Horror movies have always been a hit or a miss. Even more so are the endless sequels, unoriginal reboots and flopped remakes that follow. Iconic franchises like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre have had multiple sequels that went from terrifying to campy. But one franchise that stood the test of time is Scream, whose first film hit the silver screen in December 1996 from then-unknown screenwriter Kevin Williamson and nearly done-with-horror director Wes Craven. Scream revitalized the slasher horror subgenre with its meta-humor, brilliant young cast, chilling score, and visionary director at the helm. With a new directing duo taking over, we’re heading back to Woodsboro for another edge-of-your-seat whodunnit thriller that reunites the original cast while a batch of fresh-faced teens and twenty-somethings are Ghostface’s newest targets.
Directed by Ready or Not duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, the film centers on Samantha ‘Sam’ Carpenter, a young woman with a complicated past who returns to her hometown of Woodsboro after her sister Tara is brutally attacked by a knife-wielding killer wearing a Ghostface costume. With her boyfriend Richie, Sam seeks the help of Dewey Riley, Gale Weathers, and Sidney Prescott, the only survivors of the events of 1996’s Scream. Everyone is considered a suspect and the hunt is on before the killer strikes again.
So is a masked psychopath still scary? Hell yes. The opening scene features Jenna Ortega in the all-too-familiar depiction of a young woman alone in the house who gets a call from the killer, voiced once again by the chilling Roger L. Jackson, which sets up the film perfectly. The franchise remains as self-aware as ever, poking fun at the current state of the horror genre, particularly at the new ‘elevated horror’ craze with films like Get Out and Hereditary that weave in themes like racism and trauma to tell a more poignant story beyond bloodshed.
Melissa Barrera (In The Heights) plays Sam Carpenter, the new Sidney Prescott, a headstrong young woman who has been through serious trauma now being targeted by a masked killer because of her dark past. Barrera played the role with such vulnerability, groundedness and the writers have thankfully given her a lot to play with. Her performance fits perfectly into the franchise as the new ‘final girl’, a common trope in slasher movies previously seen in Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode in the Halloween franchise. Jenna Ortega (You) does an incredible job with her scenes where her character is stalked by the killer who is playing this cruel game of cat and mouse. She shows so much fear and dread, eyes filled with tears and shuddered breathing, she gives Drew Barrymore’s Scream 1996 character Casey Becker a run for her money.
David Arquette’s Dewey is not the same boyishly handsome small-town cop we met in 1996. Dewey is now divorced, day-drinking, and living in a messy trailer outside of town, wanting little to do with these new murders as he’s already survived nine stabbings across four movies. David Arquette’s darker take on the character is refreshing to see as Dewey has been through so much trauma; he’s done being the hero. He’s tired, nearly broken, and just wants peace and quiet. Gale and Sidney similarly seem exhausted of another Ghostface-obsessed psycho wreaking havoc in their old hometown, just when life seemed to be returning to normal for them and the whole town. I applaud the writers for not making the original trio a central part of the story and instead truly passing the torch to the new characters. That’s something I believe Scream 4 suffered from with nearly every new character killed off by the end so there was no one left to pass the torch on to.
Standouts among the vast supporting cast of teen characters are the Meeks-Martin siblings Mindy and Chad, played by Jasmin Savoy Brown (Yellowjackets) and Mason Gooding (Love, Victor), respectively. Mindy is the resident horror movie expert and, quite literally, explains to both her group of friends and the audience that the killer is making a ‘requel’: a half reboot, half sequel that unites ‘legacy characters’ with a batch of new faces to not just move the story along but to revitalize the franchise, which the film does near-perfectly. She’s also the first openly queer character we see in the franchise, which was nice to see!
Gooding plays Mindy’s twin brother Chad, a seemingly typical high school jock, tall and handsome, complete with a letterman jacket. Yes, he’s hot-headed and very protective of both his friends and family, but he’s a smart and sensitive guy too who doesn’t let his hormones get the best of him and remains on alert with a killer on the loose.
I applaud the directors of the movie for not letting the constant criticism of violence in film and other media to impact their process. The kills are truly brutal and cringe inducing, you almost want to look away, but knowing this twisting-and-turning franchise, you will definitely miss something if you do.
What elevated my experience was seeing it opening night where other attendees were very clearly fans of the franchise. They audibly “ooo’d” and “ouch’d” during every attack and kill, gasped and grabbed their viewing companion’s arm when someone made a surprise cameo or a twist was revealed. It almost felt like seeing a Marvel movie, complete with cheers and laughs throughout that made it more enjoyable.
Scream is now playing exclusively in theatres.