Scream returns, taking stabs at everyone including itself (M18)
What does a movie do when it knows it’s of a genre that often gets cheesy, trite and predictable?
It makes fun of itself, of course.
The latest and fifth installment of Scream, or Scream 5 if you like, is bang-on accurate with its self-awareness – and the fact that the slasher-horror franchise is creaking with age.
It isn't afraid to mock its very existence, and James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick's script is peppered with lines that constantly satirises both toxic fandom and Hollywood’s recent obsession with “requels”.
Reboots like Flatliners and Black Christmas no longer work, we’re told. Instead, you need to bring back “legacy” characters and pair them with new ones, so there’s something to keep obsessed fans satisfied.
And that’s exactly what Scream does, with the return of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and television presenter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox).
The film begins with a familiar scene – young Tara Carpenter (Jenny Ortega), home alone, waiting for a friend to come visit. The phone rings, and a voice soon asks if she likes scary movies. Enter Ghostface.
It’s the first of many callbacks to the 1996 original, although this time, we get to keep our opening girl. In fact, she is at the centre of the movie along with her estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera), who returns to Woodsboro from Modesto, California, when she hears of the attack.
There is of course a new crop of potential victims – or killers. Among them are Sam’s boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid), Wes Hicks (Dylan Minnette) who is the son of now-Sheriff Judy Hicks (the returning Marley Shelton), and notably Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding, who play verbose twins Mindy and Chad Meeks-Martin.
All are either Ghostface's newest playthings or, as they themselves will remind you throughout, possibly the killer(s) themselves.
“You know that part in horror movies when you wanna yell at the characters to be smart and get the f*** out? This is that part, Richie!”, yells Sam.
Campbell, Arquette and Cox are somewhat sidelined amid the new generation of youngsters who more than hold their own with their rather unique brand of winking humour.
The veterans are thrust into the role of mentor, helping this new generation navigate this menacing evil. In the end, you actually find yourself caring more about the new characters as the legacy cast.
It’s just as well, though, because Scream was never really going to live up to its namesake. It needed fresh blood (literally) and without fear of being as meta as it needed to be to get its charm across – all while recapturing the spirit of Wes Craven's classic, where the kills were brutal and the tension never eased from the get-go.
With all its risk-taking and convention-bending, it just about succeeds in doing that.