The latest addition to the “Scream” franchise came out last month after decades of sequels, remakes, television series, and parodies that would have left most franchises completely devoid of any good content.
I’m a huge horror movie fan and the original “Scream” film is one of my all-time favorite movies so while I was excited to see the new installment, I went in with low expectations. However, I was pleasantly surprised by one of the most enjoyable horror films to come out in recent years. Unlike many films that have followed the same formula in the past, the new film seemed to capture and update what made the original 1996 “Scream” movie great. Clever writing with the self-awareness to the horror genre’s tropes, a cast of suspicious characters with potential motives, relevant comedy, and of course great kills. It took the basic “Scream” formula, the mysterious killer in the Ghostface mask violently picking off people in the town until the big reveal, and updated it without forcing modernity.
The script of the film read to me like it was written by someone who really loved and understood the original “Scream” movies. It started with an homage to the iconic opening phone call scene in the original Scream with Drew Barrymore (“what’s your favorite scary movie?”), but with updated dialogue to reference newer horror movies and current discourse surrounding what makes a scary movie good. The film followed the rules and pacing of the original story in the way a lot of horror remakes didn’t. The new Ghostface kept all the classic personality traits that made them a menacing but entertaining killer to watch. Stars Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera held their own as the film’s protagonists who would become both the victims and possible suspects of Ghostface’s violent acts. And while the dialogue was updated for a modern audience, the writing didn’t try too hard to push social commentary or create an exaggerated version of how adults think teenagers talk.
What made the movie so fun for me was the meta self-awareness. I was expecting another gory slasher packed with references to previous horror movies where we watch a group of protagonists fight for survival against Ghostface while they try to unmask the killers, but the film provided a more clever rendition of this. This film takes place within the world of film where the town is known for the bloody Ghostface murders of the ’90s, and the “Scream” movie franchise exists but is instead called “Stab,” a series of movie adaptations based on the “real” events of the past “Scream” movies. The main characters in the film are all aware of their town’s gruesome past and it helps inform their decisions throughout the movie. Both the real-life murders and the movies are referenced throughout the film in a variety of clever ways. The original characters also tie back in with the original story in a clever way.
For example, there’s a scene in the film where a character watches the iconic scene from the 1992 “Scream” where Randy, the film’s horror movie nerd who lays out rules for survival throughout, watches a scene from an old horror movie while complaining about how dumb and unrealistic it is that the characters in horror movies never look behind themselves in movies. The irony of that scene is he is then killed because he didn’t see Ghostface sneaking up behind him. In the new film, this self-aware irony is taken to a new level when Mindy, the horror movie nerd of the new group of teenage protagonists who lays out rules for survival throughout the film, watches the reenactment of that scene in the “Stab” movie while laughing at the irony of Randy making fun of the character while not following his own rules despite that being his main character trait. In traditional “Scream” fashion, as she yells “look behind you,” Ghostface is creeping up behind her on the couch.
My main critique of the otherwise enjoyable film was some of the performances of the supporting cast. Because most of the main characters were teenagers there were a lot of newcomers in the supporting cast who didn’t match the energy of the stars. There were some characters I found unnecessary or annoying but I understood why they had to be there to add suspects for who the new Ghostface would be. They didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the film.
The movie was a lot of fun and the experience of seeing it went above any new horror movie experience in recent memory. It was the perfect blend of scary, funny, and over-the-top that made me love the original Scream. Because the reveals are what makes this movie so interesting, it’s hard to fully discuss without spoiling, but when the killers are revealed it’s a great payoff that feels like it could be joining the list of iconic scenes from the entire franchise. Without giving it away, I thoroughly enjoyed the film as a whole and I’m looking forward to seeing the direction the franchise goes in.