The nostalgia train screams past The Matrix Resurrections for its next stop. We’ve come full circle to franchise cannabilism with legacy characters passing the knife to a new generation. As a sequel, it’s decent enough to hold a candle up to the last two films which isn’t much to say. Scream all along is a comedic slasher about slashers.
Scream knows it’s silly and doesn’t care. Hey, masks off for that, but I’m not Craven it like I used to. Wes closed the book on something that worked for two chapters tops. I don’t remember much about Scream 3 when I saw it in the theater or television. Likewise, Scream 4 (which I saw the day before 5) had the score and cinematography of a Lifetime Movie Network film. If art is immortal, then that wasn’t Wes’ best work.
Scream 5 or Scream (yes, they comment on that in the film) is not very different. Films and television alike are shot on digital. Most scripted television shows look like a movie. 90% of cineplexes contain gigantic television screens playing a converted computer file via a projector requiring no need for a skilled projectionist. The youngest filmmaker in Ohio can purchase a Canon GH1 with a cheap lens and shoot his granddad’s rocking chair. Each angle he takes of the seat whistling against the wind can effortlessly look like art. Every technical element I struggled to get with a video camera as a kid (specifically shooting 24p) is available on everyone’s cell phone.
The crew on Scream 5 would presumably have a top-tier army working together. If compelled to provide audiences a cinematic experience. Scream doesn’t have much to shout about with its modest 25 million dollar budget. Avoiding trailers these days, I presume Scream is marketed as an experience to see on the big screen. The expectations for seeing Scream publicly might feel like seeing Stab’s grand premiere without anyone getting killed in the theater. The reality, in most cases, will be empty chairs containing minor reactions while viewing a sub-par image that can be equally appreciated at home.
Like the MarVista cinematic quality S4 inhabited, Scream’s cast is a reality check on the success of celebrities. Repeating their one-liners and kick-ass moves from the 90s, the duet of Gale Sayers (Courtney Cox) and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) may have added a chapter in the book of strong female leads from 1996, but it’s a familiar one with nothing new for the cast to chew on. You can become a star, but few break out from their roots.
If anyone’s putting the most heart into a classic character, it’s David Arquette. The lives of Gale and Dewey Riley intersect like Han and Leia from The Force Awakens. One stayed the path; the other departed it. Always seeming a bit out of place from reality, Arquette’s quirkiness made Duey’s bravery all the more resonant. Now a grizzled older man Duey’s character arc has aged remarkably well with Arquette’s persona.
The newcomers to the Westboro crime scene do their jobs to move the plot forward. Very few can say they survived an ordeal with Ghostface. Tara (Jenna Ortega) is among that minority. Fearing for her life, Tara’s friends must discover the Killer’s identity by tracing horror movie genre conventions. What’s more, they contribute a neat little twist but nothing derivative of the twenty-six-year-old formula.
The casting choices are interesting. Jack Quaid looks far too old to be a high school kid. I think that’s an intentional choice since the films of that era featured high schoolers who appeared to be in their mid-20s. On the opposite spectrum, the main character Tara (Jenna Ortega) is an actual teenager. The mix of ages is a nod to the looks of young adults cast in films throughout the years. What’s discernable about each character fails to capture any magic. They’re modernized stock characters to be killed. You have the nerdy guy (Jack Quaid) the Jock (Dylan Minnette) and the emo girl (Mikey Madison) Some characters I forgot existed after my initial viewing.
What worked with Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette was how each role was catered to the actor’s stardom and persona. Sidney Prescott is steadfast, hits the killer back, and never folds under terror. Gale Weathers is a diva with a heart. She’s compassionate when necessary and cruel most of the time. Being a journalist, Gale uses her knowledge to outsmart the villain. I didn’t see a girl kick ass in a horror film except for Sigourney Weaver in Aliens. before Scream. Neve and Courtney play the same “not in my movie” beats that will have fans giddy when they serve some punishment, but it seems all the same to me.
The “hey, we’re old now, but we still got it ” gig has infected the late Wes Craven, Lana Wachowski, and The Reitmans. Filmmakers have given the audiences what they want until the artists fell in love with their own material creating a fan film to maintain relevancy. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett continue the legacy of Scream because the market points to nostalgia as the best bank to gamble on.
I can’t excuse the Halloweens of the world anymore. Self-aware humor is a crutch but shouldn’t be a wheelchair. Scream has the benefit of its time. VHS was prominent in the 90s, as were slashers. Scream’s a film about slashers that talks about slashers which you could rent on VHS months after seeing it in the theater. The movie criticized itself for being a sequel in the sequel; then it got dry. Somehow, Scream still draws a crowd but is it enough to draw them to the theater? If you want a predictable plot with cheap thrills, you don’t need to listen to the nagging of an older man. Scream sticks to the formula of a meal gone stale for my taste. The movies I grew up on are movies folks my age will show their kids.
Except when I was a kid, we grew up on original ideas. Where are those now? Everything is a reboot, retread, Reece’s Pieces, and saying, “yeah, we know, but here’s how this one’s different!” doesn’t make it different. I’m not a Last Jedi fan, but Kylo Ren knew when the past should join the urn. If Scream 4 didn’t exist, I might have appreciated Scream 5 more, but Wes already made the reboot. Why go back after his passing? Classic slashers can be updated instead of outdated. It’s time for a new generation to embrace fresh ideas. Mine had our time.
Do you agree with my rating? Why or why not?