2022, R, 114 mins.
Melissa Barrera as Sam Carpenter / David Arquette as Dewey Riley / Jenna Ortega as Tara Carpenter / Jack Quaid as Richie Kirsch / Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers / Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott / Mikey Madison as Amber Freeman / Jasmin Savoy Brown as Mindy Meeks-Martin / Dylan Minnette as Wes Hicks / Skeet Ulrich as Billy Loomis / Kyle Gallner as Vince Schneider / Roger L. Jackson as Ghostface (voice) / Reggie Conquest as Deputy Farney / Chester Tam as Deputy VinsonDirected by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett / Written by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick
There's a brief
moment in the newest SCREAM sequel (confusingly titled just SCREAM despite
really being SCREAM 5) that made me literally point at the screen - just
like the Leonardo DiCaprio meme - and say out loud "Man, that's some
dumb writing right there."
Without going into any spoilers, let's just say the moment in question involves a character shooting the franchise's frequently unkillable serial stalker killer Ghostface multiple times in the body. The mad villain certainly appears to be dead, but students of SCREAM canon (and you'd also think the people that populate these movies) know better. Now, instead of the shooter quickly popping a couple of rounds into the fallen baddie's head (two in the head, you know they're dead, if you ask me when it comes to eradicating horror film killers) and quickly unmasking him (or her) he decides to do nothing to ensure this vile creature's death...and then walks away...thinks about it for a minute...and then decides to walk back to the presumed dead body to check and make sure he/she is actually dead.
The end results of his inaction are achingly predictable.
characters learned nothing over the course of four previous films?
And why is the hospital that this scene takes place in completely
void of other patients, visitors, doctors, nurses, and/or security guards?
This is the most hilariously empty hospital in movie history.
some dumb writing.
the mostly scare-free and redundant SCREAM all I could do was think fondly
back to the 1996 franchise spawning original...SCREAM (yeah, annoying)
from horror veteran director Wes Craven and then novice screenwriter Kevin
Williamson; it was an absolutely radical game changer for a genre on
critical life support. The
first SCREAM was essentially a mad slasher picture that featured an
iconically costumed monster carving his way through multiple teenagers.
On paper, its premise was about as dime a dozen as they come, but
what Williamson and Craven did with this obligatory material was smart and
fresh in the way they made their characters highly articulate and self
aware when it came to horror movie troupes. They expressed an adoration and level of spirited criticism
about the best and worst aspects of slasher films, which allowed for them
(well, most of them) to use their cinematic knowledge to one-up the
killer at large. SCREAM was
not the first self-aware and self-referential horror film for Craven, but
it was his best, and its massive critical and audience success spawned
inevitable sequels, the first of which was arguably as good as the
original, whereas the third entry and the mostly forgettable and most
recent sequel in 2012 made me think that the innovative well of
this franchise had been sucked dry.
SCREAM (this new
fifth entry, not the original...yeah...annoying) comes off as a
copy of a copy of a copy...of a copy of the first installment from
25 years ago, and the creative desperation this go around feels even more
pronounced. Perhaps more so
than with any of the previous sequels, this one straight up annoyed me,
mostly because its makers think they are being smart about horror film
conventions (and soft reboot Hollywood culture), but instead just fall
pathetic victim to the very formulas they're trying to transcend.
Whereas SCREAM 1 had a healthy balance between harnessing routine
slasher elements and sarcastically mocking them, SCREAM 5 (and its two
last prequels) seems to be lazily swimming and drowning within them. This all has the bad side effect of making this latest
endeavor all the more cynical minded as a cheap cash grab. Yes, there are some momentary pleasures to be had with mixing
in everybody's favorite legacy characters with a new squad of fresh faced
performers (call it THE FORCE
AWAKENS effect), but directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler
Gillett (replacing the deceased Craven and who previously made the dreadfully
under-seen horror thriller READY OR NOT)
and writers James Vanderbit and Guy Busick (replacing Williamson) can't
seem to find their way through this tired outing to deliver something
wholly fresh. Ultimately,
this is a nostalgia bait sequel (or "re-quel," to quote one
character) high on fan servicing autopilot...and not much more.
The opening of
this new SCREAM is a replication of the opening of the first film, but to
be fair it features the sensational Jenna Ortega (who just gave an Oscar caliber
performance in THE FALLOUT) occupying
the modern day Drew Barrymore victim here.
She plays Tara, who's about to engage in some downtime until the
Ghostface killer calls her (hey, who has a home line anymore?) and then
crashes into her home and attempts to cut her into pieces.
She miraculously survives, and when her older sister in Sam (IN
THE HEIGHT's luminous and talented Melissa Barrera, kind of lost
here) finds out she quickly returns back to her Woodsboro home to visit
her critical injured sibling at the hospital. She's comforted by her boyfriend in Richie (Jack Quaid) and
their mutual friends: Wes (Dylan Minnette), Liv (Sonia Ben Ammar), Amber
(Mikey Madison) and twins Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy
Brown). Through the Law of
Economy of Characters, it's abundantly clear that one of these teens
will be revealed to be the Ghostface murderer in the end, but well before
that Sam realizes that she might be in way over her head, so she decides
to recruit those that have the experience in dealing with matters such as
these, like the middle aged Dewie (David Arquette) and eventually the two
other women that survived all of the previous films in Sidney (Neve
Campbell) and Gale (Courtney Cox). Oh, one other "legacy" character returns in
hallucination form (and with some shoddy de-aging visual effects) that is
revealed to have a secret relationship with one of the new characters
SCREAM 5 has a
few interesting ideas at play with regurgitating this franchise yet again,
especially when it comes to commenting on how horror cinema has changed
since the mid 90s. There are
some spirited jabs about the fact that there have been eight (yes, EIGHT)
STAB movies made inspired by the original Woodsboro murders, with the last
one being despised by fans for not spoon feeding them exactly what they
wanted (it was, of course, directed by Rian Johnson...ha!).
I also liked the aforementioned opening scene with the superb
Ortega (she might be a far better actress then this sequel deserves)
offering up her generation's thoughts on what constitutes real horror to
Ghostface on the phone (her answer to being asked about her favorite scary
movie is THE BABADOCK as well as HEREDITARY
and IT FOLLOWS (for being smart and
elevated genre efforts). And,
yeah, it's a cool delight to see a dialed down Arquette returning to play
his aging crippled ex-man of the law that has proven to be the series'
most infectiously likeable character (granted, he has pathetically fallen
on really hard times on top of the years advancing on him).
Is it a good
thing, though, when Arquette's Dewy is the best thing in this fifth and
new SCREAM film? I dunno.
It seems like a doubled edged sword.
Campbell and Cox aren't in the film enough to make a sizeable
impact, and even when they make their presence felt they look more visibly
bored than at any other time in this franchise.
The newcomers playing off of them are relatively decent, but none
of them come off as memorably unique as their predecessors did decades ago
when the madness of this cinematic universe started.
More so now than ever, these young adults spew out pop/movie
culture laced diatribes about horror films, legacy sequels, remakes, re-quels,
etc. and the rules contained within...and it really feels like product of
a screenwriter and not the organically relayed thoughts of these
adolescents. SCREAM 5 is high
also high on replication without audacious innovation.
It uses the first film as a blueprint guide to dictate this film's
narrative, right down to the initial attack, the teens banding together to
formulate a plan of defence, a lot of bickering about Hollywood
contrivances, and the would-be shocking climax with the Scooby-Doo reveal
of Ghostface's real identity (or identities).
The wash, rinse, and repeat cycle of SCREAM is as subtle as
multiple knife thrusts to the chest.
It also becomes
truly hard to not asking questions about this sequel's internal logic (or
lack thereof). Despite Sidney, Gale, and Dewie having intimate first hand
experience with the previous Ghostface killers, they manage to make
cardinal blunders here that oh-so-many horror film characters make (the
kind that this series ironically loves to chastise). I'm still puzzled why a person as quadruple
traumatized as Sidney would ever want to return to her hometown again
to face this same nightmare all over again.
The laughable plot holes pile up a lot throughout the course of
SCREAM, and the makers here have a clear passion for this series and want
to craft something fiendishly original, but they lack the wherewithal to
commit and follow-through on such an endeavor.
I mentioned that scene in the hospital earlier and honestly felt
like I was experiencing critical deja vu...only to find out that SCREAM 4 also
incredulously contained a nearly identical sequence set in a hospital that
also seemed completely void of any other people outside of the
killer and a few of his prey. Why
are so many places in the SCREAM films so hopelessly unguarded...and at
hilariously convenient times?
SCREAM 1 subversively winked at audiences and let them know it was in on the joke. This SCREAM is just a pale imitator and a pathetic joke.