- Emma Simmonds
- 13 January 2022
Scream queens Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox join forces with new faces in the franchise's fifth instalment
'I've been stabbed nine times, I've got permanent nerve damage and a fun little limp,' grumbles battered Scream veteran David Arquette as he returns to the role of loveable dope Dewey. His character's weariness epitomises the increasingly tired efforts of a once game-changing franchise that began in 1996 and has a lot to do to convince us it still matters. Resurrected for the first film's 25th anniversary (with pandemic delays postponing its shoot), the fifth iteration of these 'meta slasher whodunnits' (as one character puts it) goes back to the original title but, despite a promising young cast, struggles to replace it in our affections.
This self-described 'requel' pairs legacy characters like Dewey with youthful newbies and freshens things up with commentary on toxic fandom. But unlike, say, Ghostbusters: Afterlife it fails to establish its own tone, instead leaning a little too hard on the brand's tried-and-tested cynicism and tendency to analyse events in play-by-play style.
New character Sam Carpenter (In The Heights' Melissa Barrera) returns to her home town of Woodsboro after her younger sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) is attacked by someone dressed in Ghostface clobber. She's joined by her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid from The Boys doing his sarky thing) and, in their attempts to uncover the perpetrator, team up first with Dewey and later other series favourites in the form of Sidney and Gale (Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox). Dylan Minnette (13 Reasons Why), Jasmin Savoy Brown (Yellowjackets) and Mikey Madison (Better Things) are amongst the new suspects/potential victims.
This is the first Scream film not to be directed by Wes Craven who died in 2015, with the mantle passed to Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. The pair were responsible for the extremely enjoyable 2019 wedding-themed survival horror Ready Or Not and they do a solid if unspectacular job here. They have fun emulating scenes from the original and faking us out over expected scares, plus there's a certain amount of the heart-racing excitement that you'd expect from a horror film, which will be enough for many. Mostly though, it's lacking in patiently cultivated suspense, while Ghostface's 'surprise' appearances have long been more camp than chilling.
The script from James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick isn't always smart or witty enough to sell its ideas, with groans threatening to outnumber the gasps. But the talented ensemble bring conviction to their roles, even if the seasoned players feel too peripheral and the newbies too thinly drawn. Barrera's character is a notable exception. Haunted by a face from the original, Sam becomes interestingly unhinged as the film shows exactly what its 'heroes' are capable of, meaning there's blood on everyone's hands by the end.
Scream is in cinemas from Friday 14 January.