Sorry! We Missed It is a new Substream column where we’ll be looking at some movies and television shows from the beginning of the year. Life happens, you know? So, please sit back and play some catch-up with us.
Taking the franchise baton from a horror legend is always going to be a difficult task. Twenty-six years ago, the late great Wes Craven brought the first installment of the Scream franchise into our lives. It combined clever commentary on classic horror tropes while being a “who dun it” like slasher. Luckily enough, there is more meat on the bone in the subject of satire in horror films. So, what’s a “requel?” Narrative fallen soldier Randy Meek’s niece, Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), describes it as an in-between a reboot and a continuation. You want to introduce new characters while re-introducing older ones in the background and continuation of a storyline from the original.
This is a (sometimes cash-grabby) way for studios to appease the standard fan base while trying to bring in a new fandom. Sometimes it works, and sometimes, it doesn’t. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett introduce this phenomenon to Scream’s world and works. Right from the beginning, the film delivers a playful critique of its own 1996 opening when Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) gets brutally attacked by a Ghostface copycat. You would think Woodsboro would have some peace after all these years, but that’s not the case. The attack leads Tara’s half-sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) to reluctantly return to the town and bring her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) with her. Sam has a secret that ties her back to the beginning of this saga. It’s the reason she briefly falls into a troubled life and leaves without a trace. But you can’t resist when your family is in danger — something this iteration of Ghostface counts on.
Writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick had a big task because you have to integrate all these characters with a story that justifies why this film exists. For the most part, they do. The returns of Dewey (David Arquette), Gale (Courtney Cox), and the legendary Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) feel natural and help move the overall narrative along. While the whole Scream aura revolves around Sidney being the primary target, her character serves as an “I’ve been here and done that” guiding force for the new characters.
Dewey, the now-retired sheriff of Woodsboro, and Gale, a lead anchor of a morning news show, even have time to touch on their history. It has been a couple of years since most of the old crew have talked to one other. All three of them get pulled back in the trauma vortex that is Woodsboro — it’s sad to see Dewey unable to move history to where he feels obligated to be in the town. It’s the reason he and Gale’s relationship falls apart. However, all three of these characters serve as pseudo-protectors. As much as Scream dives into its old lore, the film is about the new kids on the block. This includes Tara’s best friend Amber (Mikey Madison), who doesn’t trust Sam, extra careful Wes (Dylan Minnette), Mindy’s twin brother Chad (Mason Gooding), and his girlfriend Liv (Sonia Ammar). Throughout the story, there’s an infusion of old and new horror rules that are well-placed to trip up the audience. What seems to be a tight-knit group of friends quickly devolves into a murderous guessing game.
Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett work hard to subvert expectations of the obvious while playfully using callbacks from previous films — ranging from music and kill setups. Scream also has a wide range of gore, airing on more of the brutal side. The world of horror has changed since 2011’s Scream 4. The term “elevated horror” gets thrown around more often since studios like A24 and Neon have become prominent. The film plays with that notion where the younger characters aren’t as aware of the ongoing Stab franchise. Scream also takes on the idea of fan entitlement in terms of media. It says it’s ok to be passionate, but that fierce love for something to stay the same can also turn dangerous.
Things can get wonky when trying to tie the past and future together. This is speaking to a reoccurring thread that happens with Sam’s character. In this film, it may seem farfetched, granted her proximity to said event and look. But it may be a future plot thread to be continued in the new story. If the Scream franchise ended at four, I’m sure everyone would be happy with that. This film balances paying homage to the foundation before it while passing the torch off to a new generation.