4 out of 5
Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
As a decade+ addition to a franchise, Scream 5 (aka Scream) is exactly what was needed: an updated blend of the way the original mixed a traditional slasher with its self-aware pokes and prods, and the arguably superior sequel that ante-up all the meta aspects. Actually, though, that’s kind of what I said about Scream 4; and it’s on me for watching all of the series in a row leading up to this new entry, which makes the comparisons much easier, but it’s rather ironic for the series that’s struggled with juggling being original with pointing a finger at itself and laughing to, essentially, repeat what worked – I liked Scream 4 quite a bit – fairly exactly.
But it’s definitely kudos to writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick and directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett for fitting that structure to something that does make sense for the current decade. And even though the passing of Wes Craven leaves the question of what this might’ve looked like in his hands, that it was handled by a different team gives us a true “passing of the torch” that’s mimicked in the story, as well, since we’re with a new pack of teens in Woodsboro, stalked by Ghost Face (we’re up to 8 in the in-universe Stab film franchise now), who have to look toward legacy Scream / Stab experts – Sidney (Neve Campbell), Dewey (David Arquette), and Gale (Courteney Cox) – for help; this is a tonal difference from Scream 4, which was still in the hands of these elders, looking back, and this change adds a necessary freshness to the formula. Additionally, we’ve had a whole “elevated horror” movement in the decade between, which gives Scream 2022 more material to riff on, even if it’s pretty surface level, and where the flick gets into the typical trouble of trying to justify itself and find its voice – does it go for something more cerebral, or more visceral? – and tries to walk the line most of the way through.
It holds that balance well, though: Scream 5 is probably one of the most consistent entries, not suffering from feeling twisty-for-twist’s sake or overly stuffed in an attempt to reconfigure how this whole thing works; the twists are there rather because they’re supposed to be, and the vomited up “reasons” for the killings don’t quite have the tang of actually being serious commentary – I’d believe the writers are quite aware that the current generation is as full of b.s. as ever, which lends the concluding rush of stabs and reveals a kooky energy.
So, no, Scream 5, meta dubbing itself a “requel,” does not reinvent the wheel, or lay down some new claim to the horror throne. It’s very similar, structurally, and from a top down perspective, to Scream 4. But the cast and crew saunter in with confidence that they’re not trying to reinvent that wheel, and if we get a fun slab of self-aware Screamdom once every ten years to look back on horror trends and repeat the formula, that’s a franchise I’d totally be down with.