For more than 25 years, the Scream franchise has been not only mocking the horror genre but also prolonging it to some extent. Mel Brooks once said you only make fun of the movies you love. When Kevin Williamson pitched the idea back in the 1990s inspired by the infamous Gainesville Ripper killings in northern Florida, getting Wes Craven to direct the movie was like lightning in a bottle. Craven always had a knack of blending horror with comedy.
The 1996 original was a surprise sleeper hit in the winter of 1996-1997. It was only a matter of time before a sequel was made very quickly over the summer months of 1997 to be released for the Christmas 1997 season.
But by the 2000 Scream 3, it seemed the franchise had run its course thanks to a resurgence of the slasher genre. Despite the criticism, I think this one is just as good as the others. It’s hard to criticize the Scream movies individually. Just like the Mad Max or Mission: Impossible movies, they all seem to function in a way that you can watch one without needing to see the previous ones. Sequels that can continue a story while not needing much back story are a rarity.
The fifth movie just simply titled Scream seems to be a nod and parody of the 2018 Halloween movie. Set in Woodsboro, Calif., approximately 25 years after the events of the first one, a young woman, Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) is attacked in her home by Ghostface after he makes a phone call to her house. The only switch this time is that Tara survives. Also, to modernize the movie for today’s audiences, Tara isn’t quick to answer the landline phone as she texts her friend, Amber Freeman (Mikey Madison), until she gets messages to answer the phone.
And you know the drill, a gruff ominous voice (Roger L. Jackson) sends her video outside of Amber’s house and asks her questions about the Stab movies, which were inspired by the events of the 1996 movie. But since Tara survives, her estranged sister, Sam (Melissa Barrera) receives word in Modesto and heads toward Woodsboro with her boyfriend, Richie Kirsch (Jack Quaid).
Tara and Sam have a checked history as Tara left Woodsboro about five years earlier. Their absent mother isn’t around and there’s references that she is involved in substance abuse. But Sam has a dark secret. And what’s ahead is spoiler, so don’t read anymore. Tara and Sam are actually half-sisters. Sam is actually the illegitimate daughter of Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), the boyfriend of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and also one of the killers in the 1996 original. She only discovered this while looking through some old letters she found in the attic when she was a teenager. And worse, their father found out and left possibly triggering their mother’s substance abuse.
With a new Ghostface Killer haunting Woodsboro, anyone could be a suspect as the body count begins to pile up. Sam and Richie seek out the help of Dewey Riley, (David Arquette), who has resigned as sheriff and is divorced by Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and working in New York City. In real life, Arquette and Cox are divorced and I’m suspecting their limited scenes together was part of the arrangement for returning to the sequel.
Vince Schneider (Kyle Gallner) is killed by Ghostface and when it’s revealed he was the nephew of Stu Macher, who was Billy’s killer partner, they suspect that relatives of the Woodsboro killings are either victims or killers themselves. This is where the movie takes on a vibe of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Not knowing who to trust or believe, the tension builds between Tara’s circle of friends including fraternal twins Chad and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown), who are the daughter of Martha Meeks (Heather Matarazzo) who appeared in the third one and is the sister, of Randy who survived the original killings in Woodsboro but was killed on Windsor College in the first sequel.
Craven who died in 2015 gets a nice in-joke tribute that I wouldn’t reveal here. Part of Scream‘s joy is that it knows its audience and doesn’t exactly wink too much at the audience the way some other parodies have. Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (who are part of the collaborative team Radio Silence) are the co-directors on this movie and they know how to build the tension in this movie. More important, they’re not trying to be Craven. They have their own style and its evident.
The directors and writers, James Vanderbilt (who has Zodiac of many movies on his resume) and Guy Busick, who wrote Ready or Not and episodes of Castle Rock and Stan Against Evil, know how to make a horror movie. While it doesn’t have the freshness of the original, there are some surprises and the movie flows at a good pace that would make Craven proud.
Reportedly, a sixth Scream is already in the works, based on the critical and financial success. As Stu said in the original, “These days, you got to have a sequel.”
What do you think? Please comment.