“After tonight, no more books, no more movies, no more f*cking Ghostface.”
Twenty-five years ago, the town of Woodsboro was terrorised by a killer in a Ghostface mask. Sidney Prescott was the focus of the killer’s rampage but she survived, along with TV journalist Gale Weathers and Deputy Dewey Riley, but by the end of the events, the killer was dead. Things were over. But over the years, other people have picked up the mask…
Eleven years since the last attacks, Tara Carpenter is attacked in her home by someone wearing… well, you can probably guess. She survives, causing her sister Sam to return to Woodsboro. When Sam starts receiving phone calls from the killer, it seems that the attack was deliberately designed to lure her to the town. As she and a group of Tara’s friends, most of whom have some connection to one of Ghostface’s previous victims. As the body count rises, and Sidney returns to town, can anyone make it out unscathed?
You may recall Scream 4 which was presented as a reboot of the film series, with Emma Roberts playing Sidney’s cousin (I think), poised to take over the franchise. And if you recall that, you’ll recall that, given how that film ends, was a non-starter, from that point of view. Personally, I like that entry into the series, I think it does something clever with expectations, but it did seem to be the end of the line. And now we have Scream 5, which, first of all, is just called, confusingly, Scream, and is a genuine attempt to reboot the series. Or, to use the terminology of the film, to “requel” the series – namely to give the series a new start while still paying homage to the originals.
I’ll be honest with you – I think it works really well.
I’ve always enjoyed the Scream films. The first one is great, but it has dated somewhat. Scream 2 works well, but one of the killers does seem to come out of nowhere. Scream 3 is rubbish, suffering from day-to-day rewrites apparently, and as I said above, I liked Scream 4 – back to Woodsboro, which helped, along with a clever central idea. I don’t rank them really as mysteries – I think the only clue in the entire series is in the first one, a bloodstained shirt with no actual holes in it. I don’t like them as horror movies – I’m not a fan of the genre at all. Basically, I like them as Scooby Doo for grown-ups.
And this is a great episode of Scooby Doo for grown-ups. At no point is it particularly scary – the director doesn’t quite get the jump scare timings right (notably when Ghostface emerges from a shed) but some of the not-jump-scares are well done – you know, the bit when you think he’s going to appear but doesn’t. The new characters are likeable enough, although two of them needed some more development, especially one of them, and the old hands…
“I’m Sidney f*cking Prescott. Of course I’ve got a gun.”
Right, going to be careful here. I think David Arquette gives his best performance of the series as things have really fallen apart for good old Dewey (who I STILL think should have been the killer in Scream 2) and he’s absolutely convincing as someone who has been stabbed several times in the course of his life. When the regulars band together at the end, it does seem as if they’ve become a tad more ruthless than before – Sid, when giving advice to Sam, doesn’t bat an eyelid when telling her to find the killer and, well, kill them. They don’t seem especially in character in the final act, especially given what happens to them in Act Two…
There’s a lot of meta-stuff going on here – there’s a lot of discussion about the lacklustree “Stab 8” film – you briefly see some footage of a metal-masked Ghostface with a flamethrower, so I see their point – although most of the “the series has gone downhill” stuff doesn’t really relate to the Scream films. It seems more a nod to The Last Jedi, with “the director of Knives Out” getting a mention, along with a fan campaign to remake the film properly. I know enough about film and the various backstories of these franchises to appreciate this stuff. There are prods at the Scream franchise though, with, for example, the son of Sheriff Hicks being told he is safe as he’s only related to a character from a minor sequel – which is a bit harsh on Marley Shelton aka Sheriff Hicks as she’s in this film! The meta-jokes also have more of a point to them than in some of the other episodes, but I’ll say no more than that.
I gather Scream 6/Scream 2/whatever they’re going to call it – Scream Again would work, wouldn’t it? – is in production, and I think the series has enough going for it with Melissa Barrera’s Sam as the new lead. I’m not going to say what her link to the original killings is – it was a surprise to me watching it, and I would have hated to have been spoiled on this, admittedly minor, point. But it gives her character legs to move forward on and if the franchise is now in the hands of the directors and writers here, I look forward to where it goes next. They clearly are big fans of the original and if you are too, then you’ll probably enjoy this one too.
As a horror fan I think I can shed some light on the metal-faced Ghostface. It’s a reference to Jason X, a belated entry to the Friday the 13th franchise that’s generally considered its nadir. It’s easy to forget now that when the original Scream came out it was a timely satire on the tired tropes of the horror genre, in particular its slasher subset.
That did ring a bell, but I wasn’t confident enough to cite it. Thanks for the confirmation.
The Friday 13th and Hallowe’en films don’t appeal to me as there doesn’t seem to be much more to the plot than “known psycho tries to kill people”. The whodunnit element of Scream is what places it apart for me.
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If you enjoy ghost stories you may enjoy the first Halloween film, which in and of itself is a genuinely mysterious story about an inexplicable force with unknowable motivations. I think of it as a ghost story without a ghost.
The other Halloween films are just generic slashers, same as the Friday films. I enjoy them, but I don’t rate them as objectively great or even good examples of craft.
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Saw the first three at the cinema and thought they were very clever postmodern takes on the genre.
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If you enjoyed the first three, I would definitely make time to watch Scream 4 and Scream (5). Personally, I think 2 and 3 are the weakest two in the canon.
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I remember liking 2 for all the sequel jokes (and for setting the first murder actually in a cinema). And I think I was fooled by the double bluff regarding the murderer … but not seen them since they came out and the first is the one I remember most, admittedly.
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