Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Screenwriters: James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick
Starring: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Marley Shelton, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Dylan Minnette, Jack Quaid, Jasmin Savoy Brown
Once again it’s back to Woodsboro. After eleven years away from the silver screen, Ghostface returns to slash and stab and slice and dice. A new spate of killings arising in the town brings Sidney, Gale, and Dewey back together to face down someone new wearing the mask, break down horror movie rules and clichés, and try and see if they can use the rules to survive the spree, all the while knowing that someone close is in fact the killer.
The first movie without director Wes Craven at the helm (who sadly passed away in 2015), directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin control the film with their own twist on Craven-esque camerawork. There are some shots the late and great just wouldn’t have done, lots of canted angles and even a dolly-zoom, making it feel both like a ‘traditional’ sequel, as well as trying to carve out its own directorial identity. They’ve also brought together a great cast who all play their roles with relish and fun. Of course, the original trio of Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox are always going to be good to have on board, but the new crop of teens are also energetic and surprisingly likeable. There are some laughs, some jumps, and whilst you’re immersed you find yourself having a fun time.
Scream 5 is probably the most violent of the franchise, with the makeup and SFX teams doing sterling blood work and offering far more gruesome moments than have been seen in previous instalments. Bryan Fuller provides a decent score in the absence of Marco Beltrami, who steps away for the first time. It lacks the haunting quality that Beltrami always put into his work, the choirs floating over the top of the other instrumentation really giving the music a sense of ghostly reverence, but in the moment, Fuller’s work is fine. All in all, for the most part, so far so good.
The track the movie takes is not too dissimilar to that of The Matrix: Resurrections. It is an analysis of itself and of the fandom it has created. It’s a movie about its own legacy, always ready to tip the hat and wink to the audience. The rules in this film are based on so-called ‘re-quels’, remake sequels in the vein of Halloween (2018), and finds itself, as to be expected of a Scream film, following in those footsteps.
Unfortunately Scream 5 ties itself up in knots trying to decipher if it’s an homage to itself or to other films, if it’s dissecting itself or setting itself up for something new, if it’s honouring or ripping up its legacy; there’s a hell of a balancing act between so much going on narratively, tonally, character-wise, and all of the other little bits and pieces. As a result, the scares turn into jumps rather than suspense pieces, and some characters are out of the film for such large swathes that you forget some of our main cast even exist.
It’s so focused on building its core on the legacy of the original film’s events that it seems to completely ignore the three other films we’ve had since. It states that ‘it all started with Billy and Stu’, but ignores Scream 3 revealing a mastermind pushing them towards the first film’s events. It states that a Ghostface spree always has two killers, regardless of the franchise containing previous entries with only one killer, the film overlooking its own past in order to beat the original’s influence over our heads.
Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton) returns from Scream 4, a marker which ironically draws attention to the film’s biggest misstep. Near the film’s beginning, Mindy (Savoy Brown) discusses how film fans can’t stand complete reboots and remakes of a franchise, so studios have to disguise them as a sequel in order to be palatable to the fan base. This is exactly what Scream 2022 is (as it has to be), but it also describes Scream 4, which mocked reboots whilst existing as its own sequel. This film feels like Scream 4 speaking in a foreign accent to disguise that it’s the same as before. By the end, the reveal of the killer and their motives are almost inconsequential, both to the plot and to the audience, because the focus is on the film showing itself off as a reinvention of a film which was already reinvented.
This isn’t to say that Scream 2022 isn’t fun, because it is. If you’re a fan of a good slasher, this is a great time to go out and spend some cash on, grab some popcorn, and try and play ‘guess-the-killer’ with shocks and twists and good direction. But it’s also a film which thinks it’s far cleverer than it is whilst claiming to be going back to basics, criticising a fan base which it itself is pandering to. It’s fun and gory, but with a severe identity crisis at its heart.