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

Scream Review – Stabsolutely Fabulous Requel for Diehards

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A series beloved for its commentary on the present state of horror filmmaking, it may perhaps be the Joshua Jackson-esque heartthrob Richie (Jack Quaid) who, in the thick of a deadly crisis asks why so many kids would be out-and-about, makes the most scathing criticism of the real-world.

For those who can venture out safely and comfortably, the latest instalment in the Scream series, Scream (will call it Scream 5 to avoid confusion), promises all the thrills, kills and Hollywood soul-searching that comes with its namesake.

If you are new to the Scream series, the drill is as follows: the unassuming American town of Woodsboro is plagued by an endemic series of copycat murders at the hands of a mysterious ghost-masked, knife wielding assailant (iconically named, Ghostface). The role of the leading, young heroine thrown into the gory mire is fulfilled by Sam (Melissa Barrera); a troubled runaway who in her suitcase of emotional baggage holds a dark secret. Joined in her misfortune is the aforementioned Richie, some returning faces, and a slew of symmetry-blessed high schoolers who probably take-up modeling as an extracurricular activity.

The Scream films have written themselves into the fortunate position whereby following convention – a commentary itself on the nature of money making in the world of sequels and prequels – is boundary pushing. The more they have leaned into the batshit wild, soap-opera-ness of it all is where they have attracted much of their dedicated fanbase. While James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick’s screenplay pokes-and-prods at the state of horror movie filmmaking, setting their sites on ‘elevated horror’ and the methods used by Hollywood to craft franchises, it unfortunately doesn’t possess the same inventiveness of the Wes Craven (the film closing with a salute to the late-great auteur) predecessors, offering up instead something that in the hands of directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (of Ready or Not fame) is left partially unresolved; feeling less avant-garde and more like imitation. (And not in the self-aware fashion intended.)

The desire to provide misdirects unfortunately sidelines many of the cast, with the ultimate reveal lacking the absolute pluck required to meet the delicious payoff expected from the series. However underdone, it is the onus of supporting characters in slasher films to serve as lambs to the slaughter, with Scream 5 finding its footing in the electric, albeit familiar, manner murders are dispatched. It is a dance which the Ready or Not filmmakers deliver with great trepidation; allowing the camera to study the faces of victims before the lurking Ghostface killer, accompanied by an ominous score, goes in for the slaughter. Gale (Courteney Cox), Dewey (David Arquette) and Sidney’s (Neve Campbell) return is impressively executed; speaking to the studio template of ‘requels’ creating dissonance in their desire to be both old and new.

The Scream films have always felt like that kid in the class who says it is ‘opposites day’: positively self-assured and happy to revel in disruption. Unsurprisingly, Scream 5 is a movie for the diehards, with the film paying homage to the incomparable Wes Craven and organising what is essentially a reunion with friends loaded with in-jokes and viscera. If only it had enough power left in its windpipes.

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Cast: Melissa Barrera, David Arquette, Courtney Cox

Writers: James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick (based on the Scream franchise by Kevin Williamson)

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