Am I jaded? I asked myself this very question while watching the new Scream. I was wondering if I was expecting too much from a movie that skirts the line between meta and full-on slasher. I’ve always associated the Scream movies, 3 excluded, with being send-ups of the horror genre while also being effective horror movies themselves. The first was a breath of fresh air for horror at the time, the second was an effective sequel that was good despite all its production issues, 3 was just bad (and the planned plot for 3 sounded so much more interesting), and 4 was a nice return to a known formula with some surprises thrown in there.
What is 5? 5 is a movie so engrossed with being meta that it forgets to be scary or all that clever.
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Release: January 14, 2022
Scream, or Scream 5 (5cream was right there, but whatever), revolves around a new group of Woodsboro teens dealing with the latest batch of Ghostface murders while returning characters reckon with that legacy. The movie centers most forefront with Sam (Melissa Barrera), a girl who left Woodsboro and stayed away for her own reasons. After someone close to her is attacked, she makes her way back to the town she left behind. She gets wrapped up in the mystery of who the killer could be and why the killer is targeting people close to her. I’m being somewhat vague as to not spoil things for those hoping to go in fresh. Along the way returning faces are drawn into the fold to use their knowledge of past events to help put a stop to the newest rampage of violence and blood.
I’ll put this out there: If you are coming back for Syndey (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courteney Cox), and Dewey (David Arquette), then you won’t quite get what you want. These legacy characters are in the movie but it takes a little bit for them to really become a part of the plot. It mostly focuses on this new group of characters with the Sheriff’s son, Randy Meeks’ niece and nephew, Sam’s sister’s best friend, Sam, and her boyfriend. These new characters have some moments here and there. I personally liked Randy’s niece the best of the new characters but that’s because she is the stand-in for Randy. Sam’s boyfriend, Richie (Jack Quaid), does have some great lines about getting out of the murder town or not splitting up. None of these characters quite endear themselves to you like the original characters do but that’s to be expected.
The comedy in Scream is not the issue here. A lot of the jokes land and it captures that part of the Scream formula well. What it doesn’t capture are any of the scares. The scares feel so sanitized and obvious (or given away by the trailer) that none of the jump-scares or tension lands. There is a scene that plays with this the most and was the most effective use of tension and humor wirewalking act in the movie, but even then it was hanging by a thread. The number of times a fake-out is used borders on absurdity. There are about three standout scenes in this movie that really work. The opening, the previously mentioned scene, and one other that I won’t spoil. The movie has all the ingredients to work -and it sometimes does- but is overall deflating.
Scream is not a bad movie by any means, but I’d be hard-pressed to recommend it too. It does not fall into the category of famous movies dumped in January when the studio knows they have a stinker. It is serviceable, which is a shame since I was so excited when I heard the team behind Ready or Not was tackling this. The acting is good overall with some standouts in David Arquette, Jenny Ortega, and Melissa Barrera. There is also some good, if small, growth for Gale. The pacing in this movie is well done with only a little bit of drag here and there and it’s all shot well, but it’s hard not to miss Wes Craven’s magic touch.
The meta angle is pushed to the edge here for me. It didn’t go as far as Matrix: Resurrections did with the meta-commentary, but the characters talk about requels (reboot/sequels) and reference the tropes of who the killer usually is so much that it beats you over the head with it. There is some good commentary on fandom and how it affects modern horror movies. It does play with what you think will happen in places based on previous experiences or recognizability but not enough that it would feel like it is being clever. Scream does just a good enough job with paying respect to the older movies and trying to do its own thing, yet falling into similar patterns all the same.
Scream is pretty good, not bad, and far too safe to be a Scream movie. Scream movies usually set the standard for pushing boundaries in storytelling or at least upending your expectations. This movie does neither and feels all the more forgettable for it.