By Sam Acosta
[Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers.]
When I first found out about this “requel” (reboot sequel) to the iconic slasher series, I figured it was just another cash grab aimed at classic horror fans. With the number of reboots made in the last several years, most with middling results, I have come to approach such films with preemptively low expectations.
However, I must admit I was thoroughly impressed with this new installment in the series. Not only did it create a suspenseful atmosphere, but it also supplemented that suspense with humor and a level of self-awareness that created a vibrant, satisfying experience. As someone who isn’t that familiar with the rest of the franchise, this movie was a delightful introduction to the world of “Scream.”
This film takes place about two decades after the last entry. A new killer has donned the Ghostface mask, bringing Sam (Melissa Barrera) back to her hometown of Woodboro after her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) was attacked. As Sam brings together Tara’s friend group to determine which one of them is the killer, old secrets are revealed, and old faces return to end this new killer’s murder spree.
The film’s mystery elements set it apart from other slashers.
Something that made this film stand apart from other slashers is its central mystery. Unlike the “Halloween” reboot series, where the killer is an already known and established threat, “Scream” adds a murder-mystery story into its already thrilling mix of tension and jumpscares. Watching these characters actively try to figure out which one of them is the killer while also trying to not get offed themselves creates an engaging atmosphere that allows for thrilling suspense along with satisfying humor.
I also absolutely loved the meta-aspect to this film. A staple of the “Scream” films is that they exist within their own worlds as the “Stab” franchise. The events of each “Scream” film are considered to be real-life events upon which the “Stab” movies are then based. The “Stab” movies play an important role in this installment, as the characters use them like history books, analyzing their events in order to anticipate the killer’s next move.
Tropes such as walking into dark basements alone and defenseless or ignoring clearly suspicious happenings are explicitly referenced and made fun of by the characters themselves. In this way, the movie replaces the typical sense of disappointment and frustration at the stupidity of the horror-movie characters with moments of both self-aware humor and legitimate tension. It felt as if the writers of this film knew that fans are tired of cash-grab movies that are just trying to take advantage of nostalgic fans, so they made a horror movie that is not only good in its own right but is also very self-aware about those movies and actively strives to avoid being like them.
Despite its abnormal amount of humor, “Scream” still provides plenty of scares.
This humor does not minimize the thrills and scares, however, and “Scream” is still able to keep you on the edge of your seat wondering when Ghostface will strike next. There are countless moments when the film suggests the killer is hiding somewhere, only to reveal over and over again that he is not, until all of a sudden he just appears. It is a great use of pacing and anticipating audience reactions to create maximum dramatic impact.
The eventual reveal of Ghostface being a team of two super-fans of the “Stab” franchise is also a genuinely interesting take on the villain. Unlike most slasher films where the killer is just a mindless murderer, this plot point creates a special motivation. As fans of the “Stab” franchise who feel that the sequels are getting increasingly mediocre and stale, Amber (Mikey Madison) and Kirsch (Jack Quaid) want to bring life back to the movies that they love by orchestrating a new series of killings as source material for future installments. This meta-commentary on franchises and sequels makes “Scream” feel that much more original and energizing.
I also loved that we saw the return of original characters like Dewey (David Arquette), Gale (Courtney Cox) and Sidney (Neve Campbell). Not only did it make the story feel more consequential, but the very fact that the killers intentionally drew them out since they were “legacy characters” of the “Stab” franchise made it all the more narratively satisfying.
The few content warnings I will give regard the heavy language and gore. There is a lot of language used by all the characters, and at some points, it just feels unnecessarily excessive. The violence, while mild in comparison to recent slashers like “Halloween Kills,” is still not something that those who are sensitive to gore should simply rush into. Overall, however, I found it to be much milder than I was expecting.
Overall, I loved this movie, so much so that I would even consider going to the theater to see it again. It feels fresh and new while still providing what any horror fan could want from a slasher film.
“Scream” is now showing in theaters.
Sam Acosta is a Junior Theatre Comprehensive Major and an A&E writer for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper and writing plays.