It’s been more than 10 years since the last Scream movie; last month saw Scream 5 hit the silver screen and there were rumours about a sixth and seventh movie. However, after the not-so-successful box office performance of Scream 4, it was highly questionable if there was going to be following movies. Therefore, it was very exciting to hear that a fifth Scream movie was in production. It’s important to note that, with this fifth instalment, the Scream franchise now spans over a twenty-five year storyline and that, in itself, is more than impressive. The first ever fans of the movie are now sailing through their thirties while the fifth instalment welcomes ‘gen Z’ to the story. As a long-time Scream fan, it makes me emotional to see one of my favourite movie franchises to reposition itself as an intergenerational classic. But, enough with my overly emotional relationship with the Scream series: it’s time to dig deep into Scream 5.
First, it should be noted that the official title of the movie is just Scream, not Scream 5. While it tells a story on its own, I’ll come back to this story later. Considering the storyline of Scream 5 is connected to previous instalments, I will refer to the movie as Scream 5. As we all know, Wes Craven passed away in 2015, leaving everyone in blues and resulting in Scream 5 being directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Both of them have already been building themselves up as horror specialists, with movies such as Ready or Not (2019), which was spectacular, and Southbound (2015). However, Craven was the creator of the series and even though Bettinelli and Gillett have pulled it off to a certain extent, there are differences that really distinguish Scream 5 from the others. This is not to imply that this one doesn’t measure up to the previous Scream movies, or even that every Scream movie by Craven was a masterpiece. In fact, Scream 3 was a disaster and Scream 2 was just okay. The difference I refer to is the overall characterisation of the movie. It’s not a secret that, aside from being a horror movie, the Scream franchise has also been a critic to movie industry and the franchise itself. What sets Scream 5 apart is its way of executing that criticising nature intensely. It is very overwhelming that at times, Scream 5 feels more like a documentary than a horror movie. Such strategy sure brings a cool approach to some extent; yet, it takes away the integrity of the plot, preventing the movie to come across as fluid entertainment.
The main reference point in the movie is the idea of Scream 5 being a “requel”, a term that was introduced by fandom. The term is described in the movie industry as “visiting the very first movie of a franchise… and creating a new setting for the ongoing storyline of the previous movies by introducing new characters, changing the pace and texture of the story while bringing back original characters as legendary icons” – Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courteney Cox) and Dewey (David Arquette) here- “moving beyond becoming a simple remake”. I enjoyed the idea of this movie being positioned as a requel, as it’s always a cool idea to go back to the original movie. However, there was one huge problem for me. The scene where Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) evaluates what a requel is, with many references to the plot of Scream 5, was so extensive that it gave away all the awaiting plot twists and killing sequence.
To be fair, it was never difficult to guess the killers in Scream 5. In fact, I spotted them the minute their characters were introduced. However, laying out all of the plot like that left me quite disappointed. The scene also takes the audience out of the movie and give them the sense of reading a Reddit entry.
The movie also contains heavy critique towards its fanbase. Scream movies have faced criticism from the fandom as regards their stories, characters and endings. Some of the fans wished that the franchise had remained as a trilogy, while most of the fandom would have preferred Sidney to be killed in the fourth movie. The movie refers such fans as the “toxic fanbase”. I agree with the approach of the movie; fans can really be frustrating for big franchises bordering at being toxic. However, the tone of the movie feels like a reproach sometimes. There are a couple of scenes where this criticism towards the fanbase is voiced, yet the same problem occurs here as well. In those scenes, the characters move away from the plot completely and voice the frustration towards the fans. Again, the audience feels like they are reading an entry in Reddit rather than watching the film. Earlier, I mentioned how this movie feels like a documentary at times and these are the scenes that give such an impression. Really, instead of witnessing an actual dialogue from the script, you find yourself watching a satire. Unfortunately, this kind of approach from the directors caused the characters and plot of Scream 5 to be heavily overshadowed by the sole purpose of making a requel.
Nonetheless, there were several things that I truly enjoyed. The directors brought a new touch in certain aspects that elevated the movie for me. Let’s start with the opening scene and the introduction of a brand-new character, Tara (Jenna Ortega). I have to say, ever since the killing of Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) in Scream (1996), we did not witness an opening scene as strong. What made Casey’s death a signature for the Scream franchise was its incredible build up. To this day, Casey’s death remains a classic. Now, what makes opening scene of Scream 5 as amazing is the same intelligent build up that the directors created. We are introduced to Tara and there is enough setting for audience to connect with her. When Ghostface attacks, you want Tara to defeat the Ghostface and survive the incident; even though you are fully aware that she is going to die, since no character gets past the very first attack. So, when Ghostface finally catches up to her and starts landing the killing blows, you immediately get the exact same feeling when you first witnessed Casey’s death. There’s that feeling of desperation, frustration, anger and, most of all, the sadness. In this sense, Scream 5 satisfies the audience in terms of making a requel. However, even more surprising, and even better in my opinion, is the fact that Tara survives the very first attack! This was such a new breath to the franchise; it has never been done in any of the previous movies, and I truly enjoyed this new touch. It also helps that Tara was my favourite character in this movie, so I was also very happy to hear that she was alive.
Another thing that I enjoyed was the convincing nature of the killings. Most of them felt like how a murder would occur in real life. I know, it sounds creepy, but it also adds to the movie on emotional level. The deaths of Sheriff Judy (Marley Shelton) and her son Wes (Dylan Minnette) in particular made it very difficult to hold back some tears. You can clearly observe the cruel demeanour of the Ghostface, as the light from victims’ eyes slowly fades away. Those two killings were truly horrific and striking, and as much as they broke my heart, they added to the strength of this movie. About Wes’ death, I rather not go into detail about the whole “For Wes” thing, because it looked very cheesy. It felt more like “Yeah, of course, we did not forget about Wes Craven”, rather than a true tribute scene.
And of course, the best thing about the movie was seeing the legendary trio; Sidney, Gale and Dewey again. They are not the main characters of this movie, though they play some crucial parts throughout the story. One thing that kept the fans on the edge of their seats before the movie came out, was the question of whether any of the legendary three would die. There had been rumors confirming the death of one of them; but it was not certain as to which one it would be. Unfortunately, though maybe fortunately to some, the rumours came true and one of the legendary three does not make it to the end of the movie, Dewey. Now, in terms of the plot and overall character development, I would say that Dewey was the correct choice because he is the least interesting character out of three of them. However, the way Dewey’s farewell to the franchise is staged was terrible. All I’m going to say about that scene is that if you’re going the eliminate a legendary character from a series, then it should be in a legendary way as well. Moreover, it could’ve been way more interesting if Dewey was able to take out one of the killers halfway through the movie; something that we’ve never witnessed in a Scream movie; but hey, that’s just my opinion.
Overall, I would say Scream 5 was an okay movie. I’d put it between Scream 4 and Scream 2. On one hand, it was a solid entry, considering how many years have passed since the last one. The directors did an okay job in the absence of Wes Craven. As a long-time fan of the franchise, I wished to see a more compelling movie, especially on behalf of the legendary three. Also, most of the characters other than Tara were forgettable to me. On the other hand, Scream 5 is definitely the beginning of a new route for the franchise. It allowed the previous story to move forward to a different path and made it possible to progress into a different generation. Therefore, it has its unique features to it.
Now, the sixth movie is officially announced, and the production is expected to start this summer. The smart move would be getting rid of the ongoing story from first five movies and introducing Ghostface to a new adventure with brand new characters. It was already hinted in Scream 5 that we won’t see Sidney Prescott anymore as Mindy says that “Sidney doesn’t appear after the fifth movie.” It’s always exciting to know that there’s going to be another Scream movie; thus, the best thing to do is to wait and see how the cookie will crumble.