Cert – 18, Run-time – 1 hour 54 minutes, Directors – Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
When her younger sister (Jenna Ortega) is attacked by a new Ghostface killer (Roger L. Jackson), Sam (Mellissa Barrera) finds herself seeking the help of ‘legacy’ survivors Dewey Riley (David Arquette), Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) to find the new killer.
It takes a while for us to finally hear Roger L. Jackson’s voice once again say “Hello Sidney”, but when that almost iconic horror line is spoken it’s hard not to feel a slight rush of excitement as we know that Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott is truly back in Ghostface’s world and traps. However, in the case of this latest entry into the Scream franchise Prescott is far from the central figure. She’s a noted ‘legacy’ character, alongside her fellow survivors from the previous four films – Courteney Cox’s Gale Weathers and David Arquette’s Dewey Riley. Instead the new Ghostface killer is largely being hunted down by newcomer Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera). After Sam’s younger sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) is attacked by the new masked slasher her entire friendship group is put at risk, uncertain of how to survive apart from using previous patterns and the now long-running (and apparently tired) Stab franchise. It’s here that Sam decides to bring in the ‘legacy’ characters to help her find out who the new killer is.
Scream has been known for its convention poking, both in and out of its own franchise. It started out as a kind of slasher-parody after all. However, here writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick take things to another level. There’s a truly meta and self-aware nature to this ‘requel’ – something which it acknowledges and runs with; like an extended version of Jamie Kennedy’s horror-sequel explanation in Scream 2 – this knowingly being titled Scream instead of Scream 5, for example, is just the tip of the iceberg. It makes for a funnier feel to some of the previous films in the series and means that in many ways the parody truly comes to the fore. In fact, it’s as it properly begins to kick off – and the legacy figures come more into play – that the narrative truly takes off and brings you with it, after a somewhat slow and gradual build-up.
Yet, amongst all the parody the horror is truly still in place. This is perhaps the most intense Scream film yet in terms of the horror and attacks that the new Ghostface killer acts out. The levels of blood and gore brought in co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s previous feature Ready Or Not are also present here, while never bordering on the feeling of being sadistic or simply too much. It adds to the overall style and nature of the film, adding a sense of darkness and allowing the attack sequences to become the highlights of the film, not to mentioning warranting its 18 rating. Pushing the threat that this new killer poses. One who, as we know, will likely be unmasked at the end. And the film further leans into this within the narrative, making a point of the mystery; bringing the viewer in to play along like a truly dark, twisted, horror-tinged murder mystery. It greatly moves on from the strong (perhaps intentional) 90s feel of the majority of the first act (opening scene/ recreation aside) and brings you into a familiar world with one or two different central faces, many of whom we know will be bumped off at some point.
The film makes note of all of this, makes us aware that it knows what it’s doing and that we just know that. Pointing out its conventions and commentaries and simply picking itself apart as it moves along. It does this with a fair sense of ease as it eventually moves along quickly, once having established itself, and allows for the new characters to simply try and track down (or in some cases be tracked down by) the new killer. There are plenty of thrills along the way and some finely tuned moments; particularly those involving returning characters, David Arquette in particular delivers a fine performance that truly sets the tone for the return of Cox and Campbell – both of whom enjoy their moments in the spotlight, while never being crowbarred in for too long, it’s clear that this is not their film but they play pivotal roles in the outcome.
Everything is laid out for the viewer yet there’s still plenty of mystery and suspense along the way, all working well with the overall parody nature. This latest Scream film takes plenty of the elements that has made this franchise a firm favourite for many people and emphasises them to ramp up the overall intensity and nature of the humour too. All moulding together to create a fine continuation that certainly feels like a Scream film, is almost unmistakeably a Scream film, and brings you in to feel at home within the run-time while still bringing in the senses of tension, horror and unease. There’s a fine film here that knows what’s it’s doing and is all the better for the fact that it lets the audience know just this while avoiding a feeling of smugness within its personal and wider dissection, not to mention each brutal slash and stab.
Ghostface is back and brings with them a self-aware set of characters and events who make for plenty of meta parody and effectively intense attacks and killings. Once things truly get going there’s a fine mix throughout the film of such tones, alongside the balance between new characters and welcome, well-used legacy figures.