SCREAM Review: Horror "Requel" Is A Moderately Effective Slasher, But Meta Elements Offset Suspense

The fifth instalment in the iconic Scream franchise slices its way into theatres this weekend, and while loyal fans are sure to have a blast, it's not the return to form many were hoping for.

Reviews Opinion

This review will contain mild spoilers.

"Do you like scary movies?" If so, you might want to give Scream 2022 a miss.

To be fair, the Scream films were never particularly scary, but Wes Craven's masterful original (and, to a lesser extent, the first sequel) did boast some nail-bitingly tense moments and a few effective jumps. This fifth instalment does significantly increase the gore quota, but is seriously lacking when it comes to genuine suspense.

Scream (the decision to drop the "5" from the title is referenced) begins with a sequence that's become a staple of the franchise, as a lone teenager (Jenna Ortega) is stalked and sliced by the latest incarnation of masked killer, Ghostface. This time, however, young Tara survives (she's only stabbed about 27 times) the attack, which brings her estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) back to Woodsboro along with her supportive boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid).

As the bodies pile up, our new gang of potential knife-fodder turns to Dewey Riley (David Arquette) to bring them up to speed on the rules of surviving a horror movie in an attempt to determine the killer's identity. Before long, Sydney Prescot (Neve Campbell) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) arrive to offer their old friend some backup, and the hunt is on to unmask Ghostface before he/she can enact his/her diabolical plan.

Scream 5 Posters Feature Courteney Cox, David Arquette, and Neve Campbell

It's a familiar set-up, but the script by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick does introduce a few intriguing new elements which prevent the story from unfolding as a complete retread, and our new protagonists are a mostly tolerable bunch (they're more likeable than the disposable shitheads from 3 and 4, at least). Unfortunately, it's still difficult to care what happens to any of them because Scream is determined to remind us that we're watching a movie at every turn.

This franchise has always been self-aware, of course, but whereas Craven's original cleverly subverted horror conventions while also working very well as an engrossing slasher in its own right, this entry goes self-referential to the point that it takes you out of the movie. One rather excruciating scene involving Jasmin Savoy Brown's Mindy (the Randy Meeks stand-in) explaining the finer points of a "requel" stops just short of having the characters look right into the camera and literally wink at the audience.

This isn't the only issue that dulls so much of the tension, as directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett rely far too heavily on contrived scenarios and fake jump-scares. A character opens a fridge door... will Ghostface be there when he closes it? Well, the score just swelled, so probably not. Hey, maybe he'll appear behind the other door just when we think it's safe! It's all pretty basic stuff, and even when Ghostface is in pursuit, you may find yourself wondering how these capable (in some cases, trained) individuals are unable to handle themselves against a clumsy bastard with a relatively small blade who drops like a WWE referee whenever anyone brushes against him.

It may sound like I'm ripping into the movie a little here, but there is a lot to like. As mentioned, some of the kills are pretty brutal, and the film does not scrimp on the blood. There is a very well-orchestrated sequence involving a certain character in a hospital (don't worry, there are lots of characters in hospitals) that is genuinely shocking, and it sets the stage for a highly enjoyable final act.

The cast also delivers, with Arquette, Ortega and Barrera emerging as standouts. Sydney fans may be disappointed to learn that the "Queen" doesn't get involved until very late in the game, but Campbell certainly makes the most of her screen time.

Hardcore fans are sure to get their money's worth, but for everyone else, Scream 5 only just gets by as a moderately effective slasher. A game cast, vicious kills and a smattering of surprises ensure it's never less than engaging, but the pronounced meta elements only dilute the tension. Not bad, just not quite the return to form many were hoping for.

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