiled, but it’s rewarding for the dedicated fans as well as the aforementioned casuals. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll refer to the new film as 5cream — a missed marketing opportunity if there was one.
Another thing worth mentioning is that 5cream is the first in the series not directed by Wes Craven, who passed away in 2015. Knowing this does change the experience, but despite the fact that it’s different, it’s still very much a Scream movie. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett assume directorial duties, with their horror prowess having been proven with 2012’s V/H/S and 2019’s Ready or Not.
For a film that easily could have been a soulless cash grab, 5cream is as fun and twisty as the franchise’s other installments. And thank goodness that soulless cash grabs aren’t Scream’s style! There’s not necessarily any new ground being broken here, but it’s hard not to be swept up by the mystery. One thing that 5cream does better than most of its predecessors is the finger-pointing and “whodunnit” aspect — as with any good murder mystery, everyone is a suspect. I’m still not entirely sure that the final reveal is completely earned, but sometimes that’s how it is with these movies; everything’s building to that reveal, and there’s almost no way it can be 100% satisfying or reasonable. I must say, though, I didn’t see this one coming.
The fifth entry in a horror franchise has no reason being this good. Granted, Scream is a very consistent series, arguably one of the most dependable in terms of quality (let’s just pretend Scream 3 was just a bad dream). The series’ meta nature lends itself very well to a “requel” — not quite reboot, not quite sequel — like this fifth Scream is. It’s not the best of the franchise, but it’s definitely a close second. If anything, 5cream is a great reminder as to how horror can stay fresh while playing on the tropes of the modernized genre. [Grade: A]
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Writers: James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick
Starring: Melissa Barrera, Jack Quaid, David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox
Rated: R for strong bloody violence, language throughout and some sexual references
Fun Fact: Arquette, who is a certified Bob Ross painting instructor, taught several of the cast members how to paint like the legendary artist during filming breaks.
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