Review: ‘Scream’ 5 (cinco de chillar) #spoilerfree

We warned you. Remember the rules. You didn’t listen. Wait… that’s the tagline for Gremlins 2, isn’t it?

Twenty-five years after the original Woodsboro murders, a new Ghostface killer (voice of Roger L. Jackson) attacks a teen in her home (Jenna Ortega), prompting the media to again descend upon the sleepy town of Woodsboro, California looking for a story. An estranged sister (Melissa Barrera), her worried boyfriend (Jack Quaid), laid-back twins (Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding), a mama’s boy (Dylan Minnette), a gothy girl (Mikey Madison), and an artsy friend (Sonia Ammar) add to the new circle of suspects — because it’s always someone you know. But whatever happened to the survivors of the original murders: Sidney (Neve Campbell), Dewey (David Arquette), and Gale (Courteney Cox)?

Forget the torch; this is a passing of the buck knife. A fifth Scream movie has been in doubt since the passing of Wes Craven in 2015, but directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (of the Radio Silence collective) took up the mantle following their surprise hit Ready or Not. Tapping writer Guy Busick (who also wrote on Ready or Not) and James Vanderbilt working from Kevin Williamson’s original characters, the new film is no longer a Dimension Films production or working under the now-defunct Miramax. With a new studio, new filmmakers, and a new cast, will anything be left of the old Ghostface viewers knew, or is this the reinvention fans have been clamoring for?

It’s mentioned in-story any new film must conform yet reinvent — both a sequel and reboot — aka “a requel” like Candyman 2021 or Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Right out of the gate, everything familiar has a fresh coat of blood-red paint. Ghostface is noticeably more deliberate and brutal; when the phone taunts end, he seems more dangerous. The gratuitous cameos littering the previous three sequels are gone, instead replaced by a cast as capable and game as the 1996 original before anyone considered Scream would launch a franchise. At the same time, it’s just as self-aware while also moving decidedly away from a Sidney-central story; after all, there are other families in Woodsboro with legacy connections, right? This isn’t just a good Scream movie; it’s a damn good slasher movie, period.

Melissa Barrera (Vanessa from In The Heights) bursts onto the Scream scene like a fresh-faced Eliza Dushku, ready to act but also holding back… you’ll see. In fact, the entire production has a welcome infusion of Hispanic blood suspiciously missing from a film series based in California. The plot details have been a closely guarded secret — avoid spoilers at all costs for maximum enjoyment — but know this: the trailers are a lie. With a tip of the hat to Marvel Studios mixing and matching advertising to lure audiences into a false sense of security, the new Scream hints at deadly confrontations and Ghostface banter that do not happen at the same time. As has been said elsewhere, Wes Craven would have approved.

Unlike Scream 3 and Scream 4 which purged their Tailies in favor of the legacy cast, the new film leaves survivors for future installments, and that’s a good thing. To quote Captain Jack Sparrow, “No survivors? Then where do the stories come from, I wonder?” If nothing else, Radio Silence has accomplished something rare in horror franchise history: a fifth installment that doesn’t suck.

Scream 5 is rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, and some sexual references, because this is how you requel.

Four skull recommendation out of four

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