Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
scr James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick
prd Paul Neinstein, William Sherak, James Vanderbilt
with Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Marley Shelton, Dylan Minnette, Mikey Madison, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Kyle Gallner, Skeet Ulrich
release US/UK 14.Jan.22
22/US Paramount 1h54

arquette barrera ortega
See also:
Scream 3 (2000) Scream 4 (2011)

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Another decade later, the meta-franchise returns with a fifth self-reverential twist in the saga. It's entertaining and sometimes enjoyably scary, packed with grisly violence and witty dialog. Although the writers miss a trick, name-dropping elevated horror movies (like The Babadook) without actually delving into that side of the genre. Instead, they make a fairly straight "requel" while having fun with a plot that takes a series of wild turns.
In small-town Woodsboro, someone has once again started stabbing people wearing that creepy ghost-face costume. Aside from being a teen at home alone, intended first victim Tara (Ortega) seems a random choice, but it turns out that her estranged sister Sam (Barrera) has a connection to the original murders. Soon Sam's back in town with her boyfriend Richie (Quaid), getting in touch with now-retired Sheriff Dewey (Arquette) and luring his ex-wife Gale (Cox), who's now a morning-show host, back to town. Original survivor Sidney (Campbell) thought she'd escaped for good, but she returns as well.
With essentially the same plot, the film follows veterans and teens as they attempt to stop this new spate of violent deaths, while at the same time trying to avoid being killed themselves. The murderer pops up everywhere, and is seriously vicious. This doesn't always make logical sense, especially later on when the explanations start to arrive. But the way conversations continually circle around the standard rules of the genre keeps us chuckling in between the nastiness.

As usual, everyone is a suspect, so the actors get to add sinister shadings even as they are being playful or emotive. Campbell is terrific as the knowing Sidney, and she and Cox are great together, while Arquette gives Dewey some engaging pathos. Barrera and Ortega dive in fully, carrying the weight of the plot even if their characters feel under-written. And the surrounding teens each get to add their own spin on various events.

The writers and directors carefully re-create the franchise's vibe while giving it a gentle 2020s spin. This means that the movie is essentially what we expect it to be: some solid laughs, knowing gags and scary set-pieces, most of which involve red herrings and easter eggs. But just a bit more original thinking might have made this episode more memorable, such as actually deepening the themes rather than just talking about it. Or working out the whodunit in way that was actually satisfying. But as is, this movie just about hits the spot.

cert 18 themes, language, violence 11.Jan.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall