Film Review – Scream Reinvents Meta Horror Again with Resilient Characters, Vital Social Commentary and Intelligent Stunts

Film Review – Scream Reinvents Meta Horror Again with Resilient Characters, Vital Social Commentary and Intelligent Stunts

Honoring classic genre tropes while also distinguishing the difference between new and legacy characters and plot points has been a long held tradition in Hollywood horror movies. The Scream franchise has found extreme success doing just that in a comical, meta way since the release of its first entry in 1996, which helped make household names out of its lead star, Neve Campbell. The series is continuing its successful run as a property that empowers its female leads with the upcoming distribution of its fifth entry, which is also simply titled Scream.

The latest sequel in the franchise is the first installment to be released following the 2015 death of iconic horror filmmaker, Wes Craven, who directed the first four installments. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who initially garnered attention in the slasher genre after they helmed the acclaimed 2019 horror comedy, Ready or Not, took over the directorial duties on the new Scream. Working off a script that was written by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, the new movie infuses new life into the series by both observing and subverting the rules of the slasher genre.

Scream opens with a scene reminiscent of the demise of Drew Barrymore’s character of Casey Becker in the original film. In the franchise’s latest follow-up, high school student Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) is home alone, texting with her best friend Amber (Mikey Madison), when she answers her family’s landline. The mechanized voice on the line, which sounds exactly like the voice of the notorious Ghostface killer, questions Tara about her knowledge of the Stab series, which is based on the infamous killing sprees that have occurred in her hometown of Woodsboro, California.

Unlike Casey, Tara ultimately survives the ensuing attack the latest Ghostface copycat killer inflicts on her. After she wakes up from her surgery at the hospital, she’s surprised to see that her estranged older sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) has rushed back to town to check on her. Sam’s accompanied by her new boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid), who states that he’s unfamiliar with the Stab movies and Woodsboro’s history with serial killers, dating back to Billy Loomis and Stu Macher from the first Scream.

In addition to Amber, Sam and Richie turn to Tara’s close-knit band of friends, including twins Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding); Chad’s girlfriend Liv (Sonia Ammar); and Wes (Dylan Minnette), the son of former deputy Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton); in order to gain insight into who may be serving as the latest incarnation of the Ghostface killer.

Sam and Richie also visit Dewey Riley (David Arquette) to enlist his support and insight into the history of Woodsboro’s dark past. After his initial hesitation to delve back into the Ghostface crimes, Dewey also asks Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Sidney Prescott (Campbell) for their help on ending the Ghostface murders once and for all.

The latest rendition of Scream brings the franchise back to form of the original entry by featuring resilient, distinct characters who aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves, their loved ones and their beliefs. Barrera and Ortega give powerful, captivating performances as Sam and Tara, who are contemporary reimaginings of a youthful Sidney when she was fighting for her life in the mid-1990s against the original Ghostface killers, Billy and Stu.

Barrera is the new Scream‘s true break-out star, as she proves that once she returns to Woodsboro, Sam is no longer afraid to confront her past and present fears. The actress doesn’t emotionally or physically hold back as her character sets out to do anything it takes to protect her younger sister. Sam’s most fearless actions include continuously provoking the new Ghostface to attack her instead of Tara; abrasively insisting she won’t be leaving town again against Amber, Judy and anyone else who doubts her intentions, based on her past actions; and pushing Dewey to overcome his own fears from the past to help those in need of help of defeating the new Ghostface in the present.

The latest version of Scream also skillfully continues its signature meta and social commentary on not only the current state of horror films, but also society as a whole. The series’ first installment was released during a time when America was delving into a national debate about how much violence should be shown in movies. But in the new sequel, Tara, Mindy and their friends joke about the now-seemingly toned-down brutality that was featured in the horror genre in the 1990s, particularly the original Stab entry.

The group also notes how modern horror audiences have apparently lost interest in the slasher sub-genre that the original Scream helped revive when it was initially released. The friends note how contemporary viewers have turned to elevated horror films that focus more on their characters’ emotions and motivations than the killing of underdeveloped characters, as seen in such acclaimed 2010s movies as The Babadook, The Witch and Hereditary.

In addition to Tara and her friends’ criticisms of the over-indulgent violent nature that made such horror films as the original Scream so popular when they were originally distributed, they also denounce the evolving nature of fandom and the toxicity it brings to franchises. Since the release of Scream 4 in 2011, social media has evolved so much that movie fans feel the need to make increasingly outrageous claims about films in order to be noticed. As a result, the latest Ghostface killer has been driven to take even more drastic measures to stand out from, while still honoring, their predecessors.

While Sam, Tara and their friends at times mock the differences in the way they’re currently fighting for survival in a horror movie setting than Sidney, Gale, Dewey and their cohorts did during the events of the original Scream, the new follow-up still features the franchise’s signature intelligent – and equally humorous – stuntwork. Whether the two sisters are using medical equipment in the hospital to defend themselves against Ghostface or their friends are using apps on their phones to escape from the killer after they’re injured, they aren’t afraid to use the tools at their disposals to protect themselves. Combined with what’s sure to become iconic quotes as “You know that part in horror movies when you want to yell at the characters to be smart and get out? This is that part” and “I still prefer The Babadook,” that lighten the mood, the franchise’s latest installment makes its own mark on the horror genre, while also paying homage to the original film.

The new Scream movie is one of the best sequels in the series, as it continues the franchise’s successful run as a property that empowers its female leads, in part through its important social commentary, intriguing stunts and tension-easing humor. Barrera and Ortega give powerful, captivating performances as the resilient Sam and Tara, who aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves, their loved ones and their beliefs. The new movie infuses new life into the serues by both observing and subverting the rules of the slasher genre.

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Here’s the trailer of the film.

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