Scream ★★★½

The petrifying phone calls are back (and now in Dolby Atmos!) with Ghostface gunning for more guts and gore in this merciless and meta return to Woodsboro.

The series’ self-referential nature has always appealed to me, although I never fully appreciated how smart the set up and commentary was when I first encountered the franchise on home video at age 13 with Scream 2. I don’t think I’d even seen a horror movie before and my devout Catholic mother allowed me to watch this, unbeknownst to what was in store. Perhaps she thought it was a cinematic yelling fest? And no better way to watch a franchise than out of sequence, right?

Now in its fifth instalment, Scream continues to nail the cultural zeitgeist, name-checking era-defining horrors and signalling the shift in audience expectations. In understanding the current landscape of popular culture and horror (both innovative and done-to-death), this new Scream’s cinema-savvy characters break down the “re-quel” for us genre buffs to knowingly chuckle and the amusingly meta moments turn the slasher codes and conventions on their head.

Scream’s gags feel fresh (the “cuts deep” line really got me!) and the new cast are drawn up in line with Williamson’s knack for writing informed, respectable, and likeable teenagers. One of the characters may be reduced to the confinements of a hospital bed, but thankfully, unlike a certain icon in another recently released horror sequel, they aren’t bed-ridden for 80% of the runtime.

Campbell (still looking incredible), Cox, and Arquette impressively pack emotional punches in their performances. I liked the addition of Dylan Minnette (shower scene also appreciated) as well as the inclusion of a new Wallows track in the end credits. The kills are unapologetically gutsy also. I’m somewhat mixed about the third act though, as the surprise isn’t so much a surprise. The references and commentary may be clever and current, but the expanded universe / reworked format (while commendable) ends up feeling like a rehashed fourth movie. Fun in most part though, and there’s enough badass dialogue and team-up moments to satisfy.

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