Scream review: Few scares in latest horror franchise entry

Known as much for its meta in-jokes about horror movies than its bloodspill, Scream is back for the first time in a decade.

Have you ever heard of a “requel”?

Apparently, it’s something between a reboot and a sequel – and that’s what Scream 5 (despite the fact the 2022 movie is officially titled Scream, we’ll refer to it as Scream 5 for the sake of clarity) is. Not quite a reboot because it’s set in the same timeline as the original franchise and not quite a sequel because the focus is on a new generation of characters, but the old guard are still around.

It’s been 10 years since the most recent Scream instalment and returnees Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette join a cast of youngsters including Melissa Barrera, Mason Gooding, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Dylan Minnette and Jasmin Savoy-Brown.

In the quarter-century since Billy Loomis and Stu Macher carved up their classmates, there have been many Ghostface copycats, and another one is wreaking havoc in Woodsboro. And whoever is behind the mask is targeting those connected to the original killings.

The term “requel” comes up a lot in Scream 5 as its pop culture-obsessed characters laboriously pour over the intricacies of successful movie franchises, toxic fandoms and all things horror flicks, whether they be classic schlocky ones or elevated narratives.

It’s part of Scream’s DNA to be so enamoured with the extra-textual easter eggs of its genre, with direct references to Psycho, The Babadook, Jordan Peele or horror master John Carpenter. And, of course, back to its own franchise history.

The 1996 original did the same, and that iconic question “What’s your favourite scary movie?” always conjures up an image of Drew Barrymore talking into a white cordless phone.

Scream 5 dials up the on-the-nose meta-ness to an 11, and it’s both clever and exhausting, often in the same moment.

But just because you point out something is derivative, it doesn’t shield you from the same accusation.

There are so many references to everything from its former franchise director Wes Craven (who died in 2015) to the hand-wringing over Star Wars: The Last Jedi. If you’re not pretty well versed in pop culture, you might get whiplash from trying to keep up.

With Craven’s death, directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett took over behind the camera. The pair are best known for the 2019 horror-action Ready or Not, a riotous and devilishly entertaining movie that balanced suspense and humour.

Scream 5 lacks the spark Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett brought to their previous endeavour. Scream 5 is certainly funny and irreverent, but where it falls over is that it’s rarely scary.

It works as a commentary on horror movies and fan culture, but it rarely makes your heart beat faster. It’s playing with the genre conventions to such a degree that it forgot to actually use them for frights.

Which makes Scream 5 ineffective as a horror movie, even a classic schlocky one. But it’s still entertaining and engaging as a frivolous and cheeky movie that will appeal to its rusted-on fans, or even those who haven’t seen one since Scream 2.

Rating: 3/5

Scream is in cinemas now

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Originally published as Scream review: Few scares in latest horror franchise entry

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