After Scream 4 in 2011, Scream 5 seemed all but inevitable. Between that film’s underperformance at the box office and director Wes Craven’s death, though, Ghostface’s return to the screen has faced numerous delays. The Weinstein Company’s attachment to the franchise probably didn’t speed up the process either. Almost ten years later, we finally get Scream 5, simply titled Scream. Why the unoriginal/confusing title? Well, Scream movies have always represented the decade that they came out.
The original trilogy epitomized the 90s when audiences started catching on to the horror clichés of the 80s and 70s. Scream 4 mirrored an era dominated by sequels, remakes, reboots, and social-media-savvy teenagers obsessed with becoming famous. The latest Scream explores a new generation of horror where every film is an allegory for grief, racism, or another real-world issue. Classic horror franchises live on, but now every sequel must tie back to the original. 2018’s Halloween is a prime example, hence why 2022’s Scream couldn’t be entitled Scream 5.
Above all else, the new Scream commentates on toxic fan culture. Even at this franchise’s lowest point, Scream fans have never been especially toxic. The film’s commentary thus branches beyond the slasher genre, targeting critics of Ghostbusters, Game of Thrones, and especially Star Wars. Just as the Sequel Trilogy brought back Luke, Han, and Leia, Scream sees the return of its iconic trio. While Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courteney Cox), and Dewey (David Arquette) all have memorable moments, they’re designated to legacy roles. Center stage belongs to Melissa Barrera’s Sam and her friends, all of whom are conveniently connected to the original film. Even more convenient, Sam’s last name is Carpenter, a nice homage to Halloween’s director.
While none of the new characters will likely have the staying power of Sidney Prescott, Barrera gives a committed lead performance. Jenna Ortega is equally compelling as Sam’s sister, and Jasmin Savoy Brown relishes in Scream’s signature meta-humor. Although the new characters and commentary help to distinguish this sequel, it doesn’t stray too far from the proven formula. The cops are still inept, the parents still live in Off-Screen Land, and for all the scary movies these characters watch, they still make obvious mistakes. Granted, that’s all part of the fun, but for a sequel that says, “screw toxic fans,” one can’t help but wish it took more chances.
At one point, it’s revealed that one character has mental health issues, seeing people who aren’t really there. It would’ve been interesting if this factored more into the plot, taking a psychological approach. Maybe that would’ve been too far-removed for “Scream purists,” however. For longtime Scream fans, the film delivers exactly what it promises. After 25 years, the franchise also deserves credit for still being able to turn in an effective twist. The kills are among the series’ most impact as well. Those who want something as game-changing and innovative as the 1996 original aren’t going to find it here. For those who want a good, old-fashioned slasher flick, though, Scream is smarter and more fun than Halloween Kills. See you in 2033 for Scream 6… or whatever title gimmick it chooses to satirize.