MOVIE REVIEW – Twenty-six years after the original Scream film, Ghostface is a victim of screaming again, but of course this Ghostface is no longer Ghostface – as the same can be said for the film itself.
This Scream is both a sequel and a reboot – or, as one of the characters in Scream explicitly defines it, a “requel”. It has to keep up with the spirit of the times, and that means not only that teen horror needs new teens – the old protagonists are now around their fourth or fifth X – but also that the whole story has to be about the ‘woke’ and ‘erasure culture’ of our times, and the film itself is so ‘meta’ that even Mark Zuckerberg’s social media is a piss-take compared to it. This is the first “Sikoly” film, by the way, not directed by Craven, who passed away in 2015 and to whom the film is dedicated.
The first “Scream” was released in 1996 (it didn’t reach our cinemas until ’98, but since we were still in the era of videotape, VCR and film prints, it may have been “cassette” for everyone by then). Wes Craven’s film, written by Kevin Williamson, played with genre conventions by having the characters openly discuss horror clichés while being stabbed to death by a masked killer. The brilliant idea of the new “Scream” is to double down on the meta. There’s another horror film series in the film universe like Scream. Only it’s called Stab.
Is that now Blunt?
Of course, what else could this film start with but a phone call: Drew Barrymore was called before he was executed in the original movie, Tara (Jenna Ortega) gets a similar call here. The killer at first pretends to be her mother’s new boyfriend, and then before or after (I honestly can’t remember), he reveals himself. Tara explains into the phone that she prefers “elevated horror” like “The Babadook”, “Inheritance”, and Something’s Following. Get it? Because it’s so “meta”, full of self-reflection, inside jokes, wink wink.
The question is whether you’re buying it because from here on in – beyond the bloody murders – that’s really what the whole film is about. All the teen horror fans, and those who aren’t, will have so much horror movie crap dumped on them that they’ll be horror fans for sure, or if not, Ghostface will come and kill them.
It’s more like Shallow
What really is the legacy of “Scream”? I suspect most of you barely remember the three sequels. (I may have seen the first two films, but I remember almost nothing.) The original movie was watchable for the cast’s personalities, including Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette and Matthew Lillard. (All but Lillard return here.) But as Tara suggests, the Scream films are quickly becoming dated “relics” – especially considering they were the product of Harvey and Bob Weinstein. If anything, Sikoly survives mainly because Ghostface, the killer’s trademark Edvard Munch-like mask, remains a Halloween staple.
With filmmakers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (who directed 2019′s “Ready or Not”) working from a script by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, they don’t add much to the overall Scream universe, beyond the recycled, clichéd and kitschy (but still bloody) nostalgic killing, the constant messing around with phones and enough self-deprecation to almost distract from how terribly shallow the film itself is.
Back to the ‘oldies’
We’re back in Woodsboro, California, the setting for all the “Scream” movies and the scene of the murders that inspired the “Stab” films. It has to be admitted that some of the young cast is relatively competent, including Ortega, Melissa Barrera (“In the Heights”) and Jack Quaid (Dennis’ son). In the film’s first scene, Tara’s near-fatal encounter draws her estranged sister Sam (Barrera) to her hospital bedside. Sam arrives with her boyfriend Richie (Quaid), who is admittedly unfamiliar with “Stab” movies, but quickly learns the rules of survival. When Ghostface starts slashing again, the boys turn to a previous generation of Woodsboro residents (Arquette, Cox, Campbell) for help.
The film’s murders are bloody, and there are plenty of victims, but it doesn’t help that the constant butchering becomes tedious in the end, and the suspense as such is as lacking as the tips.
I’m Campbell’s burnt-out stare
While this Scream is constantly ploughing through sequels, remakes, and reboots, it is in fact as shoddy as the films it tries to poke fun at. The characters are one by one empty, dull, with zero character development, many serving only as sacrificial lambs to Ghostface’s knife. As bloody as the film is, there is not even a glimmer of realism to be found. It is not uncommon, for example, to see characters who were previously well stabbed in the stomach talking as if nothing happened.
The vacant, burnt-out and bored expression of the former “diva” and sex symbol Neve Campbell, who is almost fifty years old, is also a kind of motto for this empty slasher franchise, which is not revived by being filled with side-splitting, winking, meta humour and as much modern, trendy, “young, trendy life” as can be found on the tube.