SCREAM review by Mark Walters – the franchise gets a lackluster sequel / reboot of sorts

SCREAM review by Mark Walters – the franchise gets a lackluster sequel / reboot of sorts

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As far as horror franchises go, SCREAM is right up there with some of the most popular, and one of the few to regularly bring back its key players, not just the masked killer motif. The first film hit way back in 1996, spawning three sequels so far, and now comes the fifth, simply titled SCREAM… how does Hollywood not find that confusing? The new HALLOWEEN did it, and CANDYMAN did it, despite being sequels and not specifically reboots. But the new SCREAM is a sequel with the same characters, yet still uses the basic title of the first film. This might be the result of SCREAM 4 or “SCRE4M” being a bit of a let down with critics and fans. Wes Craven started the franchise, but passed away in 2015, and many wondered if the legacy of these films died with him. In this new take, the cast includes franchise alumni David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Roger L. Jackson, and Marley Shelton, and adds in Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Mason Gooding, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Dylan Minnette, Mikey Madison, Sonia Ben Ammar, and Kyle Gallner. This comes from the directing team of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (READY OR NOT), and hits theaters this weekend.

The new SCREAM opens much like the original, with a young girl in Woodsboro named Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) home alone receiving a phone call at night, which at first she thinks is a joke but soon realizes she’s being stalked by someone… in a Ghost Face mask. Things play out the way you’d expect, with the one exception being that Tara lives and ends up in the hospital. Her estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) gets the news and rushes to her side, her boyfriend Richie Kirsch (Jack Quaid) in tow. We soon learn Sam has a dark secret that ties her back to the original film. As Tara’s friends come together, they realize someone is starting up the Ghost Face killings again, after five years since the last time. Sam and Richie turn to an “expert” for help, the one and only Dewey Riley (David Arquette), who is now living alone in a trailer outside of town. Dewey separated from his love Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox), who still lives in New York, and he was drummed out of the police department. He’s still tortured from the events of his past, but feels compelled to help this newest group of kids defeat whoever the new killer may be. Events eventually lead to both Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Gail Weathers coming back to Woodsboro, but how could this new threat be connected with them when they don’t even live there anymore?

The directing team of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (READY OF NOT) do their best to make this latest take on the SCREAM franchise interesting and intense, but in many ways it just feels like a remake of the first film, with some minor changes to make it more topical. One of the greatest or perhaps most effective moments in the new production is a scene in which one of the new kids named Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), who is related to the Jamie Kennedy character from the first film, gives a monologue not unlike Kennedy’s from the first movie in which she explains the concept of a new movie that is a sequel and reboot at the same time, even referring to it as a “re-quel” for lack of a better term – it’s a meta joke where the movie is essentially explaining and simultaneously making fun of itself, and it’s pretty clever in its execution. That scene and a few others are pretty strong and well done, but find themselves mixed into an otherwise messy script that struggles to find a proper tone or pacing. I don’t remember getting bored in any of the previous SCREAM entries, but there were more than a few moments in the new SCREAM where the events just seemed tedious. There’s even a repeated gag in which a victim you KNOW is going to die walks around a house opening doors and turning their back, leading us (the audience) to expect when the door closes or when they turn around, Ghost Face will be there waiting… only he’s not, or at least not when you think he’ll be. This teasing of the audience is kind of clever, but is done repeatedly, to the point where we almost want a straightforward kill instead.

And then there’s the inclusion of the “legacy” characters, which of course is a big selling point with these movies. But don’t get too excited, as outside of select moments with David Arquette, who is one of the better-handled characters in this installment, both Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox are severely underused and given little to do. Even Neve Campbell seems disinterested here, sort of sleepwalking through the story and delivering her lines with minimal effort. Both Campbell and Cox are almost more glorified cameos than starring roles, though the film’s poster (shown above) would lead you to believe otherwise. There is another recurring cameo that I’m not going to spoil here that is slightly more interesting and offers potential to make things more complex, but barely ends up making a dent in the otherwise all-too-familiar story. Melissa Barrera makes a somewhat interesting new lead, and there is one particular aspect of her background that could lead to more unique adventures should they keep the franchise going. One of the themes that is touched upon in the script is the toxic fandom of movie franchises, and whether or not these “fans” have a point or not. It’s admirable that the film attempted to take that on, but I’m not sure their efforts really worked here.

This new SCREAM might be better than the fourth installment, but still feels lacking and filled with missed opportunities, though I feel like packed movie theaters with strong reactions to the scare moments could make this a fun experience. I can tell you in the sparsely-filled theater we had in our press screening, there were few reactions to be had, and a lot of the scares and jokes landed much more flat than you might expect. It’s not a terrible film by any means, but I doubt it will be very memorable, even for the biggest fans of the franchise. The big twist ending also asks a LOT of the audience in terms of believability. If you’re going to reveal a certain person to be the killer, at least have them be somewhat close in height and build to the killer we saw earlier. This reveal is almost laughable, as there’s one key scene that would be nearly impossible for this person to be behind. I can suspend my disbelief to a certain extent in horror movies, but this film really pushes the boundaries a bit too far. And for anyone wondering, there is no post-credit scene, which at this point feels like just another disappointment.

SCREAM opens January 14, 2022

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.