Review by Sean Boelman
The 1996 slasher film Scream has maintained its relevance in the horror genre, both among fans and casual audiences, because of its witty approach to genre tropes. An attempt to revitalize a franchise that is already full of vitality is futile, but the fifth entry in the series, simply titled Scream, is fun nevertheless.
The movie follows a series of murders taking place twenty-five years after the original Woodsboro killings, involving both the original survivors and a crop of new victims. As always, there are interesting layers of meta commentary to be found here, but the film follows the formula more closely here than usual.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the movie is that what it has to say is a bit too similar to its predecessor. Scream 4 predicted the legacy sequel craze before it took hold in the 2010s, making fun of it before it became cool, and now it feels like the series has become exactly what the previous entry was ridiculing.
That said, there are a lot of parts of the film that are very funny, from quippy one-liners that add to the meta commentary to some gut-busting and nostalgia filled bits. And of course, the thing about the Scream series that has made it so successful is that it is genuinely scary in addition to being as funny as it is.
With any whodunit, it is necessary for the cast of characters to be compelling. The script starts with the characters being archetypal and then twists those to play with the audience’s expectations. Although the ultimate character arcs end up being rather predictable, an anomaly for the series, it’s still easy to get invested.
The highlight of the movie’s cast is absolutely David Arquette, whose performance in his career-making role is the best he’s done, not only as the character but in his entire filmography. In terms of new additions, Melissa Barrera does a good job of carrying the movie, and Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, and Jasmin Savoy Brown all give memorable turns.
From a technical level, the film definitely embraces the modern filmmaking techniques available, for better or worse. It’s the goriest of the series since the first entry, and the practical effects are mostly very impressive. However, the foley work is a tad on the overwhelming side, in a way that can even be distracting at times.
Scream might be the weakest and least original of the movies in the series, but since the series is so consistently strong as a whole, it still is far from bad. It’s a shame that the film covers a lot of ground that was already covered by the previous entry.
Scream hits theaters on January 14.