Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett
Written by: James Vanderbilt & Guy Busick
Starring: Melissa Barrera, Mason Gooding, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Marley Shelton, Courteney Cox
Legacy sequels have hit the horror genre with the promise of many dollar bills. The idea of continuing the story of a trusted brand by the movie-going public, while also bringing back some of the loved characters along with bringing in new ones. This has resulted in plenty of success and it only makes sense for each of them to receive this treatment as what occurs in Scream. However, in pure Scream fashion, it takes its very existence in a cloud of meta-ness that makes for such an entertaining journey.
After her younger sister gets attacked by a new Ghostface killer, Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) arrives back in Woodsboro to offer support. After speaking with Ghostface veteran Dewey (David Arquette), she and Tara’s (Jenna Ortega) friend try to decipher who this new Ghostface is. As they try to get the truth they begin to get picked off one by one just like many years before.
Revolutionary from the very first film, this franchise has always managed to walk the tight line between the horror genre and being incredibly meta in the way it criticizes itself in humorous ways. In a sense, it also tries to subvert itself all the way through. This film, unfortunately, titled the same as the 1997 original, does the exact same thing. It opens with a young girl getting teased by a creepily-voiced killer into playing some trivia or some disastrous things will occur. However, this film subverts expectations from this very scene when compared to the original feature, which outlines exactly what this film seeks to accomplish and it just does it so well.
As the film progresses, there are characters who knowingly make fun of aspects of the horror genre and even the existence of the very film they are unknowingly in. At times it gets a bit too cute with its criticisms and meta-ness to the point where there is a character watching the 1997 Scream criticizing a character’s actions while engaging in the very same activity. A bit on the nose in those moments but it sure does even out throughout the film in the surprises it elicits in its reveals, which shows plenty can be explored in this series and the ideals of what Ghostface represents as a killer.
Typically in reviews, I do not comment on the marketing and the impact it has as the value of the final product ultimately is what matters, but it also plays into the expectations. On the official poster, it states that the killer is on the poster, which meant we would be meeting one of the killers throughout the runtime of the film. These rules about the Ghostface killings mean watching this film effectively becomes a large puzzle to try and decipher. The feature provides many misdirects in the efforts to ultimately trick the audience and while the inevitable killers were not too surprising, the way the film builds up to it works incredibly well. It all comes together in such a satisfying manner.
Coming through with a newer generation, this feature brought forth two Latina women as the leads of the feature along with the legacy characters returning. Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega, who have already made names for themselves in In the Heights and The Fallout, these two got the opportunity to headline a storied horror franchise and did not waste the opportunity. Ortega, along with X proves she’s the newest genuine and bonafide scream queen of this generation. The way she expresses fear is like some of the best as she displays in the opening scene. Similarly, Barrera coming off of a musical has to show off a different set of acting skills and while she mostly played the calmer presence of a character, she takes the mantle of being the Sidney Prescott very well as the center of the story trying to figure everything out before it becomes too late.
As much as this feature deals with the legacy of its characters through the references, it very much runs the same with the story within this story. The impact of one’s family and how it imbues itself onto the children. As much as it becomes a mystery of who is going around as Ghostface, a huge mystery remains about the characters themselves and who they truly are in relation to one another. A double mystery as a whole and it makes all the reveals that much better.
Wholly entertaining, thrilling, and enjoyable, this new iteration of Scream has everything anyone could want given the expectations of this movie series as a whole. The kills get absolutely brutal and it brings its glimmer of emotionally potent moments as well. A film unafraid to make fun of itself while also delivering plenty of entertainment throughout. Very much what a legacy sequel should seek to accomplish.