Scream 5 (2022) — Dewey have to go through this again?

“Maybe you’re the killer. Because that cut deep.”

Justin’s rating: I love that Dewey has his own theme song on the soundtrack.

Justin’s review: 1996. 1997. 2000. 2011. 2022.

To me, it’s kind of wild to look back at the Scream franchise’s timeline and see how it bridges the distance from the mid-1990s to the modern day. How it both re-invented the slasher movie and deconstructed it so hard that it made subsequent slashers difficult to pull off well. And how it’s managed to avoid becoming a forgettable joke five installments in.

It does seem, however, that a fifth movie wasn’t actually needed. Wes Craven passed away in 2015, and 11 years had passed since the last outing of Ghostface, Sidney, Dewey, and Gale. But while Scream 5 — weirdly just titled “Scream” but I’m going to add the “5” and not feel bad about it — was a mere aftershock compared to the original’s detonation, it acquitted itself well enough in reviews and box office.

So what tends to set this series apart from standard slashers is that it combines some meta commentary on horror movies with a liberal dose of comedy and a bit of whodunnit tossed in for fun. The first Scream identified the “rules” (tropes) of horror flicks. The second was about sequel trends, the third focused more on trilogies and horror series fandoms, and Scream 4 revolved around film remakes and social media.

Now it’s 25 years after the original Ghostface killings, and the anyone-could-be-the-killer figure is back — and is obsessed with legacy sequels and horror reboots. This is Woodsboro, of course, the nation’s capital of macabre irony and teens way too into the scary movie section on their Netflix channel.

In a slightly odd twist, the victim of the opening teaser — Tara (Jenna Ortega) — actually survives a vicious home attack by Ghostface. But now she, her pariah sister Sam (Melissa Barrera), and her friends have become the target for subsequent assaults — and they’re not the only ones, as Ghostface seems determined to draw back the original survivors for another showdown. This includes middle-aged mother Sidney (Neve Campbell), TV morning host Gale (Courtney Cox), and battle damaged Dewey (David Arquette). Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) even returns in hallucinations, thanks to a family connection that I won’t spoil here.

(And there’s a character named “Wes” and tell me that’s not a shout-out.)

What’s kind of amusing to me is that while a quarter of a century separates the first and fifth film, not as much has changed as you might expect. These teens are a little too smug about their knowledge of the horror genre, they crack jokes left and right, they answer their phones when they really shouldn’t, and they try to revive the flannel craze. And like the first movie, the teens can’t quite stack up to the powerhouse trio of Sidney, Gale, and Dewey.

What is less amusing is the clunky way that Scream 5 goes about setting this all up. There are too many ham-handed exposition dumps, contrived coincidences that always break in favor of the killer, and another string of “rules” that a character spouts out and it’s suddenly the gospel truth. It’s also rushed, with so many Ghostface attacks right out of the gate that it cuts down on any suspense or even mystery.

And for my money, there’s nothing more cringe-inducing than characters in this movie trying to make the term “requel” work. It’s a supremely dumb term about a scatterbrained sequel that doesn’t know itself, and we really don’t need to shine the spotlight on it. If that’s not bothersome enough, we also get “elevated horror” and I am done with the insufferableness of this genre.

I’m willing to be lenient on Scream 5, however. For one thing, it’s rather well done all around, and it made me care about a whole lot about the safety of the cast. For another, it has to work extra hard not just to acquit itself well in its own franchise but the countless other movies that were “inspired” by the original. While it doesn’t reinvent or top anything — or isn’t strictly necessary on any level — it is clever, it is funny, and it still managed to surprise this jaded film reviewer who saw the original in a movie theater back in ’96.

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