Scream Movie Review: A fine addition to the multiverse of slash-ness
If the Scary Movie franchise parodied Scream and its offsprings, this film half-spoofs and half-reinvents the franchise for audiences of the digital age
Fans of Ready or Not would know directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s propensity for showcasing blood, violence, and gore on screen. For such a dynamic duo, the prospects of getting into the shoes of a visionary like Wes Craven might have been the stuff of dreams—and boy, do they deliver in the latest installment of the cult classic franchise, Scream.
Direction: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Cast: Melissa Barrera, Jack Quaid, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Neve Campbell
For a franchise built on meta-ness and in-jokes, this film turns up the meta-ness by quite a few notches. In fact, so meta is it that even audiences who aren’t acquainted with the franchise will understand proceedings. The writing also has enough juice to satiate permanent residents of the cult fandom and allows enough space for the newer entrants to get a pass into this world as well.
Just like every other Scream movie, this too starts off with a mysterious phone call, the furious opening and closing of locks, the random appearance of the Ghostface killer, and then, we have a slashed gut here, and a slashed neck there. Here a slash, there a slash, everywhere a slash slash, as we reenter the gory-ious world of Woodsboro and its twisted inhabitants.
If the Scary Movie franchise parodied Scream and its offsprings, this film half-spoofs and half-reinvents the franchise for audiences of the digital age. It is self-aware but also doesn’t stop itself from throwing punches at “elevated horror” films like The Babadook or Hereditary where the horror elements have subtext and intricate layers delving into overarching themes including but not restricted to commentary on patriarchy, feminism, and more.
It all begins when Tara (Jenna Ortega), who picks up that ill-fated phone call, barely manages to escape and gets admitted to a hospital. This kickstarts a chain of events that brings her estranged sister Samantha (Melissa Barrera) back to Woodsboro along with her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid). We also, of course, have a group of Tara’s friends (read, possible suspects) in the middle of it all. These events also fashion the return of OG victims and franchise regulars Sidney Prescott, Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette). Have I already mentioned how meta this installment is? This aspect warrants multiple mentions as it not only becomes the gold standard of ‘requels’ (reboot+sequel) but also takes the reference game to a whole new level. The writers (James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick) are in on it. The characters are in on it. The audience is in on it. And yet, Scream 5 is somehow a standalone, a sequel, a reboot, a breath of fresh blood, I mean, air, and just like its predecessor, is also a commentary on the hand that feeds this franchise.
The best part about Scream is that, barring a scene or two featuring Dewey and Gale, it never once takes itself more seriously than it is required. The play with the usual tropes of slasher/Scream films, the subversions of the stereotypes, the a-ha moments, the blood, the gore, the unabashed swings of knives, and the surprisingly poignant moments, in fact, almost every single element of Scream 5 is used in right moderation to ensure it is more than just a fanservice film. It attempts to give such a neat end to the legacy of the franchise that I can go out on a ‘severed’ limb or two to call Scream 5 the Logan equivalent of the much-revered slasher franchise. By calling it Scream, and almost giving all its OG characters a neat ending, the fifth installment does end on a high. But will the makers let it be or make just one more phone call out of it? Well… whatever happens, slash me in.