*Spoiler Warning for the whole Scream franchise*
Scream, the requel, reboot, the sequel that really tried. It tried in the sense that it didn’t feel like a blatant cash grab. There were good moments, decent callbacks and some good performances from the supporting cast.
But it was so lacklustre.
Where to start? Well…
Firstly, the characterisation of Sam, the new main character, is a little off. She isn’t quite ‘final girl’ material. She isn’t written to be strong or clever and doesn’t have a discernible personality whatsoever. This is made clearer by the character of Tara, Sam’s younger sister, who feels far more fitting for the role of final girl. Tara’s writing is also far more comparable to that of a traditional final girl than Sam’s – looking at you, hospital scene. Sam feels wooden and boring, she lacks personality past what is required by the plot for her. The writing isn’t there and unfortunately, neither is the performance. She feels like a Netflix teen protagonist, to be completely honest.
The rest of the supporting cast is decent, with the exception of Amber, who is the most unbelievably annoying and possessive character, with clumsy writing and acting choices which feel outwardly fake. She felt like a ‘mean girl’ archetype without the personality. It’s just boring. It’s obvious she’s not meant to be likeable but the writers clearly didn’t trust the audience enough to infer this for themselves. The twins and Wes were fun characters and the actor performances for them were solid and believable. But then there’s Liv, aka the girl who was so forgettable and had about five minutes of screen time so there’s barely even a point in her being included in this article.
This is incredibly frustrating as the teen cast of the original Scream movie was so brilliant. The characters fell into their respective archetypes perfectly, without feeling forced or unwarranted. Furthermore, Billy was suspicious in his actions and presentation of them, rather than just having a bored facial expression and being downright rude every five minutes like Amber is. It was difficult to tell if the writers were trying to make a reverse red herring or simply lack the ability to create an intriguing mystery with nuanced layers.
The film feels unnecessary as it doesn’t actually add any noteworthy commentary on the genre, unless you count a few lines about ‘elevated horror’ which were included in an attempt to make the film relevant. This seemed odd as the entire point of the Scream franchise is to make satire and poke fun at the common horror tropes of the era.
Now this may all seem incredibly hypercritical, but the film is a disservice to fans who genuinely wanted to enjoy it, and it gets lost in trying to hit certain beats from its predecessors rather than actually create original moments and be at least somewhat engaging. Some viewers did enjoy this film, which is understandable as it is a fun watch with some cool set pieces such as the hospital scene and does have some good kills as well, notably the double-kill at Wes’ house. But as a Scream film, and as part of the franchise, it clearly tries to pay homage to it’s older siblings without having its own developed identity.
The ‘identity’, this latest addition provides a poorly motivated killing duo who completely undermine the message of the original film and are supposed to be a threat? The problem is, Richie (Sam’s boyfriend) and Amber (Tara’s “best friend”) are revealed as the aforementioned dream team killing duo whilst simultaneously being two of the worst characters in the film, second only to Sam. Their motivation was that they were disappointed with the direction the in-universe satire-slasher franchise ‘Stab’ was taking and they wanted to reroute it themselves. This directly contradicts the message of the first film “Sid, don’t you blame the movies. Movies don’t create psychos, movies make psychos more creative”. But Amber and Richie aren’t being creative and were completely inspired by the ‘Stab’ films.
Their “commentary” on fandom culture is out of touch, to say the least, maybe if this is how the latest Star Wars film had ended it would be understandable, but it’s clear the writers don’t have an understanding of the different types of horror fans and larger ‘fandom’ culture in the slightest. This is yet another plot point where they could have had a genuinely interesting and engaging discussion on horror discourse and criticism – after all, horror rarely wins awards and is often looked down upon unless marketed and boxed up as something more palatable to Hollywood, like a ‘thriller’ or ‘social horror’. While there was a vague attempt at this, the aforementioned ‘elevated horror’ discussion, it didn’t have plot relevance and seemed as though it could have been thrown in as an afterthought.
And then there’s the original cast. The ‘Legacy Characters’. Let’s get the good done first, Sydney Prescott and Gale Weathers were decently characterised and largely the same as they have been for the past films, resourceful, smart and ready to take on Ghostface. The problem with them being a highlight of Scream 5 is that Sam further sticks out like a sore thumb as a badly written and acted character.
And, this is a strong ‘however’…
There are two legacy characters who completely missed the mark. If the film was a dartboard, they wouldn’t even be in the same room as it. First up, we have Billy. Wait! Billy? Isn’t he dead? Hasn’t he been dead for the past three films? Well yes, yes he has. But because Sam suffers from hallucinations throughout the film and is (“shockingly”) revealed as Billy’s biological daughter, she sees visions of him. Weird, CGI, quasi-redemptive visions.
Now, attempting to redeem Billy is a bad idea. But, just to lay out exactly why it’s a bad idea, here’s a list of everything bad he did:
- Killed/planned to kill the following
- Maureen Prescott
- Steven Orth (Drew Barrymore’s boyfriend)
- Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore)
- Principal Himbry
- Tatum Riley
- Kenny Jones (Gale Weathers’ cameraman)
- Traumatised Sydney by attempted murder
- Tried to kill Randy
- Inspired the Stab franchise which led to more murders
- Generally creepy vibe
So, maybe Sam’s visions of CGI Billy aren’t the best creative choice here, especially when he is seen ‘helping’ her (when he motions towards the gun on the floor). Billy doesn’t need, let alone deserve a redemption arc of any capacity.
And then there’s Dewey.
Dewey, Dewey, Dewey. One question, simply why? The ‘washed up and drunk’ trope for middle aged men is so tired, it’s been done far too many times. In this case, it’s explained in one conversation that Dewey has regressed to this point due to his breakup with Gale. Now it’s plausible this could have been the breaking point for him but it still feels cheap. He’s survived four films. It feels like the writers didn’t know what to do with him at all and therefore just created an archetype. Again, it feels like a disservice to the original characters and the audience.
Before this becomes to much like a rant, let’s pull it all together. This film was enjoyable to watch in the cinema, it’s Scream for the next generation. There were some brilliant supporting performances and some great set pieces but overall the film fell flat. The main performances didn’t jump out like they had in previous films. There was a real lack of creativity, logic and the choices they made didn’t always hit the mark. It was fine, but with so many years of incredible horror cinema to pull references from, this film was a disappointment to say the very least.