If you'd have told me I was absolutely going to enjoy myself with Scream, I'd have laughed.
But, I did. I really, really did. While Scream certainly isn't up to the original, it's easily the best of the sequels and should please audiences desperate
This is self-assured filmmaking. Scream is a film that simultaneously embraces its fans while sneeringly flipping a middle finger at them. These kills are brutal, the humor is on point, the affection is worn on its cinematic sleeve, and Scream is absolutely a film that truly honors the memory of Wes Craven.
I didn't expect it, but I embrace it. Scream is a blast.
Growing up, I was a wee bit of a disturbed little child with a preference for 70's horror or 80's exploitation over the stylistic sheen that seemed to dominate 90's horror. I've always preferred Leatherface over Ghostface.
As I grow older, however, I've come to appreciate some of the 90's slasher flicks including the Scream series, films are both mighty effective horror movies and surprisingly precise in their commentaries on the nature of sequels and franchises.
Plus, hey, I still have a crush on Courteney Cox.
Scream 5, which is somewhat confusingly simply called Scream, expands the Scream universe's meta awareness with what is genuinely the most entertaining of the sequels, or in this case a requel, and weaves together a pop horror tapestry of self-referential chills, thrills, sick kills, and horror culture awareness that would make the late Wes Craven so incredibly proud.
Co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett take the screenplay by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick and return to Woodsboro, California 25 years after the killings that took place in the original Scream.
Scream is a legacy sequel of, well, Scream. The legacy references start with yet another teenage girl home alone getting that familiar phone call that we all know will soon be followed by something even more dastardly. That girl, Tara (Jenna Ortega), barely survives and is soon joined by her elder sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) and the sister's boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid). Ghostface, it would appear, is back and soon begins picking off even more people from Sam's sphere including twins Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding), the niece and nephew of Jamie Kennedy's Randy.
Slowly but surely the rules all get laid out and before long, this is a legacy sequel (or requel) after all, the oldies but goodies re-appear including David Arquette's Dewey Riley, a former sheriff whose former wife Gale (Courteney Cox) also returns to town alongside longtime Scream protagonist Sidney (Neve Campbell, the most reluctant of the classic actors to revisit the series once again).
If you've watched all five films in the Scream franchise, then there's little denying that it's David Arquette's Dewey who has had the most dramatic transformation over the course of the films. Dewey started off with a bit of a dorkish charm, though here he's been segued from the former Woodsboro sheriff into a bit of a drunken recluse. This could have easily turned into a caricature, though Arquette fleshes things out nicely and turns in the best performance here. It's a bit of nice revenge against Gale, who ditched him in the film and, well, in real life as we all know.
Of course, Courteney Cox is no slouch here and Neve Campbell is an absolute gem here especially sparking alongside Barrera's Sam. Brown's Mindy has turned into the film's resident expert on the horror genre and, of course, that leaves Quaid's Richie as the one who knows practically nothing about any of it.
It would be easy to argue that Scream occasionally gets lost in its own self-awareness, though it would also be easy to argue that's part of the point here. While Craven's touch is missed, there are some tremendous set pieces here and some unexpectedly brutal kills. Easter eggs abound throughout Scream and somehow the film manages to balance new characters and classic characters sublimely. The classic characters aren't simply here for a glorified cameo - they're still immersed in Woodsboro.
The screenplay here is somewhat surprisingly sharp - obvious in its affection for the franchise's history and these characters, perfectly utilizing humor, and remarkably insightful in its commentary on fan culture.
While January is typically a dumping ground for afterthought cinema, Scream is an unexpectedly delightful experience that should easily please most franchise fans who will mostly argue whether or not it's the best sequel to date. For my money, it is but to each their own.
I didn't expect it, but I truly do embrace it. Scream is a blast.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic