There are some things that you just don’t expect when it comes to popular film. First of all, you don’t expect a movie opening in January to be any good. This month is a notorious dumping ground for movies that studios have no confidence in. Another thing that you don’t expect is that the fifth film in a franchise will be able to be as inventive as the original, after all, the ideas are all recycled at this point. In a horror film that is especially true, we are likely to have repeated killings, chases and twists that seem to come out of left field. The difference with the “Scream” franchise is that it as always been about more than the horror. The screenwriters have always used the movies to also comment on the genre, the culture and the overused tropes.
In the first sequel, the very notion of sequels is lampooned by creating a movie based on the incidents in the first film. The geek knowledge of the horror movie tropes referred to in the first film, become satire as the second film plays out those tropes while also pointing out that it is doing so. The phrase “Meta” was rapidly becoming synonymous with the “Scream” franchise. The third film in the series shifts the location but keeps the idea of self reference alive by focusing on the “film making” for the sequel to the fictional film based on the original movie. After a decade off, the original screenwriter updates the film by looking at how technology and social media were making the process even more self aware. The first four films were all directed by horror master Wes Craven, the fourth film being his last movie.
So now, a decade removed, it is time for a reboot of the series. New screen writers and directors are taking over, and the question shifts to figuring out how to continue the meta approach to the storytelling, and the answer is right there, acknowledge that this is a reboot but try to fix the things that all the recent resets have screwed up, and make fun of it at the same time. I’d not heard the term “requel” before, but it may be my favorite invented word from the movies ever.
This new movie follows the script from the originals by starting with a phone call that turns into an attack on a girl, home alone, but then shifts the outcome, she survives in order to bring other characters into the story. So something is different but still the same. The first half hour moves along and I started to lose interest because it was playing out like a traditional film horror story, but somewhere about a third of the way in, there is a brilliant monologue scene, much like Randy’s from the original, which takes the film makers, the characters but especially the audience to the woodshed and slaps us silly. Fandom becomes the meta subject here, and for the rest of the movie, the best scenes are those which poke at the fans of the films, especially the fans who are so proprietary of their franchises. If you enjoy the prospect of not only horror fans but Star Wars fans, Super hero film fans and others being roasted in delicious snarky dialogue, this movie will appeal to you. This is a horror comedy that gets both genres right and makes fun of them simultaneously.
Admittedly, there are some plot contrivances that are hard to swallow in retrospect. The reveal is foreshadowed well and it plays out fine while watching the movie, but looking back, some of it makes little sense. On the other hand, there is a delightful moment at the climax of the film that references another film from a couple of years ago, and the ironic self reference and awareness of that moment was amusing as hell so who cares if it doesn’t necessarily make sense, it does meet our meta-verse requirements for a “Requel”.
The legacy cast is on hand to reassure us that this is not going off the tracks like a gender swapped reboot of a beloved classic, but that the film will remain true to the history that has existed up to this point in Woodsboro. Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox get to play the same characters they have been in the films up to this point, and their roles are not token appearances. but substantial contributions to the movie. The legacy character who comes off the best in the story is David Arquette’s Dewey, who was one of the awkward charms of the earlier films and here gets to finally turn in a performance that is not merely comic relief. Of course how the fandom of the film series reacts will be a big question.
I smiled at a lot of things in the film, there are Easter eggs for the work of other film makers but especially for Wes Craven himself. Those small moments are nice. Even nicer were the four times that I literally laughed out loud and hard at some of the things being said and a couple of the things being done. If you are a “Scream” fan, this should entertain you while you are watching it. The best review of the movie however is contained in the film itself when that big monologue about horror films is delivered. It judges it self and the film does not come up wanting.