Wes Craven and his films have been astronomically integral to my love of film and filmmaking. When he passed away in 2015, I remember seeing it on the news, cried, and didn’t talk much that day because, to me, I had lost an important inspiration in my life. I thought that was the end of Scream, until I saw that this new film was being planned. At first, I wasn’t that into it, I felt that you can’t have a Scream film without Wes Craven, and writer Kevin Williamson for that fact. But the longer I followed it, the more I got the sense that directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett were not attempting to be better than Wes Craven, but honour his work, and to no great extent, his life. They absolutely killed it with this revival of Scream with all the goodness of a game-changing meta-horror.
Before we dive into a look at the legacy cast, let’s first acquaint ourselves with the new. What made the original Scream a product of its time was not just the horror, but the attitudes of young people. The way they talked, the way they dressed, it made audiences of a similar age connect with them more and I can see the same happening here. The two who are more fleshed out are the ones you’ll obviously feel more of a connection to, Tara (Jenny Ortega) and her sister Samantha (Melissa Barrera). These two have a brilliant family dynamic that has its own mini-story about two sisters reconnecting with each other, and they both give great performances, but Jenny Ortega really is at the top of her game here, especially when she is attacked by Ghostface. The other members of the new cast do their jobs, they’re not really fleshed out, but they act as a reminder that Scream is about having fun with horror tropes.
Now for the real reason, myself and everyone else was excited for this film, the return of Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courtney Cox) and Dewey (David Arquette). To have these three back is a signed love letter to the fans already. They’re not in this film as much as they are in the other films, but you don’t feel they’re not it in for too little either, they do just about enough to serve their purpose in the story. Neve and Courtney are quintessentially Sidney and Gale, but David Arquette is on a whole new level when it comes to portraying Dewey. Dewey’s character has probably the best character evolvement over all the Scream films and in this one you really get the feeling that his character is done with Ghostface killings, you even learn what these events have done to him personally and the injuries he’s sustained because of them. Dewey has been through hell and back, and the film reminds you of that.
But how can you miss out on Ghostface and the kills? They may not be as extravagant as a garage door or a falling TV, but these are the most gruesome in the series, definitely ones you’ll wince at because of how graphic they are, which is what fans have come to expect from Scream. Ghostface him/herself has always had this otherworldly feel about him/her so when he does kill, it is presented as such. I think the phrase “less is more” is really fitting for these kills, They’re probably not going to be as iconic as other kills, but they do satisfy fan expectations.
Let’s talk meta humour. Scream is a very self-referential, self-deprecating franchise. It knows why you’re here and it makes sure to have fun with you. So there will be instances where you feel like the film knows what you’re thinking, which is a big reason why people fell in love with the franchise in the first place. It also operates on the level of your average fan of horror films, the series has made fun of sequels, trilogies and remake elements, now it makes fun of elevated horror films like The Babadook, Hereditary, The Witch etc. (or as I’ve coined in the past, horror renaissance films) as well as what the film calls “Requals”. It uses the fictional Stab films to explain this like past Scream films as well as explain the current horror climate and fandoms. These scenes are so eerily similar to Kevin Williamson’s writing, you’d think it was his work.
But alas, it’s not a perfect film by any means, there are still things as both a fan and audience member that I would have like to have seen done better or know more about certain characters, both old and new. The first character being the Scream Queen herself, Sidney. The film has to go into the gap between Scream 4 and now, Dewey and Gale we learn about. but we don’t know a lot about what has happened to Sidney. There is something in her life that is only told through dialogue so we don’t actually see it, and I think a bit of additional depth would have been useful here instead of her being this sort of ace card. From the new characters, I felt Vince (Kyle Gallner) was pretty wasteful. He’s pretty much a stalker of one of the new characters and that’s it. Sure, he is a part of explaining this Ghostface’s actions, but he doesn’t have that much of an impact.
I respect how the film does have fun with horror tropes, there is one in particular that I still find pretty annoying, even though I was laughing along with it. That being the overabundance of fake outs. A new character is the subject of these fake outs and while I found it clever at the time, I was still thinking to myself that it was getting a bit too silly. Also, the film is pretty fast-paced from start to finish, but this one scene slows everything down so you’re not on the edge as you could be. I would have liked to have seen a bit more innovation with this.
What I’d like to say to Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett is, mission accomplished guys. As fans of the franchise return to Woodsboro, they’ll be saying by the end it felt like they never left. All the important elements that have made Scream a film icon in the horror genre keep the cogs turning and keep you guessing the identity of Ghostface. As a film critic, I kept my composure but inside my head was the superfan feeling woozy by the fact I was watching a franchise being brought back in all its glory. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet, you have my blessing to carry on, and plan the sequel because let’s face it baby, these days, you gotta have a sequel.
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen Scream? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Nightmare Alley or Belfast