Scream review

“Scream” is the fifth film in the slasher series of the same name. Confusingly, it is a sequel to “Scream 4” and is not a reboot of the franchise or a remake of the 1996 film. The film follows yet another streak of Ghostface murders in the town of Woodsboro, bringing the attention of series mainstays Dewey Riley (David Arquette), Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell). This is the third feature film from Radio Silence members Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin after the critically panned supernatural horror “Devil’s Due” and the acclaimed dark-comedy/slasher “Ready or Not.”

I was skeptical when a fifth “Scream” movie was announced. Wes Craven’s original film is a classic, and it’s one of my all-time favorite slashers. It’s a self-aware and meta critique of the slasher sub-genre while also being an incredibly entertaining slasher. “Scream 2” on the other hand was, in my opinion, really boring and formulaic. Because of how disappointed I was with that film, I wasn’t very interested in checking out the other sequels. Wes Craven unfortunately passed away in 2015, so even though a fifth “Scream” film was something he had considered making, I was hoping that a sequel wouldn’t happen after his passing.

Thankfully, I strongly believe that this new film is a perfect continuation of the series. It perfectly pays homage to Craven without constantly dragging itself down by trying to just emulate the originals.

I thought the film was pretty great overall. It’s extremely well-written (although the meta commentary gets a bit exhausting at times) and directed. The kills are unflinchingly violent without being too upsetting. The film also decided to correct what was, in my opinion, a big problem with the sequels. The previous sequels didn’t really seem to have stakes, as they refused to actually kill off the main characters. Granted, “Scream 2” did kill off the character of Randy Meeks (who was one the first film’s main players), but then they also have a fake-out with David Arquette’s character in which he gets stabbed by Ghostface. Fake-outs are already something that I’m not a fan of, but this exact story beat is a copy of what happened to his character in the first movie. Thankfully, this new film actually opts to kill off a legacy character, and although I was sad to see the character die, I was also thankful that the film was willing to take that risk.

The film also has a really solid cast. Not only are the legacy actors returning, but we also have Jenna Ortega (“You”), Jack Quaid (“The Boys”), Melissa Barrera (“In the Heights”), Dylan Minnette (“13 Reasons Why”), Mikey Madison (“Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”), Mason Gooding (“Booksmart”), Kyle Gallner (“Jennifer’s Body”) and Jasmin Savoy Brown (“The Leftovers”). There’s also a certain cast member who shouldn’t be spoiled, as they play a pretty big role.

All the performances were solid, but I’ve got to say that Jenna Ortega gave the best performance overall. Ortega starts the film as she gets attacked by Ghostface. At first, her character thinks that this is just a prank, and her reactions are naturally sarcastic and charismatic; but then when she realizes that she’s actually in danger, her terrified reactions are incredibly realistic.

Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett also did a really great job directing the film. They really know how to build up a sense of dread before something violent happens. Granted, these scenes are filled with some jumpscares that got on my nerves, but I think that I was able to overlook them because of the script’s self-awareness.

With all of that being said, this film isn’t perfect (I mean, I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect film, but whatever). Some of the writing is kind of obnoxious. The previous films tore apart the conventions of slashers, with “Scream 2” talking about sequels, “Scream 3” being about the end of a trilogy and “Scream 4” being about horror franchises that don’t know when to call it quits. Now, the latest “Scream” deals with the popularity of elevated horror films (directly name-dropping “The Babadook” and “Hereditary”), the trend of long-running franchises getting soft-reboots and toxic fandoms. I really appreciated that all of these topics were discussed, and I didn’t mind the lack of subtlety per se (this is a slasher, for crying out loud).

However, there were a few moments where the writing just felt a little too smug in terms of how it references pop culture. For example, the beginning of the film has Ortega’s character talking about her favorite horror film being “The Babadook” because of how intelligent it is, especially as a film in the horror genre. But the thing is that the rest of the fall doesn’t do all that much with this. The original films were about deconstructing slashers, and even though this film is doing that again, it introduces the concept of elevated horror without actually making all that much of a statement. Not only that, but there’s a moment in the final act that feels very drawn out and irritating. In the scene with Ghostface’s reveal, it feels a bit out of place in a way that I can’t really describe. It’s nearly a direct copy of the climax of the original “Scream,” yet it feels slightly less rewarding.

However, I really enjoyed “Scream”. It’s nowhere near as good as Wes Craven’s original, but Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin managed to respect the franchise while also making a film that was ultimately their own (hell, it was so successful that a sixth film has already been greenlit, with production starting this summer). In spite of some obnoxious writing at times, the film was very creative, brutal, and funny… just as a “Scream” movie should be.

Rating: 7/10