This fifth installment in the “Scream” series is a slasher/horror movie about slasher/horror movies. Its title is simply “Scream”. If you’re wondering why it’s not “Scream 5” or even “5cream”, well, there’s a joke about halfway into the film that answers that question.
It’s one of the sharper self-aware moments in a script that’s packed with self-awareness. In fact, the abundance of meta material is overkill. Writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick prefer obvious, showy character dialogue, references and monologues about this and the other popular horror film franchises over subtle ones. But you have to give the duo credit for stirring up the genre pot. And there’s one thing they absolutely nail: legacy characters rule.
It’s always cool to see actors reprise iconic roles decades after they last played them. There’s so much potential for deep, retrospective performances. Unless you’ve been wearing a (ghost)face mask to avoid the “Scream” marketing campaign, you know Courteney Cox, David Arquette and Neve Campbell all make their way back to Woodsboro.
Their scenes are the most successful when it comes to entertainment and emotion. They not only provide expertise for the group of Gen Z newbies looking to uncover a killer (while also staying alive), but they give this chapter in the 25-year-old saga some pedigree.
Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett don’t hold back with the violence. The slasher sequences (and there are plenty) are both straightforward and blood soaked. The story smartly pays tribute to the works that came before (including mastermind Wes Craven), holding fast to vibe of the ’80s/’90s roots of the genre. Characters make dumb decisions and the killer just won’t die — because that’s what happens in these films. Some scenes are overly-talky and go on too long, but never to the point that we’re not interested.
The young ensemble includes Melissa Barrera from “In the Heights”, Dylan Minnette (“13 Reasons Why”), Jenna Ortega (the new Wednesday Addams in upcoming Netflix series) and Jack Quaid (son of Dennis & Meg Ryan). By design, their roles don’t offer much range beyond the conventional, one-dimensional stock horror movie teens.
This new “Scream” isn’t as good as 2018’s “Halloween” reboot with Jamie Lee Curtis or Jordan Peele’s “Get Out”… but it’s definitely a cut-above “Halloween Kills” and “Us”. And there’s a good chance this is a conversation the characters who make it out of “Scream” alive will be having in the next installment.