GORE IN THE STORE
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpen & Tyler Gillett.
Starring Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette.
Horror, US, 114 minutes, certificate 18.
Released in the UK in cinemas January 14th by Paramount Pictures.
Once again, the phone rings over a black screen before a teenage girl answers it in the kitchen. However, twenty-five years after the first time we witnessed this scenario play out things are different. Thanks to technology our victim is not only terrorised by the disguised croak of the latest Ghostface killer on the other end of the landline but also cloned cell phones, texting and smart security technology. This “reboot, requel, whatever” sees directing duo Bettinelli-Olpen and Gillett, aka Radio Silence, take up the baton from the much-missed Wes Craven in the ongoing saga that dips back into the meta-textual well deeper than ever.
After this instigating attack we follow Sam, a one-time Woodsboro resident, who finds herself returning to the town after the attack on her estranged sister. How Sam’s self-imposed exile and attack on her family tie into this latest killing spree drives the plot forward here. Aided by her concerned boyfriend Richie and her sisters’ friends Sam races to uncover the masked killer before he/she discovers dark secrets from Sam’s own past. Ghostface however, seems just as interested in combining murder with a commentary on not only the first films events but cinemas current trend for nostalgia in its various forms. As events progress familiar faces return from afar to bring an end to the inter-generational carnage.
The original SCREAM captured lightning in a bottle by examining and poking fun at the rules and cliches of slasher cinema. Now we have reached the point where the franchise turns entirely inwards, examining and poking fun at its own rules and cliches. Thanks to STAB, the franchise within the franchise that has now gone on to inspire its own copycat killers and toxic legions of fans, the cast of potential killers and victims know when, where and at what point of a given scene certain events will take place. Alongside all this meta-commentary however, time is still made for a crafty slasher that manages to keep you guessing until its well-timed and executed reveals.
Arriving after a glut of revival films chasing the lucrative nostalgia dollar that bend over backwards to please the hardcore faithful this iteration of SCREAM feels particularly well timed. However, its commentary on these matters and how its own legacy and perception of it is received becomes a tad repetitive after a while.
Maybe this is the point. If so, surely there is a way to make it measure up more to the original entry. The new faces fail to live up to the sparky energy and sharp characterisation of the original cast, which is particularly noticeable when they come face to face with each other. No real sense of sympathy for the danger they find themselves in is felt or conveyed to the manner that Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson sketched out for their cast. Most impressive here and given the most to play with is David Arquette as Dewey, a haunted survivor resigned to his life of pain while the been there, seen it all attitude of the under used Campbell and Cox lend a more successful and witty commentary to the proceedings than their young counterparts.
After the previous two weak instalments however, this feels like a return to form. This SCREAM peaks around the halfway point with two set-pieces. These set-pieces display the skill of this films directing duo but for all its commentary on its own history and other subjects such as toxic fandom, fan fiction and elevated horror it feels a bit pleased with itself in a way that Craven and Williamson would have potentially mocked in sharper fashion. At times the sly commentary becomes heavy handed, perhaps intentionally in the name of satire, but in its latter stages it feels like it is using such commentary to hide that nothing new can really be done with this franchise and now is the time to put a pin in it with this satisfyingly fun chapter.