Scream begins with a high schooler named Tara (Jenna Ortega) being harassed by Ghostface’s persistent phone-calls. What initially starts with her singing the praises of “elevated horror” then turns into a life-or-death trivia game involving the “Stab” movies. In surprisingly brutal fashion, Ghostface breaks her ankle and stabs her multiple times. Unlike the previous characters who found themselves in the opening of a Scream movie, Tara makes it out alive despite bad injuries.
After 10 years, the town of Woodsboro finds themselves faced with yet another Ghostface problem. The plot largely revolves around Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera, In the Heights), Tara’s older sister, who reveals some alarming news to her while she’s in the hospital. Sam has the support of her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid), although he has never seen the “Stab” movies and must catch up in a haste. As Sam tries to assess who could possibly be Ghostface, she enlists in the help of familiar faces, including former-Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette). Dewey is a shell of his old self, and so is his relationship with Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) — again. And of course, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) makes an appearance. When she gets the inevitable call, she’s almost insulted that Dewey even has to ask if she carries a gun.
Where Scream 4 uneasily tried to target both remakes and social media culture, Scream has fun with the idea of being a “requel.” A “requel” is a film that’s predicated on the subject matter of an earlier film, but it is not a remake of the original nor a direct sequel. Examples would be Creed and Jurassic World; maybe Ghostbusters: Afterlife, although that’s debatable. This is how infatuated Hollywood has become with digging up the past. Apparently in the film’s universe, “Stab 8” was The Last Jedi of the series, causing fans to post countless reaction videos about how the film ruined their childhoods. This is an obvious jab at the toxic entitlement that exists in fan culture. A scene where one of Sam’s friends explains how a requel operates is the kind of meta sense of humor on which this franchise has operated since Wes Craven started it all.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett — two of the three men behind the filmmaking trio “Radio Silence” — clearly have an admiration for the Scream series, which is why this “requel” mostly strikes the right notes, clunky pacing aside. But what James Vanderbilt (Murder Mystery) and Guy Busick’s (Ready or Not) screenplay lacks is the full requel treatment. It fails to pass the torch to the younger characters in the same way that it fails to develop most of them outside of Sam and Tara. Vanderbilt and Busick come close to making the hard decision of killing off the major characters, but wind up backpedaling when faced with an opportunity.
Once we realize Scream doesn’t have the guts to do that, we’re merely left with a non-committal “requel.”
As generically drawn as many of these new faces are, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett do not skimp on the gore. The stabbings are grotesque. The murders are gory. The violence is prolific, although not quite on the level of David Gordon Green’s utterly ruthless Halloween Kills. These two men have a lot of fun inserting their types into messy, bloody altercations — Ready or Not was a great example of that — so while you can count on Scream to blow you away narratively, it’ll likely pique your interest with its brutality.
After Scream 4 was released in 2011, MTV produced a TV series, which ran for three seasons, helping keep the franchise fresh in the minds of a new generation. Establishing a new core group of characters with this fifth film would’ve helped solidify this post-Craven era, effectively segue the material to a young slater of faces for years to come, and ultimately, adhere better to the concept of a requel. We can nitpick whether or not killing off the original trio would’ve been a better move. It’s the younger characters being so uniformly underwritten that is the bigger disappointment.
NOTE: Scream is now playing exclusively in theaters.
Starring: Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Jack Quaid, Dylan Minnette, Mason Gooding, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and Mikey Madison. Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!