‘Heritage characters’ and new blood mix it up in this sharp fifth iteration of the knowing horror series
It’s one of life’s inevitabilities. The more sequels that stack up in a movie franchise, the more simmering displeasure is stoked within the loyal fanbase for the original film. Unless, of course, the movie takes the route adopted by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, the screenwriters of the exuberantly violent fifth film in the Scream series, and slyly harnesses that fan fury as a plot device.
Scream – the film very pointedly shares a title with the original picture – is, as one horror-savvy character explains, “a requel”, a cross between a reboot and a sequel. As such it comes with a combination of “heritage characters” (Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette return) and new blood. Of the latter, Melissa Barrera is sparky but superficial as Sam, a Woodsboro native with an unfortunate past; Jenna Ortega is her younger sister, Tara, a fan of elevated horror rather than the more conventional “meta-slasher-whodunnit” genre typified by the Stab franchise (the Scream series’s self-referential alter ego).
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (their comic-horror credentials already proved with the bracingly violent Ready or Not), this instalment revamps for a new generation of genre fans the tried and tested Scream formula of knowing movie references and horror tropes. While this is the smartest, funniest and stabbiest film since the 1996 original, it does feel as though Scream has come full circle, an ouroboros serpent of a franchise that is destined to endlessly devour itself until those testy toxic fans finally lose patience.