Runtime: 120 minutes
Director: Tyler Gillett, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin
Writers: James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick
Stars: Melissa Barrera, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Jenna Ortega, David Arquette, Jack Quaid, Jasmin Savoy Brown
By Tom Moore
After the death of “Scream” (1996) creator Wes Craven, it was unclear if fans would ever see the return of one of the horror genre’s most influential franchises. Up until Craven’s death in 2015, no one had ever directed a “Scream” movie other than him, so fans were rightfully a little cautious when news broke that “Ready or Not” (2019) directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin were hopping on “Scream 5” to essentially bring the franchise into the modern era of horror. Although it’s sad that Craven couldn’t be a part of the latest entry of “Scream”, Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin live up to Craven’s legacy and do so much more with “Scream”.
For the most part, “Scream’s” narrative DNA doesn’t change. Ghostface (voiced by Roger Jackson) is back to terrorize a new group of teens in Woodsboro, and everyone is questioning who it could possibly be while Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courteney Cox), and Dewey (David Arquette) are forced to return to face Ghostface once again. At its core, “Scream” is still what many would expect, but that’s far from a bad thing. Yes, the film still opens on Ghostface chatting up a vulnerable victim about their favorite horror movies. Yes, there’s still an incredibly meta monologue about a relevant trend in the film industry. Yes, the Dewey/Gale love saga soap opera continues. However, none of it feels like a complete retread or force-fed nostalgia and is treated more like an innovative reinvention of the “Scream” formula.
Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin absolutely nail the feel of Scream on nearly every front with their direction mixed with a strong script from James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick. That sense of snarky comedy between characters exists and feels very akin to Craven and Kevin Williamson’s original vision of “Scream”, but still has its own modern twist to it. There are moments of incredibly fun suspense where audience expectations are subverted in enjoyable ways and a handful of memorable kills that let the good old fashioned slasher vibes take control. More importantly, “Scream’s” meta-commentary comes out in full force to bring nuanced perspectives on modern film.
All the talk of elevated horror, like “The Babadook” (2014) and “The Witch,” (2015) is full of great nods to modern horror hits and the monologue on the requel trend is just absolutely perfect. First of all, it’s delivered by a Meeks in the form of Randy’s niece Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), who is just a total gem throughout, and the dissection of the requel is not only enjoyable because of how meta it is for this entry, but it legitimately makes interesting points about a lack of creativity and fan pleasing in modern film. Even better are the stabs “Scream” takes at toxic fandom through its mysterious killer as it points out a recurring issue in major franchises that causes a lot of damage outside of the films. This “Scream’s” meta-commentary is some of the best of the entire series because of how relevant and real it is, and it showcases “Scream” as a socially aware and relevant franchise.
The best parts of this “Scream” are its characters and story though as they bridge the past and present in surprising ways that pay homage and send the franchise in exciting new directions, which is what makes it a great requel. Normally when legacy characters like Sidney are brought back, they overshadow the new elements brought into the franchise, but that isn’t the case here. Dewey definitely has a more emotional arc here given his current place in Woodsboro and how he’s still affected by Ghostface and Sidney and Gale’s return to Woodsboro is undeniably epic, but they aren’t the focal point of this “Scream”. Their presence leaves an impact, although there could’ve been a little more for Sidney and Gale’s storylines, but it doesn’t overtake the new characters and rather builds upon their own story – especially the new final girl Sam (Melissa Barrera).
Sam’s story is one of “Scream’s” best surprises with her connection to the past delivering a return that fans will be pleasantly shocked by and playing a prevalent role in her personal arc. It’s a unique story for the franchise that’s full of touching emotions that Barrera plays up well in her performance and leads to a fulfilling ending moment that sees the tables turn in a different way.
It’s great too that the other new characters have memorable moments and stakes in the story that make them more than just eventual numbers for the kill count. Everyone plays their own distinct role in the guessing game of who the killer could be and evoke the feel and attitude of “Scream” excellently throughout. Brown as Mindy will easily be a fan favorite for most with how her sense of suspicion creates so many great interactions and she feels like Randy Meeks reborn in the best ways possible. Just the sheer unexpectedness of what “Scream” offers make it a top-tier entry in the franchise and the stakes feel higher than ever simply because of how the story and characters are a breath of fresh air.
Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin create a “Scream” movie that Craven would’ve been proud to see as they celebrate everything fans love about the franchise while putting some modern twists, turns, and innovations that reinvent the formula to make this entry an exciting return. It’s an excellent reminder of why “Scream” and Craven are so beloved by the horror community.