It's been just over a decade since we were last in Woodsboro and, following Wes Craven's death in 2015, we didn't think we'd ever see a new Scream movie – or that we'd even want to see one without Craven behind the camera.
A reboot of some kind started to feel inevitable after "legacyquels" and nostalgia increasingly overtook cinemas though. It was duly announced in late 2019 and despite initial apprehension, we can be thankful that the new movie doesn't wipe the slate clean and start afresh.
Yes, there's the Halloween choice of calling it Scream and not Scream 5, but the new movie is very much a continuation. Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette are all back to battle Ghostface again, alongside a fresh bunch of potential victims who have links to Woodsboro's bloody past.
But without Craven, can the new Scream ever live up to the iconic original? It may not match it, yet the new movie is right up there with Scream 2 as the best sequel of the series.
Like Scream 4, the new Scream returns to Woodsboro as the quiet town is rocked by another series of killings. 25 years after the original brutal Ghostface murders, a new killer has donned the iconic mask and is targeting a group of teenagers with links to Woodsboro's deadly past.
The new crop of potential victims – or killers – includes Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), who returns to Woodsboro with her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) after her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) is attacked, and Wes Hicks (Dylan Minnette) who is the son of now-Sheriff Judy Hicks (the returning Marley Shelton).
Unsurprisingly, Sam seeks out the help of Dewey (David Arquette) which, in turn, brings Sidney (Neve Campbell) and Gale (Courteney Cox) back to Woodsboro for another battle with Ghostface. But will the OG trio manage to help the newbies uncover the killer before it's too late?
To go into any more plot details would be to risk spoilers as Scream has largely been kept under wraps, even to the extent that fake endings were handed to various cast members to prevent leaks. Needless to say, there will be twists, there will be red herrings and there will be blood... a lot of blood.
It's always a risk when a key aspect of your movie is to provide meta-commentary on the genre as a whole. The first two Scream movies walked that fine line between sharply hilarious and being too smug, while the latter two got a bit lost in the meta-ness of it all. Fortunately the new one manages to repeat the trick perfectly by taking a shot at itself too.
So alongside the expected gags and references about horror trends such as the rise of so-called elevated horror, Scream isn't afraid to mock its very existence too – right down to the use of the same title. James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick's clever script not only relishes joking about "requels", but also takes memorable digs at toxic fandom in a manner that would make Rian Johnson proud.
Scream knows it's a "requel" or a "legacyquel" if you prefer that term, a sequel that blends legacy characters with a new cast to reboot a franchise. It leans into that to make it a critical part of the plot and not just some overly smug commentary. There are the returning characters and references for fans to dig into, but it's never giving you it exactly as you'd expect.
Of course, while the Scream movies are known for their humour, they are first and foremost slashers, so you need the horror to go with it. Anybody who's seen Ready or Not will know directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett can balance scares with gags, and Scream proves that movie was no exception.
With inventive updates on classic Scream situations (including one brilliantly-realised iconic location), the new movie is a brutal watch with tense set pieces coupled with shocking and violent kills. The creators' love for Scream (and horror in general) shines through as they constantly play with the expected formula, leaving you on edge throughout as truly nobody feels safe.
What's perhaps most surprising about this is that you care as much about the new characters as the legacy cast. Seeing Sidney, Dewey and Gale again will always be emotional for fans, but the central relationship between Sam and Tara has a lot of heart too, thanks to Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega's strong performances.
They're the stand-outs of the new cast, although Jasmin Savoy Brown has fun taking on the Randy role as horror fanatic Mindy who's also the franchise's first confirmed queer character. Jack Quaid also brings bags of charm and great comic timing to the role of Sam's boyfriend Richie, often the audience's voice in telling everybody to get out of Woodsboro.
You're never going to outshine the original trio though, and they all slip back into their roles effortlessly. As good as Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox are, it's David Arquette who leaves a bigger mark. Dewey has always been lovable and almost always the comic relief, but this movie allows Arquette to truly develop Dewey beyond what we've seen before.
While we obviously won't go into it here, a critical aspect of any Scream movie is the big third act and the killer reveal. You might be left wishing for one character to have been given more depth throughout, but it's still a satisfying and twisted climax that underlines the movie's biggest targets.
Scream was arguably never really going to live up to its namesake, yet the new movie recaptures the spirit of Wes Craven's classic and its winning blend of horror and humour. Do you like scary movies? If it's this one, we very much do.
Scream is released in cinemas on January 14.
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