I hold the “Scream” series near and dear to my heart. I’ve watched the entirety of the four films several times and can confidently say that I enjoy them more and more with each viewing. I began dutifully rewatching them before the release of the new film, just to avoid missing any clever references that would lessen my enjoyment of the highly anticipated fifth film. To no surprise of my own, I enjoyed every second of my experience viewing movies I already loved.
So naturally, I began to fear the worst. Would a lackluster fifth “Scream” ruin the brilliance of its predecessors? I sat down in the theater and prepared myself for disappointment. At the same time, there was a part of me that had confidence in Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, “Skyscraper”), the icon of the franchise. She had never let me down before.
“Scream” takes on a cast of new characters, including leads Tara (Jenna Ortega, “You”) and Sam (Melissa Barrera, “In the Heights”). The film follows the “Scream” series formula and rules to a T, with some added flare. There’s a killer wearing the classic Ghostface mask, and everyone is a suspect.
In the previous movies, there’s always a scene where the characters discuss the rules of any slasher-horror film. “Scream 2” discusses the rules of a horror sequel, “Scream 3” discusses the rules of a trilogy and so on. I had some questions about how the series’s rules, which had been so carefully and cleverly crafted, would persist in “Scream” and why the film wasn’t instead named “Scream 5.”
After watching the newly released “Scream,” I honestly feel like I owe an apology to the franchise for not having full faith in it. Every question I had was answered with grace and wit, just as I should have expected. When discussing the rules, the group of friends addresses the fact that what they’re experiencing wouldn’t count as a sequel or a reboot — it’s a “requel.” And requels have new rules: A new cast of characters that interact with the legendary returning characters, aka Sidney Prescott, Deputy Dewey (David Arquette, “Bone Tomahawk”) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox, “Friends”).
Relieved to see some familiar faces, I began to relax and enjoy the tongue-in-cheek humor that “Scream” is known for. But what I loved most about the newest addition to the franchise was its determination to pay homage to the original films — Wes (Dylan Minnette, “13 Reasons Why”) is named after Wes Craven, the late director of the first four films. Sidney Prescott recites her famous line: “I’m Sidney fucking Prescott. Of course I have a gun.” As a fan of the “Scream” series, these are the types of details that I desperately hoped would be included. It just wouldn’t be “Scream” without them.
“Scream” also keeps up with the times without straying too far from its roots. While speaking to the killer on the phone, Tara mentions that she doesn’t like traditional slasher films. Instead, she prefers “elevated horror” that expresses deeper meaning, like “Hereditary,” “The Babadook” and films by Jordan Peele. There’s something I can respect about a film that knows exactly what it is, and the “Scream” franchise’s self-awareness is what makes it special.
I called my sister, another huge fan of the series who had expressed the same concerns, just after leaving the theater. With a smile on my face, I took a sigh of relief as I told her that Sidney Prescott is still a beast and that she had to head to the theater. I think that’s all I really wanted with a series like “Scream”: an untainted view of the films that just keep getting better with every watch. I look forward to having a fifth movie to binge at my next rewatch.
Daily Arts Writer Laura Millar can be reached at email@example.com.