Cast: Melissa Barrera, Jack Quaid, Jenna Ortega, Dylan Minnette, Mikey Madison. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, and Tyler Gillett.
The legacy sequel is a hot horror property these days. Gone are the days of the reboot/remake, and now we are in a time where bringing back legacy characters from a franchise for a loving revamp in en vogue. Several films have done this, Jigsaw, Halloween 2018, and Candyman have all done it to great success and have managed to add a little comment on what those films meant and what revisiting it means in the modern day. As with any slasher movie fad though, it means that a new Scream was just waiting to appear and make a meta comment on things.
Scream picks up twenty give years after the original, where a series of in-universe Stab films have made someone posing as Ghostface an all too common threat. Sam (Melissa Barrera) has lived in the shadow of Woodsboro’s murders but is drawn back to her hometown when someone dressed as Ghostface attacks her sister (Jenna Ortega). Could this be a remake, a reboot, or something deeper?
With the loss of horror icon Wes Craven back in 2015 it felt like there would never be another Scream film. Famously the script for Scream 2 had long suspense passages punctuated with screenwriter Kevin Williamson assuring the reader “Wes will make it scary”. Having given us four of the films, this fifth one might seem a little callous to trample on a series he put his mark on, but thanks to incoming directors Matt Bettinelli-Oplin and Tyler Gillett directors of the outrageously fun Ready or Not, the series is in capable and safe hands.
The film plays on the whodunnit aspect more than the others really did, the ad campaigns’ “the killer is on this poster” / “it’s always someone you know” also allude to this and the constant cat-and-mouse of who the killer is one of the film’s strongest aspects. The films is clearly in love with a lot of the previous films – the return of Marley Shelton’s Deputy Judy from Scream 4, references to Scream 3 but at times the feeling that this wants to amp up the first can be a little distracting.
For their part the cast are all well suited to their roles. Barrera, last seen belting out songs in In the Heights, carries the film ably. Her character is perhaps the toughest role, not just “New Sidney” but someone grappling with who they are and their past, she manages to make her compelling if at times a little irritating to be in the company of. Ortega as her sister Tara gets a more likeable role and manages to get the film’s opening riff on the Drew Barrymore scene down to an art. The supporting cast around them vary.
Dylan Minnette plays a role that is so clearly a Dylan Minnette role that he may as well have been called Dylan Minnette, and Sonia Ammar’s Liv has very little to do except be upset people think she’s the killer. Mikey Madison and Kyle Gallner are somewhat wasted in non-roles. Madison’s role appears to be an interesting love interest for Ortega but then nothing is done with it, which might very well be just down to the actors chemistry rather than a fault with the film.
Jack Quaid, looking ever more like Rainn Wilson gets a good juicy part with the bulk of the laughs, but it’s Jasmin Savoy-Brown and Mason Gooding who really get the roles worth having as Jamie Kennedy’s fan favourite Randy’s twin niece and nephews.
The film treats the legacy characters well, there’s a well played melancholic failure to David Arquette’s Dewey, and a good look at what happens to someone over time in Courtney Cox’s Gale. Once Neve Campbell enters the film though, it belongs to her. Her ability to command the screen with the simplest looks. Campbell has yet to be given a role that shows her versatility quite as well as Sidney but here she reminds us why this franchise rests on her brilliant shoulders.
BUT WAIT… THERE’S MORE
There are some issues, noticeably the commentary of toxic fandom. At first it’s well timed, and very funny but slowly becomes a soap box on which to stand. It’s the stretching of a joke too far that becomes tiresome. But even so, the film has such a sense of knowing fun, playing up the suspect everyone nature and stretching out cliches like the “he’s behind you” gags that it’s fun to watch.
As with any Scream film it will become better on repeat watches to see if the central mystery stacks up, and where it ranks on people’s personal lists will always come down to personal choice. But considering it lacks the sure hand of Mr Craven’s direction the film works for fans of the series and it might very well be your next favourite scary movie.