Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett.
Starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Mikey Madison, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Dylan Minnette, Mason Gooding, Sonia Ammar, Marley Shelton, Kyle Gallner, Roger L. Jackson, Reggie Conquest, and Chester Tam.
Twenty-five years after the original series of murders in Woodsboro, a new Ghostface emerges, and Sidney Prescott must return to uncover the truth.
Suspension of disbelief is often critical for a captivating cinematic experience. Under flimsy direction, unbelievable bits can begin to stack up and entirely remove one from the story. Case in point, Scream (technically the fifth entry in the series and the first not to be directed by all-time great Wes Craven, with Ready or Not filmmaking duo – collectively known as Radio Silence – Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, similar to its predecessors, opens with a character answering a landline phone only to be terrorized by the iconic Ghostface killer (returning menacing voice of Roger L. Jackson). Granted, the filmmakers probably realize such communication devices are a thing of the past and are only utilized in this opening sequence for some good old nostalgia; it still takes one out of the film ever so slightly.
Scream also instantly pulls the viewer right back in with a demented fresh spin on these infamous calls, transitioning them into a twisted game of Stab trivia (the movies inside the cinematic universe based on Scream) that are laced with a combination of toxic fandom and amusing conversations regarding “elevated horror” suggesting a finger on the pulse of these respective dialogues. It’s a wickedly funny, dread-bursting, nail-biter of an opener that generates a ton of suspense and sympathy for the inevitable victim. There’s also the temptation to say this introduction is the best part, but that would also be a disservice to simply how damn entertaining Scream is throughout.
The script from Zodiac writer James Vanderbilt and regular Radio Silence collaborator Guy Busick (based on characters created by Kevin Williamson) also has the ambitious sense to take the familiar deconstructive and meta storytelling elements outside of the limited confines of the horror genre, applying it to the trend of legacy sequels ranging from slasher fare like Halloween to the divisive resurrection of Star Wars. It’s also a confident script that’s not afraid to openly call out what’s going to happen and stick to the rules in some regards while carving out its own path in other areas. There’s also plenty of misdirection, including a rather large red herring that could be a gateway into continuing this year is more further down the road (the fact that it doesn’t factor into the climax at all is somewhat shocking).
As a result, the whodunnit aspect of identifying the killer is exponentially more engaging, offering a more comprehensive range of motives even if it’s clear that toxic fans have something to do with it. As previously mentioned, up until now, there have been four other Scream installments, but in the film’s universe, Stab is in dire straits, artistically bankrupt with excessive sequels lacking an understanding of the series (a glimpse of one of them shows Ghostface rocking some ridiculous attire while sporting a flamethrower). Someone is looking to inspire artificial real-world inspiration for a reboot, and their reasoning seems to be connected to the past.
That’s all I want to say about the plot, as the less you know about the characters, the better, whether they are returning beloved faces or fresh slaughter bait. However, it’s fair to say that giving Melissa Barrera (who gave one of quite a few revelatory performances in the criminally underseen In the Heights adaptation) the spotlight works wonders and that she is backed by a terrific ensemble that all lean into slasher and mystery tropes with pleasant self-awareness. They accuse one another of being the killer while in the process casting doubt on our own preconceptions of who it could be. Again, it’s also smartly written enough to know what to be subversive about.
None of this is to say Scream is outstanding, as there are also several moments where characters are guilty of committing some of the dumbest horror movies sins (David Arquette is fantastic once again portraying the now-retired Dewey as a broken-down man with severe nerve damage, even if the character makes at least one facepalm were worthy decision). Some of the emotional beats also feel forced, although they potentially might land for those in love with this franchise or did a rewatch of the first four before this. There are also one or two strong conveniences to make the reveal work, but again, with strong execution, those thoughts quickly fade away or hardly register as majorly frustrating. Whether it’s Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, or one of the new additions, it’s safe to say everyone here has a moment to leap off the screen showing some personality or reason to either deduce them or place them on the suspect list.
It’s also a straight-up, well-crafted bloodbath, not afraid to toy with viewers teasing jump scares while also unleashing Ghostface at unexpected moments. In particular, a hospital sequence sticks out as pumping the heart with urgency and fear, unafraid to place some of those legacy characters in real danger. We also want the newer protagonists to survive. Naturally, the third act is just as unhinged as every other entry in the Scream series; here, making some intelligent moves with its ties to the original for a damning and worthwhile point regarding the worst of the worst kind of fan. One could almost say it stabs and twists the knife inside toxic fandom. When the ending credits honor Wes Craven, it feels earned.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com