If there was one movie going to kick off me going to the theater at the beginning of the year, that honor had to go to Scream. For me, to be excited about a horror movie in January is such a rarity, and I typically stay away from them, even if they come out the first weekend of the year. Still, how could fans not be over the moon about the fact we actually got ourselves a fifth movie in this long-running horror franchise?
What’s the Story: After a new killer donning the Ghostface (voiced by Roger L. Jackson) mask and begins killing teenagers in the town of Woodsboro, 25 years after the original murders in then-unrecognized town become infamous, sees the return of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Dewey Riley (David Arquette), and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) to, once again, get through another deadly situation on their hands, hopefully, they and the others will survive with a connection to the past.
Was I excited for Scream, also known as “Scream 5?” Well, it’s one of my most anticipated films of the year. Not only is original Scream one of my favorite movies of all time, but it’s absolutely my favorite horror movie ever. Back then, when the genre was getting pretty stale in the ‘90s, director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson managed to make the perfect deconstruction of the genre with its self-awareness of how they poke fun at them while doing the same thing. I will go as far as to say it’s a masterpiece. And with every successful series, it comes with its fair share of sequels. Scream 2 doesn’t get enough credit, and despite its flaws, it’s a solid horror sequel, in my opinion. On the other hand, Scream 3 is one of the most disappointing films I’ve ever seen, and I don’t understand its recent resurgence. And while Scream 4 wasn’t particularly scary, its clever take on Internet fame made it a relatively underappreciated sequel.
I didn’t think making a fifth movie was possible because the main reason being Craven isn’t around since he passed away in 2015 from Cancer. So how can you do another one without the Master of Horror himself? We last saw this series 11 years ago in what we thought was probably the conclusion. Ever since the trailer dropped back in October, my brain has me theorizing who Ghostface could be and who could bite the dust. But does this new Scream justify its existence as a satisfying continuation and not just a cash grab like any other horror sequel? For my money, this was the sequel I’ve been waiting for forever since I became attached to these movies that takes us to unpredictable terrority for two hours.
You make another Scream movie with the original three coming back since they’ve been alive and well way back when all this started. Even years later, I love seeing Arquette, Campbell, and Cox once again when it never feels like they’ve forgotten who their characters are when the camera starts filming, even when I wasn’t expecting them to have a chunk of screen time. Arquette, in particular, got the most to do as Dewey and being my second favorite character in the franchise, I love how he gets involved. I’m still questioning how his limp in this and the last movie disappeared. Campbell and Cox as Sidney and Gale, respectively, got more to do in the latter half, but it feels nice to see them working together again. Sidney will forever be my number one final girl.
As for the new cast members, I found myself really enjoying them, almost better than the ones introduced in the fourth installment. The best part is these are characters worth caring about and carry this notion of caring for most of them not to get picked off one by one.And the film gives a good balance of letting the legacy trio almost be in the supporting players alongside the new people. So besides the original three, here we have Melissa Barrera (In the Heights) as Sam, Jack Quaid (The Boys) as Ritchie, Mason Gooding (Booksmart) and Jasmin Savoy Brown (Yellowjackets) as twins Chad and Mindy, Dylan Minnette as Wes Hicks, Mikey Madison as Amber, Sonia Ben Ammar as Liv, and Jenna Ortega as Tara.
Many of them stood out that were worth remembering when it’s over. I knew I would enjoy Quaid’s performance as Richie because he looks like an actor who belongs in these movies to bring in the humor. Barrera and Ortega impressed me the most since I think they’re the main characters as these estranged sisters we got to know the most about and their scenes together have the most surprising amount of heart. Barrera is an actor I’ve been looking forward to seeing in a new film since In the Heights, so it’s no surprise her role is basically Sidney. But I wasn’t expecting to find Savoy Brown’s Mindy to be so fascinating where she brought this energy through her presence in each scene she’s in. I want to listen to everything she has to say about movies. And compared to the other openings, this is a pretty close second based solely on Orgeta’s convincing performance she has to put on.
This new installment is directed by duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, a.k.a Radio Silence. When I first heard they were bringing us this sequel, I was hesitant because it seems strange for anyone other than Wes Craven to have their hands in this franchise. That is until they made the shockingly underrated horror-comedy Ready or Not a few years back. Thankfully, they kept the vibe of what Craven crafted with the four previous films to feel as if he did it himself. You can believe these two are fans of the franchise and had to understand they had to keep the spirit of how this world works alive and well, and it wasn’t a letdown. While throwing in some cool, little callbacks and times of poking fun at itself, it keeps the tradition of the classic whodunit storyline where anybody could be putting on the Ghostface mask; everybody’s a suspect. I love how this is a series that subverts your expectations. Anytime it wants to go about a typical cliché commonly seen in horror movies, it’ll go along in playing it out dramatically differently if you’re expecting something to jump out. And because it’s somebody new under the mask, it’s always a game of figuring out who it could be, and it still manages to surprise you. Case in point, I did audible gasping in the theater of what was revealed to the audience.
And with how each entry tackles a specific subject amongst the film community, the screenplay from James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick leans on the meta-commentary I usually get a kick out of when done well. I also did worry Williamson’s absence on writing duty would suffer, but Vanderbilt and Busick made this clever to fit right along with the others. It goes out of its way to focus on how the genre has evolved to being elevated flicks to divide its audiences to a stern look of toxic fandom with fans that can get out of control. Honestly, it has been getting out of hand anytime a movie from a beloved franchise gets the reboot/ sequel or “requel.” treatment; it can get annoying and crazy, whether it talks about Star Wars, Ghostbusters, etc. It’s easy to see this franchise becoming that way. Savoy Brown has a monologue explaining that and it might ruffle some feathers for a few on social media, but it was a big win for me. With this being a horror movie, Scream probably has the most brutal kills out of everything that has come out so far, most of which involves the standard weapon of Ghostface: A knife. Without spoiling, there’s one plot element I wasn’t sure I ultimately bought and it could take a night or two to think it over. And though there’s a set of new characters involved in the story this time, I guess I wanted more from maybe two who didn’t get the screen time I expected. Some thought the pacing was a problem during the second act, but I thought it was perfectly fast-paced. Once it reached the third act, I walked out of the theater with a grin on my smile, thinking we didn’t get another disappointing legacy sequel.
Overall, Scream is *chef’s kiss* the best sequel we’ve gotten in the franchise, and as a longtime fan, I had fun! It didn’t disappoint, staying true to what many loved before with bloody kills, clever commentary, and an appreciation for the old and new characters. Everything I wanted from the fifth entry succeeded my expectations from beginning to end. Will I watch this again once it’s on any streaming platform? You bet, and I believe this will be a film Craven will be proud of if he were still alive. At this point, no follow-up will ever top the original, but much like number two, you have to be the biggest fool in the universe not to enjoy this. So if there’s a chance a sixth movie is in talks very soon, let me have it.