The Scream franchise has been anchored by the team of writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven. While this new Scream has Williamson's blessing, it comes 11 years after Scream 4 and Craven has since passed away. It is an understatement to say you can feel their absence. While this new entry has the self-referential quality of the Scream films down, it is missing the fun and wit that Williamson and Craven brought to even the least successful sequel, looking at you Scream 3.
This film returns to the same locations as the original film, including Sydney's old house where Billie and Stu met their demise. The film opens similarly with a young girl alone in a big house getting a phone call. You may wonder how many people still have a landline but pay no attention to that. After the opening kill, subverted here a bit, we are introduced to a new batch of teens, all wondering who the murder could be. And for a while, this new Scream is engaging as a bloody slasher whodunnit.
The young girl in the opening scene is Tara (Jenna Ortega). Her estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) returns to Woodsboro with her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid). Tara's close friends all become suspects as Ghostface starts a killing spree that connect these young teens to the events of the past Scream films.
The film calls attention to itself as a "requel" which is some hybrid between a sequel and a reboot. The film's take here involves a shot at toxic fandom in the process. A character claims the killer "has to save the franchise!" The winking humor here is grating but some may find it enjoyable. Part of the reason the film's meta qualities don't work this time is that they don't have the same wit or fun attitude that Williamson brought to the other franchise films. The teens here aren't strong personalities and they don't seems as well versed in horror tropes to sell the self-referential moments. There is also an odd and aggressive stance on "elevated horror" films such as The Babadook and Hereditary. While it name checks several great horror films, it does so with a snide attitude about them. For two directors getting their big break, James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, this is a brash and bold move that left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Scream brings back Sidney (Neve Campbell), Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox). Unlike the "requel" Halloween from 2018, this film doesn't really have an interesting reason to bring these characters back. I think fans hoping for more than extended cameos are going to be disappointed. Of the three of them, Campbell proves the most enjoyable. She is still compelling in this role and when she arrives, the film seems to come alive for a bit. We are reminded that unlike the young actors in the film, Campbell had a unique way of selling a mixture of trauma and strength. Barrera has been good in other things, see Vida, but here has few compelling qualities to get invested in. She can't handle the balance of flight and fight.
Scream references and namechecks so many better films that you start wishing it would stop making you think of them. One character even states near the end "I still like The Babadook better." I do too and while there are some clever attack scenes and kills here, the film is annoyingly smug and unflatteringly self referential. There are at least 3 better Scream movies to enjoy.