If one were to look back to the early to mid-1990s, they would find Horror, as a film genre, was all but dead (no pun intended). There were maybe a dozen movies each year and most had unrecognizable titles. Then in 1996, Horror Master Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street) directed a movie simply called Scream written by an up-and-coming writer named Kevin Williamson (The Faculty). The film starred Neve Campbell (The Craft), Courtney Cox (Friends), and David Arquette (Never Been Kissed), as well as Drew Barrymore (E.T.), Skeet Ulrich (Riverdale), and Rose McGowan (Charmed). The film combined jump scares with bloody murders and some humor thrown in. It also revitalized horror films and, over the next fifteen years, produced three sequels. Now, seven years after Craven's passing, Scream (also known as Scream 5) is opening in theaters.
As we have come to expect from the Scream franchise, this one once again opens with a teenage girl, Tara (Jenna Ortega; Iron Man 3), who is home alone and picks up the phone to begin a conversation with a stranger. As the stranger continues to talk, the tone of his questions become more sinister. This phone call is only the beginning. As in the past, several people end up dead in Woodsboro and everyone becomes a suspect.
The Scream franchise has always been known for its writing which is one aspect that sets it apart from many of the other horror films being made these days. The dialogue is sharp and witty, and the story usually keeps the viewer guessing which one of the characters could be the killer, as well as their motivation for killing. Also, since the Scream films typically have a bigger budget than their contemporaries, the production value tends to be stronger overall, which makes for a better-quality movie.
Joining the franchise veterans, Campbell, Cox, and Arquette, are a group of talented young actors. Melissa Barrera (In the Heights) plays the main character, Sam, whose deep, dark secret puts her younger sister, Tara, in danger. Barrera is in touch with her emotions as she can be strong and confident at times while vulnerable and fragile at others. Jack Quaid (The Boys) portrays Sam's boyfriend, Ritchie, and it is obvious the apple didn't fall far from the tree as he is a strong actor whose parents happen to be Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid. Jasmin Savoy Brown (The Leftovers) plays one of Tara's friends, Mindy Meeks-Martin, and she is a standout amongst this group of up-and-coming actors.
Typically, by the time a film franchise gets to their fourth sequel the plot, cast, directing, and writing tend to be inferior to the original movie but that isn't the case with Scream. The plot is what one would expect from this franchise, with twists and turns and jokes aplenty. The only part I didn't like was the motive for the serial killings. I rolled my eyes at least once when it was revealed why the murders were taking place.
The latest version of Scream does almost everything right. From paying homage to Craven to peppering the movie with easter eggs, the film pays "fan service" while establishing a new group of characters to continue the franchise.
Scream has always been a cut above the cookie-cutter movies and even as the fifth movie is released, this fact has not changed. I will say this film has more gunplay than previous editions and more blood and violence than the others but it still feels very much like a part of the series. If only the motive had been more thoughtful and interesting, then Scream would have been almost perfect instead of just very good.