‘Scream’ Reinvigorates the Slasher Genre

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Ghostface is back. After nearly 4,000 days, the Scream franchise has returned to cinema screens — and it may be the best sequel yet.

The first film in the franchise since director Wes Craven’s passing, his presence was definitely felt in the production. The film is dedicated to him, and at one point the camera pans to a street sign bearing the name Elm — a heartwarming nod to the late “Master of Horror.” A character was also named after him.

The film opens much like the first, with high school student Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) home alone and texting her friend, Amber Freeman (Mikey Madison). The landline rings and Tara answers. To the shock of no one watching, it ends up being a threatening caller, who forces her to answer Stab movie trivia so Amber’s life will be spared.

When she answers a question wrong, Ghostface breaks into the house and attacks Tara, breaking her leg and stabbing her dozens of times. She survives the attempt on her life, but is badly wounded.

Tara’s friend and classmate, Wes Hicks (Dylan Minnette), informs her older sister, Samantha “Sam” Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), about the attack. Sam returns to Woodsboro with her boyfriend, Richie (Jack Quaid), to visit Tara at the hospital and offers to stay until she recovers.

Meanwhile, Wes’ mother, Sheriff Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton), gathers the rest of Tara’s friend group – Amber, twin siblings Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) Meeks-Martin, and Liv McKenzie (Sonia Ben Ammar) – for interrogation.

Richie, who is unaware of the Stab films or the Woodsboro connection, spends the majority of the hospital visit with Sam watching the recent Stab 8. Sam — who is plagued with hallucinations of Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) — tries to figure out what is going on, as Ghostface starts picking people off one by one. Eventually, Dewey (David Arquette), Gale (Courtney Cox), and Sidney (Neve Campbell) show up and that’s where the real fun starts.

Scream felt pretty perfect to me. The kills were brutally great, the gore fantastic, and — as always with Scream — meta-humor abounding at every turn. This film is effectively a love letter to fans, and it shows. The death of a main character was definitely impactful. I expected it, but still felt kind of blindsided — in a good way, though.

The killers, and their motive, felt kind of cliche but handling cliches and self parody is very much Scream’s wheelhouse right down to referencing Dawson’s Creek, a work by Scream writer Kevin Williamson, in the end credits and the movie proper (the characters watched Dawson’s Halloween episode).

There are loads of excellent callbacks to previous entries in the series and some fixes to the lore that will make fans disappointed with a certain previous entry quite satisfied. However, for all it’s competence, Scream 5 is not without some droplets of blood, making a mess of an otherwise flawless final product.

One minor goof really stuck out in my mind. When characters were getting beer out of the refrigerator in Amber’s basement, a jar of Hellman’s Mayonnaise was visible. The problem is, the Hellman’s brand is not sold in California where Scream is set. Hellman’s is only sold east of the Rocky Mountains. West of the Rocky’s, it is sold under the Best Foods brand.

Although set on the West Coast, Scream in actuality was filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina. That explains the discrepancy, but still a glaring one in my book. For that reason, I am deducting half a star from my final rating. It might seem petty, but detail is important — even the minute ones.

Scream 5 most definitely breathes new life into the franchise, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. I give Scream four and a half out of five stars.

“For Wes.”

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