A new Scream movie is really a chance for the horror community to have a nice sit-down roundtable and figure out: where are we at right now?
I think that’s one of the reasons that the franchise has such an enduring place in the world of horror fans. Aside from being one of the best meta-horrors of all time, and the movie that defined meta-horror as a sub-genre unto itself, it’s been around long enough and relies heavily enough on the genre at large as a starting point that it sort of requires a little self-reflection for the horror fans amongst us on what the genre has been up to these last few years.
Scream 5, of course, is the first of the franchise without legendary horror veteran Wes Craven at the helm, and that marks it out as a bit of a shift right upfront: we’re saying goodbye to some of the icons who brought the genre into the mainstream and defined the moves it made. Handed off to the capable guidance of Ready or Not’s Matt Bettilini-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, Scream 5 offered a chance to acknowledge the changing place that horror has seen since the fourth outing in 2011: namely, the jump that horror has made into downright critical acclaim. Characters quote The Babadook as their horror favourite instead of Friday the 13th; that’s the kind of horror fan we’re dealing with here.
It must have been tempting to turn Scream 5 into one of those brilliant, prestige, stylised horrors that has led the genre into mainstream critical success, but Olpin and Gillett know better than that: for all that Scream is a superb example of the genre, it’s also one that sticks to a specific formula to make that work. In order to continue to be able to lovingly lampoon the state of horror, Scream needs to function in its own pocket universe of horror tropes, unaffected by what’s going on outside of it. Scream 5, decades after the release of the first Scream, still remembers how to make those work – the fake-out door-slam to reveal nobody behind it, the horror-nerd phone calls, the home invasion spookery.
Returning characters Sidney (Neve Campbell) and Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox) return with delightful chemistry and great aplomb to root the story in some of the franchise’s own history, and the hyper-horror-literate new leads feel like a loving nod to the fandom at large. Jasmin Savoy-Brown as Mindy Meeks-Martin as the new Randy of this movie is a particular standout, while Melissa Barrera makes for a fun and formidable new lead. The action sequences are pretty solid, and Woodsboro still feels like a town heavy with the weight of all that’s happened (even if the teens of every generation seem to forget it in about five minutes after a party is announced).
These films are great horror in their own right, and it’s only from that pedestal that they’re allowed to come for the genre as a whole so hard. Scream 5 comes out swinging not just for the prestige horror but for the requel, the Halloween-style remake that rewrites the stories and fixes the timeline and tries to bring the franchise back for a more modern audience, but it’s only through its love for the genre and sheer worshipful adoration of it in these movies that it avoids being mean-spirited and miserable.
And that’s ultimately what this community roundtable in the form of Scream 5 decides on: yes, we might be in an awkward spot of trying to revive old, silly franchises for a modern more prestige horror audience, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t still love this shit. We’re in a new era for horror, and a wonderful one at that, but horror at it’s heart is ridiculous, and we should never forget it. And, as long as Scream as a franchise exists, we never will.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via Stylecaster)