It really does seem like we’re up to our eyes in Legacy Sequels these days what with the Spider-Man, Matrix and Ghostbusters franchises all breaking out the deep cuts over the last couple of months with mixed results.
If you don’t know what a legacy sequel is by now, I’m not gonna waste valuable column space explaining it to you – not when the movie itself tales great pains to bring you up to speed – but Scream attacks the concept the way that only the notorious meta franchise can which results in a fifth in installment that pumps new, youthful energy into a series that’s been dormant since 2011. But snide jibes about the current state of horror and brutal set pieces involving pretty young things getting punctured by sharp things with a serrated edge isn’t the only targets the latest rampage of Ghostface has to nail as the movie also has to pay dues to the memory of the late great, Wes Craven, who’s last film was Scream 4.
Ten years after the last time someone wrapped themselves on the monochromatic colours of the Ghostface costume and started to slaughter people all in the name of movie based notoriety, it starts all over again when horror-savy Tara falls foul to the old phone and stalk.
Her attack brings her estranged sister, Sam, back to the town of Woodboro for the first time in five years with her nervey but supportive boyfriend Kirsch in tow and before you can say “What’s your favourite scary movie?”, she finds herself in the middle of a bloody, slasher whodunit as this killer seems to be targeting people related to the perpetrators of the original murders in an attempt to jump start a real life legacy sequel. However, to get such a thing off the ground, the killer needs some old faces to take their place among all the fresh ones. Thus, limping back into the fray, comes Dewey Riley who doesn’t let his recent hard times stop him from trying to help and where he and Ghostface goes, newly minted anchorwoman Gail Weathers is sure to follow. But to really make things come together, whomever lurks behind Ghostface’s mask this time round really needs for the original heroine, Sydney Prescott to return for her fifth go round for celluloid related slaughters.
How far will this killer (or killers – Scream rules, remember?) go to to obtain the carnage they desire in order to get the result they want and will new blood Sam take the advice from old warrior Sydney in order to finish things before her sister’s group of typically eccentric friends get whittled down to either being a corpse or a killer?
Helmed by the directing team of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett who appropriately gave us the endearingly zippy Ready Or Not, Scream proves to be an incredibly refreshing experience and a real return to form after the flawed, but underrated fourth film. While the original Scream took the horror genre and sarcastically (but lovingly) booted it in the genitals and the follow ups tackled sequels, trilogies and remakes respectively, the notion of cheekily locking horns with Hollywood’s current fascination with legacy is what gives this new film an excuse to take the series back to its roots.
The franchise hasn’t felt this energised since the epic-sized Scream 2 and the script literally fizzes with invention as it goes all out to cover every base that it can to bring the central joke home while playing hard to the history of the series. Ghostface dismisses the current trend of “elevated horror” as boring during one of those textbook phone chats, in-movie Scream representative Stab is cheekily described as over lit, current toxic fandom is repeatedly and winningly teased and even the fact that the movie itself, much like the 2018 Halloween and recent Candyman, is just called Scream instead of 5cream (despite the fact that technically spells Five-Cream) is covered when someone complains that a maligned, eighth Stab movie wasn’t called Sta8.
While it’s always nice to see the regulars return for another bout of bloodletting, the story wisely keeps focus on the newbies and the lead all do a good job settling in with Melissa Barrera (In The Heights), Jenna Ortega (Netflix’s The Babysitter sequel) and Jack Quaid (The Boys) all standing out nicely and having room to stretch their legs, literally if they have to sprint for their life.
However, as fun as all this lunacy is, there’s a couple of minor issues the film has with the main one being that Wes Craven already covered a lot of this before legacy sequels even existed in the remake focused Scream 4 (if less successfully) as both feature young casts relying on the OG heroes to crack the killer’s identity. Another thing is that while the script is sharp as whatever hunting tool Ghostface is currently ramming into someone’s torso (Ghostface’s opening questions are based around Stab, therefore simultaneously acting as a brief refresher course for the uninitiated), it’s scale also fails to match the stunning, Dario Argento-esque theatrical grand guignole of the second movie – but what it lacks in an expansive canvas, it excels in diving deep into Scream lore. Be it the return of Heather Matarazzo as Part 3’s Martha Meeks, Marley Sheldon as Part 4’s Judy Hicks or a very surprising cameo that I won’t reveal here, this is just the tip of the iceberg as the script isn’t afraid to go hardcore with its legion of in-jokes.
But at the end of the day, what’s important that the humor is on point (it is) the kills are brutal (they are) and the conventions are both fucked with and adhered to with the correct mixture of reverence and impishness (one moment mischievously employs that trope where someone opens a door and closes it and you expect someone to be behind it multiple times).
While you could argue that Scream isn’t particularly scary beyond its many jump scares, thanks to a hospital scene that will no doubt cause debate among long time fans, the stakes feel ridiculously high and it literally feels like anyone could catch a hunting knife in the guts at any moment.
A vastly entertaining movie that’s funny and exciting from beginning to end, this fifth Scream proves to be more than worthy of the franchise and, best of all, a genuinely touching tribute to Wes Craven’s memory.
Now, if we only could get a Nightmare On Elm Street legacy sequel….