It’s me…Sidney…as in Prescott…not Australia…Miss Stokes if you’re nasty.
Like a lot of queer people, horror films matter a great deal to me. They always have. Is it cause I’m a deranged psychopath? I don’t think so…Chiffon tells me otherwise, but like…what does she know? There is something so wonderfully camp about a great horror movie, especially slasher movies. Slasher movies are full of things queers love: screaming, drama, himbos in crop tops, revenge, a strong female lead who triumphs in the end that we can vicariously live through because they share our same name….ok maybe that last one is much more specific but mostly…you get the point.
While I love many slasher movies, none of them have come to matter to me as much as Scream. I started watching them when my brother would rent them and sneak them to me, I was the one who had to be kind and rewind! In a lot of ways, much to my mother’s dismay, I grew up with them.
When I heard they were making a fourth, I was very excited, but I’m not gonna lie, I did not fall in love with the movie when I saw it. The movie felt like a parody, and not a flattering one. It felt like it was making fun of itself in a way that I didn’t appreciate. It had the elements but it was far too extreme. Too loud in all the wrong places, too angry, and in a way, too bitter. A film that felt like it had to be made to play with the new kids but actively didn’t want to. I’ve come to find things to love about 4 in time (mostly Hayden Panettiere) but it is my least favorite for all the aforementioned reasons.
…and then this new Scream happened.
The fifth installment of this franchise returns in a way that doesn’t feel forced, it comes in on it’s own terms, and reminds people how it’s done.
This film found a way to surprise without relying on traditional jump scares, in fact, in more than one instance, the film played with horror tropes as toys to play with you. It almost lured you into a false sense of security but make no mistake, this film is actually the most brutal film in the franchise. There was a moment when Sam (Melissa Barrera) came up to look in a mirror and when you expected the killer behind her in the mirror, you got one, in the form of her father…Billy Loomis, in the mirror. To quote Mickey in Scream 2, “Didn’t see it comin’, did ya?”
No…no I didn’t.
The idea that those being killed are connected to the other killers was a really cool concept, especially when you remember that Sidney herself is connected to two of them by blood, but tying the new final girl to the original killer is what I believe made this concept work. Also, lol, Billy tried to kill Sidney…of course he cheated on her too, like father, like son. The crescendo of all of this taking place in Stu’s house, where one of the killer’s lived, and the reveal that one of the killer’s was a boyfriend was a perfect cherry on top.
When we get to the end and the reveal of the killers, it almost didn’t matter who they were because the journey to get to the final act was so interesting in how we got there. The directing team of Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olphin, as well as the writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, wanted to create something that didn’t just stand on its own but paid homage to the other films, as well as Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s work. In a lot of way the directors and writers were the ones teasing us, playing with us like we were the victims. Giving us everything we needed in act one. A perfect example of this was how Richie (Jack Quaid), much like Billy Loomis before him was both the red herring AND, ultimately, one of the killers. Even the place where he got cut to sell his innocence, the same place where Sidney’s boyfriend Derek was cut so he could be framed, but also not seriously injured. It’s almost like the directors and writers punished us for not learning our lesson and falling for it all over again.
Going into the movie, I figured that while our three legacy characters would walk in, not all of them would walk out. Sadly, Dewey Riley, did not. My big fear with killing a character like him, was if it would be cheap and meaningless. I’m happy to report that it was not. The killer even felt the gravitas and said, “It’s an honor.” Which it was. I would be lying to y’all if I said that I didn’t start crying. Rest in peace Dewey Riley…you died saving the lives of others…and getting stabbed in the back…again.
As I alluded to earlier, slasher movies have strong female leads who ultimately end up being the ones who save the day. It’s an element of horror films that doesn’t get talked about enough. In fact the recent Halloween movies fail, for a lot of reasons in my opinion, but they take out the distinct strong female element and the movie suffers as a result. This film reinforces that women are the backbone of the franchise. They don’t shy away and in fact, they give us not one…not two…not three…but FOUR final girls.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox didn’t miss a beat returning to these roles. They seemed so glad to be home and gave it 100% and then some. I loved how they played disaffected, as if nothing could shock them, and that was their survival strength. No killer could surprise them. They have seen it all and become tough as nails as a result.
One thing that I thought throughout the film is it felt like, in some ways, they ignored 3 and 4. Is that a problem? Well, I guess that depends on how you feel about those movies? While I love 3, and have come to appreciate 4, I find that most of the fans typically love one or the other but never both. Yes, there were references to them, but not to the same extent 1 and 2 are. For example, we find out in 3 that Sidney’s half-brother, Roman, orchestrated the whole thing, but from this one it was all Billy. I understand the reason, but I was unclear if we are supposed to ignore 3 and 4 in the way Halloween films need us to ignore certain films.
I think some people will complain that maybe this movie is too meta or too referential, similar complaints being thrown and the recent Matrix movie, but this is Scream…Scream is as self-referential and meta a franchise as Drag Race. It works, it’s fun, and it is part of the charm.
In college I began hosting an all night annual re-watch called the Scream-A-Thon. Now that there are 5 of them, and I’m north of 30, all-nighters aren’t possible, but I am looking forward to marathoning them all once this is available to add. I loved it. I loved it in a way that reminds me what I love about this franchise. This is what scary movies should be. I think a lot of modern horror tries to be cerebral and dark but it forgets that it can, and should be, be a little fun.
All this love said, I do hope this is the finale. I believe Scream has said everything it needs to. With this film the franchise has come full circle in a way most films don’t. I hope they know this should be it. As my friend and I left, I asked, “When was the last great slasher film that wasn’t a sequel or reboot?” Neither of us could think of one. I think the lasting legacy of the Scream franchise should be about who it inspires and what it inspires them to create. After all, “Movies don’t create psychos, movies make psychos more creative.