The Scream film franchise is somewhat of a rarity in the horror genre, in that even amongst its multiple decades of existence and numerous sequels it’s never produced a bad film. Of course, the quality of each instalment and how they rank against each other will forever be debated by fans but it’s quite remarkable that a horror franchise has achieved such a high standard across the original film and all of its sequels. Many factors can be attributed to the success of the franchise; Kevin Williamson’s brilliant characters and sharp metafictional writing, the iconic performances of the recurring cast and of course Wes Craven’s masterful direction. However, after Craven’s sad passing in 2015, Scream (2022) is the first film in the franchise made without his guidance, so would this fifth film still be able to capture the same calibre that came before it?

Tasked with achieving this are new directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, best known for their 2019 horror film, Ready or Not. Taking over the writing duties from Williamson are James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, whilst Williamson serves as executive producer. There’s new talent in front of the camera too, providing Ghostface with plenty of fresh meat to butcher. Leading this group of new performers is Melissa Barrera who plays Sam Carpenter, a young woman who grew up in Woodsboro but left when she turned eighteen. She’s drawn back to her hometown after her sister, Tara, portrayed by Jenna Ortega is viciously attacked by Ghostface in the opening sequence of the film.

Alongside them we have Dylan Minnette, Mason Gooding, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mikey Madison and Sonia Ben Ammar who make up Tara’s friendship group as well as Jack Quaid who plays Richie, Sam’s boyfriend. The new cast are good, bringing a freshness to the franchise much like the cast of Scream 4 did. It’s Minnette, who plays the son of the now promoted Sheriff Judy, called Wes (a lovely touch to honour the late director) and Brown, who plays the movie expert of the group, Mindy who both make the most memorable impact. Both performers excel through their screen time and the sequences they star in. With Mindy the film series also finally gives us some unquestionable queer representation and it’s included so naturally which is an added bonus to an already great character. 

However, it wouldn’t be a Scream film without the originals, or “legacy characters” as they’re referred to here, and fans will be delighted to see Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette returning as the heroic horror legends Sidney Prescott, Gale Weathers and Dewey Riley. They all deliver excellent performances as ever and interact with the new cast well. Dewey and Sidney are definitely given more to do than Gale though, and as a result she feels a little underused. Precedence is most definitely given to the new cast and by relegating this original trio to each being a “legacy character” it doesn’t quite manage to merge the old and the new as cohesively as it could have. Nonetheless what’s done with the characters, both new and old is mostly satisfying and works for furthering the overall Scream story as we see a definite shift in focus from old to new. 

The classification of the original trio as “legacy characters” comes from the film’s commentary on “requels”, Hollywood’s latest craze of rebooting classic franchise favourites without starting from scratch. As explained by Mindy in a brilliant Randy-like monologue, they aren’t quite sequels, and they aren’t quite reboots, hence – requels. This is an up-to date commentary that feels like a natural progression for this franchise and it’s as clever as you’d expect. Even the film’s divisive name plays a part in the discussion, taking all things meta to the next level. This isn’t the only aspect of satire or social commentary that Scream explores though as attitudes towards elevated horror and toxic fandom also find themselves under its critical spotlight. This writing proves to be as in-tune as ever to topical trends and behaviour that should be called out and in doing so almost makes the film review-proof, almost.

Although, despite the fun deconstruction of these topics in the process Scream also somewhat becomes a victim of what it is criticising. Of course this is a franchise that has always been in on the joke and by nature has to indulge in some of the tropes it wishes to highlight. Even here a main character calls out the derived nature of Ghostface’s killing spree, so as ever it treads a very fine line between delivering its social commentary and succumbing to it, but ultimately it ends up on the side you’d hope for.

The film gives viewers little time to ponder this though as it consistently delivers a barrage of brutal attacks on helpless Woodsboro residents, with the most violent content of the franchise to date. One sequence in the middle of the film will join the ranks of the most memorable of the series, whilst the others never reign in their ferocity. Whilst this violence takes centre stage, the film is also littered with some very discreet easter eggs, some of which hold great significance for the series as a whole. These are included in a thoughtful way that’s fun for viewers to discover without dominating or derailing the entire focus of the film, something that other requels haven’t achieved.

So whilst simultaneously taking shots at requels and being one itself, there’s no doubt that Scream takes some big swings, fully aware that it had to in order to live up to the already present legacy. Whilst there are most definitely some misses, the vast majority of what the new creative team have managed here is a hit. It will inevitably be compared to its predecessors and whilst it doesn’t quite reach their dizzying heights and is missing just a touch of the fun they have in abundance, it still remains an excellent entry into a consistently excellent franchise, and at that a superior horror sequel than most. This fifth entry into the franchise reinforces the fact that the Scream films have yet to find themselves aimlessly stabbing in the dark, instead they are always approached and executed with killer cinematic precision.

Rating: ★★★★