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.
**Blogger’s Note (01/13): On the eve of its premiere, I am upping the 4-day tally for Scream from $29.4 million to $36.4M
The fifth installment of the Scream franchise slashes its way into theaters on January 14th, hoping to bring in a sizable horror fan base. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, makers of V/H/S and Ready or Not, direct as they take reigns of the series from scare master Wes Craven (who helmed the first four and passed away in 2015). Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Marley Shelton, and Roger L. Jackson (as the iconic voice of Ghostface) reprise roles from previous entries. Newcomers include Melissa Barrera, Mason Gooding, Jenna Ortega, and Jack Quaid.
Nearly a quarter century ago, the low-budget original became a cultural phenomenon and revitalized the genre. Two sequels followed in quick succession in 1997 and 2000 while part 4 hit in 2011. It was a commercial disappointment – taking in only $38 million at the domestic box office (with a $19 million start).
Paramount and Dimension Films are hoping that nostalgia will bring audiences back to the fold. Fright fests, more than any other type of pic in 2021, proved immune to challenges faced in the COVID era in terms of solid openings. The third Conjuring and Candyman each premiered in the low to mid 20s range. Scream will have an extra day of earnings when factoring in the long MLK frame.
January is very desolate in terms of high profile debuts and Scream is by far the biggest one. It marks a major test for theaters as the Omicron variant sweeps across the country. If this fails to perform, don’t be surprised to see delays for upcoming releases. Even with that potential barrier and the underperformance of its predecessor, I envision this managing a mid to possibly late 20s haul when including Monday.
Scream opening weekend prediction: $36.4 million (Friday to Monday estimate)
A darkly comedic game of hide and seek is unveiled Wednesday in theaters next week in ReadyorNot. The pic stars Margot Robbie… actually it’s Samara Weaving (niece of Hugo). She’s a doppelgänger for Robbie and she plays a bride to be in a filthy rich family who subject her to the aforementioned game where they hunt her down. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett direct. Costars include Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, and Andie MacDowell.
Not was readied for a premiere in July at the Fantasia International Film Festival and critical reaction was strong. It currently holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That said, I’m not at all confident this will manage to break out with a wide audience. A late August release date doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. This could struggle to reach double digits over its five-day rollout and that means mid single digits for the traditional Friday to Sunday frame is what I’m thinking.
ReadyorNot opening weekend prediction: $5.8 million (Friday to Sunday); $7.7 million (Wednesday to Sunday)