“What’s your favourite scary movie?”
It’s been 11 years since Scream 4 stabbed its way into theatres and since then, horror has moved beyond the simple slasher of old. Even when this genre does embrace its original roots, there’s always a well-worked gimmick or twist to accompany it.
In this era of sequels, spin-offs, remakes and “requels”, Scream ticks every single box and then some. It shouldn’t work. It’s essentially a reworked version of the original movie, complete with the same house, a similarly snarky band of teenagers and a big “whodunit” over who the killer could be. Sprinkle in some familiar faces, and Scream has all the hallmarks to be another lazy hashed remake. And yet… it’s somehow not.
Scream has always been a meta horror, which is partly why it manages to get away with embracing its own clichés so effectively. Everything here is self-aware that this is a “requel”, complete with legacy characters and gory deaths. But yet, somehow this seems to allow for a bit more leniency when it comes to the questionable character motivations and story beats.
Scream (I mean, it’s Scream 5, let’s be honest) takes place in the not-too-distant future where Woodsboro has got back to relative normality after the killing sprees that took place a decade before. That is, until a girl called Tara receives a call one night. Yep, the Ghostface killer is back and this time it seems all the victims are connected to the characters from the original movie in one way or another.
When Tara is taken into hospital with life-threatening injuries, her sister Samantha returns to the town she left years before. Accompanied by her boyfriend Richie, the pair soon join forces with Tara’s close-knit circle of friends from school, determined to find out who the killer is.
As the rules of the slasher movie are laid out, the gang quickly realize that one among them is the killer… but who is it?
This essentially forms the framework of the movie, which is basically a carbon copy of the original. The opening is stylized exactly the same way, the big killer reveal at the end is almost identical, with a big villain monologue, and various deaths and moments from the first movie are either referenced or copied beat for beat.
Ordinarily this would be chalked up to lazy storytelling but Scream gets somewhat of a pass for being self-aware of its own tropes. That makes reviewing this movie tricky because at times, it’s hard to tell whether the filmmakers deliberately play into the age-old horror tropes, or generally use them to force a cheap death or throw in a different angle.
One of the best examples of this comes midway through the movie, when Scream tries to go its own path and fails miserably. In the interest of spoilers, I won’t reveal names here but it includes two deaths back to back, the second of which is dragged out a painfully long time, as fridge doors are opened and closed, while the camera hugs to this person’s back the whole time.
To be fair, the plot zips along at a pretty lively pace and as Scream ramps up to its third act in a pretty compelling way, making good use of its ensemble, with a sprinkling of deaths paving the way in blood.
One of the big talking points comes from the returning “legacy characters.” Yes, Gale, Dewey and Sidney are all back, although they don’t really have an awful lot to do beyond nudging our main ensemble to the next set piece or killing.
Sidney and Gale’s journey here essentially bubbles down to a fetch quest, determined to hurry after Sam who annoyingly refuses to listen to them. The finale of the movie does help give them a bit more to do but until that point, they’re really just here for nostalgia.
Given how meta and parodical Scream actually is at times, the fact that the main storyline borrows so heavily from the original almost feels intentional by design. The attempts to inject a bit of spontaneity into the mix (like the aforementioned double-death) fall completely flat but the inclusion of the 3 original cast members will be enough for many people to overlook this. And to be fair, there are some really enjoyable segments here.
Scream isn’t an amazing slasher, but it’s certainly not bad either. It’s one of those films you expect to be awful before walking into the theatre but end up pleasantly surprised by when it doesn’t completely suck. Whether this will hold up to repeat views remains to be seen but as a love letter to the original, Scream is about as good as you could hope for.
Verdict - 6.5/10