I have been a big fan of the Scream franchise from the start. I remember seeing the first movie in the Grandin Theater in my hometown when I was just a junior in high school. That theater, by the way, if you aren’t familiar with Roanoke area landmarks is one of those really old theaters. Back in the day, before they raised millions of dollars to refurbish the joint, it was a creepy place to see a scary movie. And that’s where I was introduced to Scream.
Scream 2 was a worthy follow-up. Scream 3 and 4… I mean, worth watching, sure. Just not as good. You know how these sequels go. But what’s always fun about this franchise is that they take a look at what’s going on in the horror genre and throw out a ton of meta-commentary on it. And this new Scream sequel (re-quel?) continues that fine tradition.
Here at the start, I won’t get into spoilers. I’ll properly warn you when that time comes…
Scream brings back the franchise’s legacy characters in Sydney Prescott, Dewey Riley, and Gale Weathers. But it also does a decent job of introducing us to a new cast of characters to whom the torch can sort of be passed. A next generation, if you will. Though, really, there was only one real stand-out amongst the younger cast. The rest, even those legacies, almost felt like they were phoning it in.
I’m sure it’s unfair to say that, especially for the ones who have been part of Scream since 1996. One has to wonder how it is for these three to come back for a fifth film. Especially considering David Arquette and Courteney Cox ended their marriage only a couple years after filming Scream 4.
As slasher flicks go, this is one of them. I mean… it’s not quite as disappointing as last fall’s Halloween Kills, but it certainly wasn’t everything I was excited to see going into the theater. Maybe that’s on me… Maybe I raised my expectations to a level that could not be attained. I’m not sure, though.
Before I get into spoilers, I’ll just say this… Scream is worth watching if you are a fan of the franchise overall. If you’ve seen all the others, you’ll definitely want to see this movie, if only to complete the collection. As a form of entertainment, it does its job… I was entertained. But after another decade of waiting for a continuation to this story, I was just less than impressed.
Okay… This is the part where there be spoilers ahead… You have been warned!
All right, at this point if you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you’ve either seen the movie or you want the spoilers. I feel that the warning has been adequate and therefore, it’s on you if the ending gets ruined.
I’m not sure how I had this feeling going into it but I had a hunch that at least one of our three original stars was going to meet their end this time around. Dewey even admits that he’s been stabbed nine times in the past, knowing full well what Ghostface’s blade feels like. Honestly, I figured if one of them was gonna bite it, it would be the good deputy turned retired sheriff. And… yeah… I was right.
While Dewey went out like a hero, having saved the lives of three others, he also went out like an idiot, sending the others down the hospital elevator while he went to check on the supposedly unconscious killer by himself. Of course he gets distracted in the final moment and is brutally killed. It’s a mistake I wouldn’t think that a character like Dewey, who has survived four previous horror films, would make.
Our new protagonist, Samantha, is introduced to us when she gets a call letting her know that her sister, Tara, was attacked at home by a new Ghostface. Sam has been away from Woodsboro for several years, having left because she discovered that she was the illegitimate daughter of Billy Loomis, one of the original killers. Fearing that she could turn out like him, she ran away, cutting off contact from her sister in a misguided desire to protect Tara. That reveal did not come as much of a shock, to be honest.
Another issue I had came with the deaths of the current Sheriff, former deputy Judy Hicks, who was introduced in Scream 4, and her teenage son, Wes. Sheriff Hicks is just going about her day, leaving her son at home while she leaves to pick up some take out. When she gets a call from the killer on the road, she immediately turns around, knowing her son’s life is in danger. It didn’t take a genius to see that this was a trap and that she would soon be the killer’s next victim.
My problem isn’t that she was targeted. My problem comes with the fact that, on her way back to her house, she radios all active units to converge on her home, fearing for her son’s life. Meanwhile, she’s stabbed to death in her front yard in broad daylight… and no other deputies’ cruisers are in sight. Woodsboro is not what you’d call a major metropolitan center. They even refer to it as a small town in this very film. What takes the deputies so long to get there?! Meanwhile, Wes gets out of the shower and begins setting the table for when his mom gets back with dinner. He hears the front door open and finds it slightly ajar and, like a moron, just closes and locks it… locking him in with the killer. But he didn’t see his mother’s bloody corpse lying in the front yard?
Which brings me to another issue… They named this kid Wes, in obvious homage to Wes Craven, horror icon and director of the first four installments. But then you kill the kid off? What kind of homage is that?
Part of the fun of the Scream movies is trying to figure out who is under the mask. It’s always someone the victims know. This time around, they didn’t really make it much of a challenge to discover who the killers were. That’s right… there are two killers again. I can’t say I had it figured out from the start, but I certainly had my suspicions from the opening scene about one of the killers. The rest was confirmed by the time we were halfway through the movie.
I will say I enjoyed the killers’ explained motivation. I mean, sure, it’s ridiculous and really just gives a couple of psychopaths an excuse to do what they’re doing. But it’s all because they were big fans of the Stab movies. Those, of course, are the movies within the movie… the in-universe franchise that told the story of the Woodsboro killings. Apparently, the most recent sequel was an abomination that angered a lot of the fans. Thus, our meta-commentary for Scream this time around is all about toxic fandom.
Toxic fandom, if you were unaware, is seen all over the place thanks to social media. You’ve got groups out there who don’t like the latest Star Wars movies for one reason or another and make the claim that they aren’t “real” Star Wars movies and that anyone who likes them is stupid for liking them. That kind of thing… And there are toxic pockets of fans in all sorts of fandoms. You better be careful if you tweet that you really like the latest season of Star Trek: Discovery. You might just be met with a bunch of responses that question your parentage while insulting your mother to some degree.
So, these two toxic fans of the Stab franchise have set out to give the filmmakers the opportunity to once again make a “good” Stab movie. One that is, once again, based on actual events.
The killers, as it turns out, are Richie, Sam’s boyfriend, and Amber, Tara’s best friend. An adult man and a teenage girl… This should lead to two very different looks for Ghostface, considering that Amber is roughly a foot shorter than Richie. But we never see that difference. Okay… maybe the boots Amber wears while in costume have lifts to make her seem taller. But do they make her stronger?
Remember how I described Dewey’s death earlier? How he saved three lives? One of those lives was Richie, meaning that Amber had to be the one behind the mask at the time. So when Dewey is taken down, we see Amber, this petite teenage girl lift this grown man off the ground using a knife in the abdomen and a knife in the back. I don’t think so.
One more complaint and I’ll quit, I promise. Something that the original Scream made look believable were the injuries sustained by each of the characters. When Stu got stabbed by Billy in the end, it’s clear that he’s suffering from blood loss and is having a hard time moving around and even staying conscious until he gets that final rush of adrenaline to chase Sydney, ending with a television on his head. When Sydney receives injuries while being chased by the killer in the final act, we see the effects of those injuries in her acting.
This time around, a stab to the gut seems like a minor thing. Richie even twists the knife when he stabs Sam in the stomach. She should be bleeding out. But in the end, while her sister is on a gurney being loaded into an ambulance, we see that Sam has only an ACE bandage wrapped around her. I’m sorry… no… if she survives the attack at all, she should be on a stretcher in the back of her own ambulance and on her way to surgery to repair the damage done by that knife in her gut. The only believable performance after an injury comes from the late Randy Meeks’ nephew, Chad, who gets stabbed in the leg and is actively limping as he tries to get away. Though, with the amount of blood shown to be coming out of the wound, it seems like his femoral artery was cut and he should bleed out in seconds… yet he’s one of the survivors in the end.
Look, I’m not saying I hated the movie. I’m just saying it was an overall disappointment. I was entertained and I will come back when and if they decide to move forward with a sixth installment. Scream now ranks at 1,464 out of 2,283 movies on my personal Flickchart.
Have you had a chance to see the new Scream? Are you a fan of the franchise or of slasher/horror movies in general? What do you think of this latest installment? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments!