Landline phones are looked upon by the new kids of Scream like they’re phonographs, but some things never change with this fourth sequel to the 1996 original. Unlike other horror franchises, I would say there hasn’t been a bad Scream follow-up nor has one come close to approaching the quality of the first. My reception for parts II-IV are fairly similar – passably entertaining and ultimately forgettable. Part V – call it Scream if you want but it’s Scream 5 – is no different and a tad more underwhelming since its new characters add little.
When the ’96 version of Scream came out, Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson deftly satirized the slasher genre while also making a scary movie. It’s why Scary Movie four years later didn’t work for me – it was trying to parody something that had already cleverly done it. The rest of the Scream efforts have struggled with the mix as it continually invents new family connections to reveal new Ghostface killers.
In this Scream, Sam (Melissa Barrera) fled the town of Woodsboro five years ago. She makes a hasty return when her high school age sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) is attacked by the now iconic villain. With Sam’s boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) and Tara’s student clique as potential suspects, we soon see familiar faces besides Ghostface. Dewey (David Arquette) is divorced from Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and no longer the sheriff in town. He reluctantly accepts Sam’s offer to get involved. Sidney (Neve Campbell) has no desire for a hometown return but we know that won’t last.
Sam’s genealogy allows for some slightly more surprising cameos as we try to deduce who the killer(s) are this time around. Some of Tara’s schoolmates fill the Scream bingo card. There’s the Jock, the Movie Buff, and the Virgin. Some of the roles are given a modern update (one of the guys is given the potentially fatal shower scene).
Of course, these characters talk endlessly about sequels and reboots and “requels”. This was a pretty fresh concept a quarter century ago (even if Craven had mined similar territory in New Nightmare). Now there’s precious little more meta to mine. Like the sequels, there’s also the fact that this Scream just isn’t a very scary movie.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett take over the reigns as Craven passed in 2015. They clearly have reverence for the series and especially part one. That’s understandable. So did the other ones. Some of them landed their plot points with more precision (Scream 4 managed to have a decent killer reveal and fun third act). All of them were duller cuts and this one strains to properly explain its reason for being despite endless attempts.
** (out of four)