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Film Review: ‘Scream’ Takes the Franchise in a Bloody, Bold, and Exciting New Direction

Ghostface in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group's "Scream."
Paramount Pictures / Spyglass Media Group

This might be a controversial statement, but I don’t think there has been a bad installment in the Scream franchise. Scream 2 and Scream 4 are legitimately great horror sequels. Scream 3 is the clear weak spot, but it’s still very solid and more than entertainment enough to recommend. So, there’s definitely a decent bar to clear with a new Scream. Luckily, this version, simply called Scream instead of Scream 5, is the best sequel in the series. Bloody, funny, reverential, but also willing to go in new directions, it’s everything you can hope for in a horror sequel. If this is the end of the franchise, it’s going out on a high note. If it’s new life, it’s a bold sign of what might be to come.

Scream is, perhaps surprisingly, the most meta of the series to date. Not content to just be a goof slasher flick (which it is), the film takes aim at sequels of its own ilk. Also on the chopping block is the fictional Stab franchise, as well as elevated horror in general. What could have been scattershot and an attempt to be relevant instead feels like genuine freshness and the natural next step for this series. The movie bites off a lot, but its intelligence and sense of fun means that it never comes off as more than it can chew.

Paramount Pictures / Spyglass Media Group

As always, the fun here is in discovering the twists and turns of the story and the whodunit, so I’ll keep things brief and vague. The opening scene takes our familiar girl receiving a call premise and plays just ever so slightly with att. After Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) encounters a new Ghostface, her sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) is summoned home to Woodsboro, a town she’s long since left and disowned. Along with her boyfriend Richie Kirsch (Jack Quaid), she returns, meeting Tara’s group of friends, including Amber Freeman (Mikey Madison), Wes Hicks (Dylan Minnette), Liv McKenzie (Sonia Ammar), as well as siblings Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding) and Cindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown). Suspecting the slasher is among them, she and seek out the one man in town who might be able to help them…Dewey Riley (David Arquette).

With the body count rising, Dewey makes a call to Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell), warning her to stay out of Woodsboro. Of course, Dewey, Sydney, and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) won’t be able to stay away, so in short order they’re among the new teenage suspects/victims. This killer has a definite agenda, but until they sort out exactly what it is, they’ll be in the dark. The trick will be living long enough to figure it all out.

Paramount Pictures / Spyglass Media Group

The performances here won’t win any Oscars, but everyone knows exactly what type of performance to give in a Scream sequel. The legacy performers are comfortable in their roles and happy to be there, while the fresh meat brings all of the knowing wit that comes along with this territory. Everyone gets their moments, even if there isn’t truly a standout. Alongside the aforementioned players, the cast also includes returning folks like Marley Shelton (and the voice of Roger L. Jackson), as well as newcomers like Kyle Gallner.

Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett previously blew me away with Ready or Not, and they bring all of that creativity here. Along with a script from Guy Busick and James Vanderbilt that may be the wittiest of the franchise, they make Scream something familiar but utterly unique. While unable to go quite as far as they did with Ready or Not, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett still pull no punches. The directors, as well as the scribes, also satirize a number of items that may prove divisive, but for my money, they were spot on with their hilarious critiques.

Scream should just utterly delight fans of the series. Beyond honoring the legacy of the late Wes Craven, it looks at modern horror with love and affection, but also skepticism. In doing so, it becomes an utter blast that works terrifically as a sequel, a slasher, and a unique bit of horror. I loved it and if you love the genre, you will too.

SCORE: ★★★1/2

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Written by Joey Magidson

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