By Geoff Wertheim

(***)

Ghostbusters did it.

Star Wars did it.

Now Scream does it.

Embracing the “requel”, 5cream – as this should’ve been called – follows many of the beats of the original while adding just enough to keep it fresh beyond the teenage cast.

The returning actors have all aged with their roles perfectly. Neve Campbell looks fantastic these 25 years later, bringing back nostalgic thoughts of my teenage crush, while Sydney has become a strong woman who’s seemingly accepted the trauma of her past (unlike the usual trend of becoming a survivalist/warrior like Sarah Conner or Laurie Strode). David Arquette is always welcome as Dewey the gentle cop, a character also formed by the trauma he’s seen four times over. Courtney Cox’s plastic surgery is distracting at best, but it fits her former-News-anchor-turned- daytime-talk-show host, Gale Weathers. Add cameos from original cast members Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy and Drew Barrymore (the latter 3 as Easter egg voiceovers), and we’ve got most of the original (legacy) actors together again.

Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox.

However, they really only come in after halfway through. The new cast did all well in their respective roles as the new characters.  Melissa Barrera, as new lead Sam Carpenter, stands out to me most as I’ve never seen before; with Jack Quaid (The Boys) as her boyfriend. Add to the mix Mikey Madison (Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood), Dylan Minette (Don’t Breathe), Jasmin Savoy Brown (TV’s Yellowjackets), Mason Gooding (Booksmart) and a breakthrough performance from soon-to-be household name Jenna Ortega – it’s a great mix of promising young talent taking the torch.

Story wise, in a way it’s much of the same old same old, sticking to the tried and true formula.  From the opening scene until very end, the story beats match up; with just enough red herrings and twists to keep this all from being too familiar. Familiar sets and locations also make as many callbacks as do the lines and references. While the Scream franchise has been inspired by, and was initially a response to, other slasher horrors (such as Friday the 13th, Halloween, or creator Wes Craven’s own A Nightmare On Elm St.), those movies were always tied together by a common villain (Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger, respectively). However, what’s always made Scream stand apart was that while the masked murderer, dubbed Ghostface, always looked the same – an interpretation of Edgar’s Munch’s The Scream – whomever wears the mask, whomever commits the kills, is always someone different. This whodunnit element, in which every character is as much a potential suspect as they are the killer, adds to the mystery and suspense that elevates Scream beyond its slasher brethren. This time we’re left to ponder – is the killer any of the new kids, or could one (or more) of the 3 legacy characters have snapped, giving in to their past trauma? Since everyone has motives, and the story practically dines on red herrings, audiences will always be guessing until the end. Even when you think you figured it out, you can never be 100% sure until the maniac(s) reveals themselves.

Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Ready or Not) bring their brand of fun horror with a dash of comedy, while staying true to Wes Craven’s original vision. They’ve made a film for fans, by fans.

The original Scream began many trends, from the rejuvenated slasher trend of the late 90’s to the characters making meta references trend, that’s only gotten more prominent over the last decade.

When it comes down to it, like most franchises, no subsequent movie can ever top the first, but Scream 5 comes pretty close to make it the second best of the series.

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