In the true tradition of horror movie franchises, the ‘Scream’ saga began with a genre defining classic, and was then subsequently followed up by three nowhere near as good sequels. What started as a witty commentary on slasher movie tropes, became a tired and parodied version of itself very quickly. Now, courtesy of Radio Silence (aka Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet) the directors of ‘Ready or Not’, new life has been pumped into the franchise, with a whole new set of pop culture targets in its sights.
Legacy sequels, elevated horror, and the toxicity of online fandom are all going under the meta commentary microscope this time around. So whereas ‘Scream’ (the original) tore up the rulebook set by the likes of ‘Halloween’ (the original) and ‘Prom Night’, ‘Scream’ (the new one) is more interested in ‘Halloween’ (the new one) and the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Yes, that’s right folks, we’re in the realm of “the requel” – a sequel and reboot all in one, that introduces a new cast and a new story into the overall arc of the legacy characters, and confusingly uses the same film title because apparently just being a straight up sequel isn’t at all cool anymore. Who knew?
The film takes us straight back to Woodsboro, a town traumatized by the past. 25-years have gone by since the original slayings, and someone is back in the Ghostface mask, with a new group of whip-smart, self-aware movie obsessed teens on the chopping block. When Tara (Jenna Ortega) is brutally attacked by the killer in the opening scene, her estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) returns to town with her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) and an explosive secret she has been keeping hidden for years.
As the town reels from yet another Ghostface attack, Sam seeks out help from someone who has lived through this in the past. Dewey (David Arquette), now washed-up, retired from the force, and borderline alcoholic warns her that the killer will always come from the group of friends, and it will always be tied in some way to the past. This leads Sam to try and figure out which of her sister’s friends is involved, as the body count piles up around them. And as it does, the two franchise O.G’s – Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) are pulled back into the mix for one last bloody encounter.
The fundamental problem with ‘Scream’ is that it has none of the terror or thrills of the original. It seems quite tame now, especially considering the way mainstream horror has evolved over the intervening years, but when the original ‘Scream’ was released it was genuinely terrifying. Wes Craven really knew how to orchestrate a bloody good scare. Sadly, having been parodied to death by the films it inspired, its own sequels, and the occasionally funny but largely terrible ‘Scary Movie’ franchise, the original has lost all of its edge. But believe me, as someone who was there, that film had audiences shrieking. The new ‘Scream’ however is devoid of this somewhat crucial component.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t have a lot to offer, because it really does. I had an absolute blast with this film. The chase and kills are rarely tense, but they deliver on the blood and guts in some gruesomely inventive ways. The opening scene which (yet again) homages the iconic Drew Barrymore sequence is updated in a way that is both smart and funny, and also ups the ante from the riotous intro to ‘Scream 4’. The mocking of “elevated horror” – a term I despise, is particularly fun.
There’s also a running joke, which pays off in the final act, that manages to be self-referential, a meta commentary of online fandom, and a subversive twist on the Scream franchise formula all in one. I can see how it might be too much for some viewers, and a little too close to breaking the fourth wall, but I thought it was brilliant and genuinely hilarious.
Even though they were in all of the previous films, having the old cast coming back together for one last ride of the Ghostface train adds an extra dimension to it too. It ramps up the nostalgia factor—certain musical cues and location reveals will definitely excite the fans—and brings a level of emotion to the later proceedings that would be otherwise missing if all we were left to root for was the largely disposable new cast of characters.
It won’t be for everyone. The endless winking to the audience, and bucket loads of nostalgia being thrown at you will definitely be a turn off for some. But it really worked for me. The new cast are a lot of fun. Jack Quaid brings a kind of Pacey Witter 90s vibe, which I’m sure considering the Kevin Williamson connection is entirely intentional. Mason Gooding is hilarious, Melissa Barrera is a great new lead for the franchise, and Jenna Ortega is scream queen royalty in the making.
The blu-ray release comes with a decent selection of extras. There is a filmmaker’s commentary with writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, and executive producer Chad Villella. There’s also three-minutes of deleted scenes.
There are three short featurettes, the first of which is ‘New Blood’ – all about the new generation of the Scream franchise, which as we know now is likely to be a new trilogy. ‘Bloodlines’ could have been called Scream: The Ghostface Awakens, as it explores the whole concept of a legacy film passing the baton to a new generation. It all feels very Star Wars.
Finally, and somewhat fittingly, is ‘In the Shadow of the Master’ which lovingly pays tribute to horror legend and the father of this franchise, the one and only Wes Craven.
‘Scream’ is available now to Download and Keep and is out on 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray, SteelBook, 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD on April 11.
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Melissa Barerra, Jack Quaid, Jenna Ortega Director:Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett Writer: James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick Released By: Paramount Pictures Certificate: 18 Duration: 114 mins Release Date: 11th April 2022