It’s time for ol’ Ghostface to put away the hunting knife and chill out for a bit, as Scream 5 proves the slasher formula has reached the end of its interest.
Scream series spoilers follow.
Let me be clear: I was okay with all things Scream 5. They killed Dewey, and it felt awkward, but I really didn’t need more. While there were glimmers of hope in newcomer performances and action sequences, the spark was very nearly gone.
Emma Roberts did it better — nay, The Best
For me, the best Scream is Emma Roberts’ 4. Her performance changed me. She was known for roles in Nancy Drew and Aquamarine, both floaty, charming child films. As she took on the role of Jill, the role elevated Roberts into a very serious, very scary actor.
Seriously, whenever I saw Roberts post-Scream 4, I was immediately thrown back into the memory of her awe-inspiring crime scene setup. Her script and staging were so perfectly executed, even if she did overlook the simplest rule of slashers: She didn’t double-tap Sidney.
Which is what brought us to Scream 5. I had hoped Jill survived, as we didn’t see a headshot, and maybe that possibility was purposefully left open for 5. Alas, we were met with … not-Jill.
Amber and Richie were lame, cookie-cutter Redditors destined for Scream villain obscurity. Amber wasn’t in the majority of the movie. It wasn’t a red herring; she simply didn’t have any important scenes. Richie proved the exact parody point Scream attempts to mock ad nauseam: tHe bOyFriEnD wAs tHe KilLeR. 5‘s script tried to repeat some elements of Stu and Billy, to lackluster effect. I even found myself questioning if these reveals were purposefully made to be lame to fit the re-quel theme of the fifth film.
See, Jill already pulled off all of the best Stilly stunts even better than the OG Ghostfaces. She killed her lover/partner in crime, along with nearly everyone else in the house. Even if it only lasted for literally 15 minutes, Jill got what she wanted: to be the hero in the media, standing alone after the latest Woodsboro murder spree.
Why did we need to see Amber and Richie attempt to do this all over again? Jill did it best, and there was no need to attempt to top Robert’s performance in that subsect of villain performance. They were lame, majorly unorganized, and so, sooo sloppy. Ramber are a stain on the Scream series.
The Tara of it all
One of the interesting twists in 5 was of Tara surviving the opening attack. Jenna Ortega was the glue of Scream 5, and without her, it wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining. But was this all a result of Ramber’s sloppy killing? It seemed so, as the two didn’t boast about keeping Tara alive as Sam bait.
Ortega’s performance as Tara awarded her a spot in the throne room as a scream princess. While she wasn’t a Jamie Lee Curtis, she didn’t need to be. Her wide, uniquely expressive eyes, and minute, to-the-tee horror acting choices solidified this once Disney Channel actress as a punchy and ready action heroine.
Tara put up quite the fight at the start, with Ortega performing a good amount of the stunts herself. Speaking with ET, Ortega said, “I like getting bruised up when you do stunts like that because then you really give it your all, and any reaction you have, if you do end up hurting yourself, is authentic and real.”
That last bit is concerning. Tara was the standout favorite character for many in the fandom, but my God, Jenna, you didn’t have to go that hard.
Whether or not Ortega cares to return for the confirmed Scream 6, I have hopes she won’t. The price we paid for such an all-encompassing role was too high. If that’s what it took to get viewers so engrossed RE: a young actress putting herself in very real danger, it wasn’t worth it.
Sam couldn’t feel
As Tara, Ortega set the standard, and it was as if no one else was willing or able to step up to meet her energy (read: unnecessarily dangerous stunts). Playing Tara’s sister Sam, Melissa Barrera came off as uninterested and, well, dead inside. That made sense, seeing as her antipsychotics weren’t being as effective as they used to be. She was actively haunted by her deceased father and OG Ghostface Billy Loomis, a fate bound to numb any sane person.
Barrera was written into a corner, and when cast alongside Ortega, seemed dull and lifeless. I’m here to tell the many, many Barrera haters out there that she indeed can act affected, albeit her general nature does seem to be a bit more subdued. She was cast as Sam for a reason, as even her recent performance in the In The Heights film adaptation saw a bit of a slower-paced Vanessa. Vanessa danced and ran through the streets, but Barrera didn’t have the oomph to make for a Singing in the Rain-type performance. But that was okay!
Sam was meant to be as Barrera played her. Sam doesn’t need to be the Scream 6 killer, but the final implied *wink* in her dialogue set up this possibility. I wonder then if those that hated so much on Barrera for her Scream 5 performance would appreciate the slow burn of her psychotic break in 6? I will say her line of “don’t mess with the daughter of a serial killer” was very dull. It lacked the punch the turning point of the finale required.
Leading a film with a schizophrenic character made for a difficult write. While we were made to believe Sam was a reliable narrator, it’s possible she won’t be in Scream 6. Donnie Darko didn’t attempt to hide differences between reality and delusion, but the Scream series relies on hard facts and truths. If we can’t trust Sam’s perspective, what’s the whole point of a whodunnit?
Who did what?
If we had to—simply had to—have a Scream 6, I’m not sure what I’d want. The series image is diluted. The TV show majorly didn’t work, adding confusion to the brand. The first film, TV show, and fifth film are all titled the same exact thing. Things are messy, and they can only get messier from here.
Come the end of the film, Sidney and Gale were the only two remaining legacy characters, but their roles in Scream 5 felt shoehorned in. They were the B plot that hardly needed to be tidied up, only serving as a distraction from Tara and Sam’s developing story. It would have been possible for the Billy connection to have existed without Sidney’s involvement, let alone Dewey’s death.
This was the first Scream film made after series director Wes Craven’s death, so I’m not too sure what convinced Neve Campbell to return. With the series in an awkward transition phase, things felt dragged out by Campbell and Courteney Cox’s continued involvement. They were a great returning point for fans of the original series, but Sidney and Gale no longer felt like they grounded the film in its mythos.
The two felt like a flex of loyalty to the brand, rather than them serving any plot importance. Fan service has its merit, but how do you give returnees and newcomers their cake and have them eat it too? Scream 5 was touted as being a series sequel, reboot, but not a remake. Then why name it the same as the first film? Would “5” be too high of a number for new fans to be interested in it? At that rate, why not just follow through with doing a remake RE: trying to redo what Stilly did (again)?
It’s time to leave well enough alone. Scream 5 was by all means decently successful, so there was nothing keeping Paramount and Spyglass from continuing the series. For some reason, 6 feels like a number not worth crossing. Scream dangerously teeters on becoming the in-universe Stab 9 it so frequently taunts.
The acting was pretty good, the script was so-so, the action was tight, and the reveal was lackluster. Scream 5 was a mixed bag of remake-quel-boot mess. I’m hoping the stars will align and nip Scream 6 in the bud before things get any worse.