Alright, so I’ve gone back through the first three Scream films — which I admittedly do not hold on the same pedestal as many horror fans my age — and I’m finishing up today, including the latest once, which I just saw in the theater…in 3D! But I’ll get to that in a while. To recap, there are elements of these films that I adore ranging from lines (“To see what your insides look like.”) to full-on set pieces like the beginnings of the first two films. My problems are basically two-fold. One, I’m not sure I buy the “movies made me do it” reasoning behind many of the killers (who I’m not spoiling here). And two, they feel over-written to me. But, again, I love that people love these films and I find myself in that camp with each subsequent sequel.
In the decade-plus span between installments, a lot has happened to our Scream stars. Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven reunited for Scream 4 — which I had only ever watched once before — in which Sidney returns to her hometown while on a book tour. There, she reunites with Dewey and Gale who are now married with him serving as the town sheriff while she struggles to find her place in the small town. But, as you might expect, a new generation of kids find themselves targeted by a new Ghostface. The new kids include Sid’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and others played by Hayden Panettiere (she’s awesome in this), Marielle Jaffe, Rory Culkin, Nico Tortorella and Erik Knudsen. The rest of the cast includes Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Marley Shelton, Alison Brie and Lucy Hale.
In a lot of ways this movie reminds me of Halloween Resurrection — don’t go, just give me a sec — because they’re way ahead of their time when it comes to how we interact with technology and the way it changed entertainment. In this case, Robbie’s wearing a camera that automatically uploads everything he sees to the net. The confluence of technology, news and horror play a major part throughout not just this film, but the series moving forward, much like social media has taken over, well, everything. Altogether, I find this to be a highly watchable and enjoyable entry in the franchise that acted as a beautiful sendoff to Craven as his last film.
Given Scream’s long legs, it’s pretty funny that many of the critiques I develop have actually been addressed in the films. My whole thing about not liking how the Stab movies exist? They play with that in the movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie trick opening. I’m not a huge fan of that bit of business, but I liked seeing Kristen Bell and Anna Paquin, though that might be because I didn’t know who the younger actresses were (I’m old). As it happened, I also realized that I don’t feel any connection to Ghostface because it’s literally a mask that so many different people have worn, there’s just no substance there, though I do enjoy discovering how the killers are connected. One of the killers shares my opinion which made me laugh. Hey, are they putting my ideas in the mouths of murderers on purpose? Hmmm.
With Wes no longer with us, Scream 5 — actually just called Scream (2022) — was put together by writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick (Zodiac, the Amazing Spider-Man films) and Ready Or Not directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. I think they did an excellent job carrying over the ideas from the first film while also integrating a small town element by bringing in a bunch of familial connections to characters from previous installments. Again, I’m not looking to spoil anything because I was stunned that I managed to avoid all of them, but I loved how the family trees played into the story even if some of them made me feel old (like so many of the characters from the first one having high school aged kids!).
In this one, Jenna Ortega’s Tara is attacked by Ghostface in the opening and survives (a first!). After hearing about this, her older sister Sam (Melissa Barerra) returns to Woodsboro, having stormed off five years prior. Her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) comes along as moral support and comedy relief. Tara’s friends include Randy’s niece and nephew Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding), Deputy-turned-Sheriff Judy’s son Wes (Dylan Minnette), Liv (Sonia Ammar) and Amber (Mikey Madison). While trying to find out what’s going on they encounter a grizzled Dewey who tells Sidney and Gale not to come back, but they do anyway (he and Gale divorced between this and the previous entry). Of course, that’s exactly what Ghostface wants and bloody calamity ensues with plenty of horror movie commentary to go around plus appearances from other series vets like Heather Matarazzo as Randy’s sister Heather and Marley Shelton as Sheriff Judy. Plus another one I don’t want to spoil, but who was integrated nicely. By the way, I just realized I hadn’t mentioned this, but I appreciate that the gore levels seem to keep rising as the franchise gets older. These two films have some especially gnarly moments.
I realized something while watching 4 and 5: the whole “film as inspiration for murder” idea only works for me when it turns out that that person is REALLY nuts (not in a real, sad way, but an over-the-top fiction way). Both of those installments went that route with ending reveals that went a bit more arch, altering the reality for me to the point where I can buy in more. That’s not how it is for me with every horror film, but definitely this series.
I’m obviously not speaking as a diehard fan of the films, but I feel like these new stewards did a wonderful job of honoring the originals while also setting the franchise up for future films…which we already have! You can’t tell from reading this, but I just got back from watching Scream VI by the same writers and directors as the previous installment and I freaking loved it!
Since the movie is so new, I’m not going to get into the plot too much, but Woodsboro survivors Tara, Mindy and Chad have all moved to New York City to attend college with Sam along to keep an eye out. And it’s a good thing she does because Ghostface is back! Also, it’s Halloween season so we get to see nods to everything from Nightmare On Elm Street and Halloween to Hellraiser and even Murder Party (I think). Okay, getting back on track, our heroes find themselves on the wrong ends of a lot of knives, but keep on kicking, with some help from NYPD Detective Baily (Dermot Mulroney) and another familiar face returning to the franchise who has risen in certain ranks. Oh and of course Gale returns and wants in on the story again.
Again, without giving up any spoilers, I found this story to be super tight, filled with thrills and performances that drew you right into the craziness. There are brutal attacks scenes, heart-pounding moments and a reveal that builds on both the ideas of toxic fandom and unhealthy family relationships, but from different angles that still allow for all sorts of connections back to the previous films. I think Neve Campbell said she did not want to return as a way to pass the torch on to Barrera and Ortega and this film does that expertly. Oh, I do have one minor quibble: this movie does not need to be set in NYC. I’m sure it wasn’t film there, but it felt like it could take place in any big city. It’s not really a knock because the story is great, but it was kind of a bummer not to get something like the Jason in Times Square moment.
I fully admit that seeing the film on the big screen may have boosted it in my estimation. I’ve gotten so used to watching everything on my TV or computer that I tend to forget just how big and awesome movies are at the theater. Scream VI does a fantastic job of playing to that larger format. I’ve got to admit, after the crazy-tense ending, I found myself looking over my shoulder as I left the mall and walked to my car! It’s been a long time since I felt like that and it was a ton of fun. Here’s hoping I can get out to the theaters more often. Oh, also, like I said, I saw it in 3D and while it was cool to see the added depth, it definitely wasn’t necessary.
So here I am after watching all six movies and you know what? I think I’ve changed my mind about the Scream movies. I started off feeling kind of blah about them, but the further I got into the series the more I liked it. There will always be things about the first few that rub me the wrong way, but I think the subsequent installments are all pretty great. The quality didn’t just stay consistent as more sequels were added, but they got better. As much as I love my 80s slashers, there’s not a one that you can say that about. So, here I am telling myself that it’s not that big of a deal to just accept that the world of Scream is just a little more brutal and mean than the one I live in (though that can be hard to believe these days). What’s the big deal? I’m a changed man and while I don’t think I’ll be getting a Ghostface bag — like the person down the row from me had — I’m on board the Scream fan train.
If you’re looking to add Blu-rays of the available films to your collection, maybe you could follow the links for my Amazon Associates page. That’d be great! Scream 4 and Scream (2022)!