13th Jan2022

‘Scream’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Melissa Barrera, Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Marley Shelton, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sonia Ammar, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Neve Campbell | Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

The meta-slasher franchise is back, after an absence of 11 years, with new directors, new writers and a fresh-faced teen cast, alongside returning “legacy” cast members Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette. Happily, co-directors Matt Bettinellli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett understand exactly what’s expected of a Scream movie and deliver accordingly.

The plot is basically the same as it is in every Scream movie. A new killer is donning the Ghostface mask and slicing up teenagers in Woodsboro, California, perhaps inspired by the series of Stab movies (introduced in Scream 2) that were based on the “real-life events” of Scream. This time round, the killer appears to be focused on Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) and her estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera), which makes their immediate circle of friends – including Sam’s boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) and local Sheriff’s son Wes (Dylan Minnette) – immediate suspects.

With the help of horror movie nerd Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), Sam figures out that the murders are connected to the events of 1996, so she tracks down former Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and asks for his help. Dewey, in turn, contacts original target Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and ex-wife Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and warns them to stay away, which only brings them to Westboro all the faster.

Conceived by original writer Kevin Williamson (who’s on board here as executive producer), the Scream movies all follow the same basic template. There are nasty kills, a number of shocks and scares, a long list of potential suspects, inspired (or terrible, depending on your point of view) twists, jet black humour and multiple meta scenes where the self-aware characters discuss the “rules” of slasher movies while simultaneously trying to stay alive and work out whodunnit.

With that in mind, the task for each successive sequel has been to adhere to that template while simultaneously finding original new twists on each of the key scenes and upping the stakes in the process. It’s a tricky balancing act, not least because the film itself constantly sets its own high standards, such as pointing out that in a sequel the kills have to be gorier than before.

Fortunately, Bettinellli-Olpin and Gillett are more than up to the task. The kills are indeed gorier (hats off to the special effects team) and there are genuine shocks and surprises, even for lifelong Scream fans who think they’ve seen it all before. Moreover, the directors know their way around a suspense sequence, having a lot of giddy fun with the opening-the-fridge-door trope in particular.

However, the truly inspired tweak for the fifth instalment is the discussion of toxic fan culture and the idea – inspired by the furore surrounding Star Wars: The Last Jedi – that the killer (or killers) might be attempting to remake Stab 8 on their own terms because the previous movie was considered a betrayal of the franchise by fans. Indeed, the film even comes up with its own term for what it is, namely a requel – part reboot and part sequel, but honoring the original story and the original cast, like the recent Halloween movies.

The performances are mostly excellent, with Barrera, Brown and Quaid the obvious stand-outs, in that, next to the legacy trio of Campbell, Cox and Arquette, they’re the main characters you’re hoping will make it to the final reel. Quaid and Brown have particularly great comic timing, bringing appealing energy to every scene they’re in.

It’s also worth pointing out that Scream has a rather charming approach to fan service, dropping in sweet little details for die-hard fans that would otherwise go unnoticed, rather than making it the be-all and end-all like other franchises we could mention.

In short, horror maestro Wes Craven (who directed all four previous movies) may be sadly not with us any more, but on the evidence of this fivequel, the Scream franchise is in safe hands. Expect more Screams on our screens, because this is enormous fun and will be a deservedly big hit.

**** 4/5

Scream is in cinemas from Friday January 14th.

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