I remember everything about my experience watching the original Scream 25 years ago (!): the theater (Brew ‘n View at The Vic), who I was with (some loser I dated briefly) and how it made me feel (sick to my stomach in parts, but also keenly aware that I was watching something fresh and unique). I think I even remember the outfit I was wearing … but there’s no need to share my bad ‘90s fashion sense with the world.
The 1996 Scream’s opening scene with Ghostface stalking Drew Barrymore’s character continues to haunt me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d admit to that. But while I was excited for Scream 2 the very next year, I never ended up watching Scream 3 or Scream 4.
However, that old flutter in my stomach returned when I saw a trailer for the fifth installment. The franchise seemed to be back on track. And now that I’ve seen Scream, I’m happy to confirm that co-writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick and co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have successfully revived the smart, violent world created by Kevin Williamson and the late Wes Craven. (I did read a recap of all 4 movies first so that I was up to speed, and it helped because there are several returning characters.)
The new installment opens much like the original: Tara (Jenny Ortega), a teenage girl who’s home alone, gets a call from a movie-loving psychopath (once again the incomparable voice of Roger L. Jackson) … and then things go downhill for her quickly. After word gets out that Tara’s attacker wore a Ghostface mask—and after the new Ghostface strikes again almost immediately—Tara’s friends, as well as those who have a long history with Ghostface, come together in Woodsboro to try and end the slaughter and unmask the killer as quickly as possible.
That means lawman Dewey Riley (David Arquette), newswoman Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and all-around badass survivor Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) are back and equally vested in the mystery. Tara’s older sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) and her boyfriend (standout Jack Quaid) take the lead for the Gen Z crew in trying to piece together clues as to who the killer might be among their close circle of friends … because “the rules” dictate it kinda has to be one of them.
As they work to figure it out, Ghostface keeps killing people, and Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett do a great job of finding new ways to inject jump-scares and twists—or otherwise play with the audience’s expectation of them. Similarly, Vanderbilt and Busick stayed true to the franchise’s snappy, meta dialogue. This time around, there’s excellent commentary on “elevated horror” films like The Babadook, toxic fandom, and the “re-quel” phenomenon.
Younger cast members and timely pop-culture observations are about are far as Scream goes when it comes to new territory. But I don’t think fans of this franchise want to see its tried-and-true trademarks abandoned anyway. As the saying goes, “everything old is new again,” so while Scream might not be breaking ground like the original did 25 years ago, it still serves up a bloody good time.
If you’d like to be completely caught up before watching Scream, we’ve got its 4 predecessors at Redbox: