In one unusual move, the opening scene’s Tara survives her encounter with Ghostface, which draws her estranged older sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) back to town after several years, new boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) lovingly in tow and dark family secrets hanging over her head. Of course, all of them–including Tara’s local friends–know the history of Ghostface and the various killers that have inhabited the costume over the course of 25 years, but none of them seem particularly surprised that the Munch-masked murderer is back on the scene; they just need a refresher on the horror movie rules.
That handily comes from good old Dewey Riley (David Arquette), who’s remained in town all these years, although his life has changed considerably. Arquette is perhaps the best part of this film, playing a man whose life has taken a turn toward irrelevance and who must admit to himself that he was born to do battle over and over with Ghostface. Arquette is as quirky as ever, but there’s an added poignancy to the role now that makes him a standout.
Of course, he warns both Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox), both of whom have left town–and in Gail’s case, left her marriage to Dewey–in the decade since Scream 4 to stay the hell away. And if the news of their breakup counts as a spoiler, well, that’s the only one you’ll get from this point on, aside from the fact that both Sidney and Gail will eventually show up as well for another confrontation with whoever’s donned the cowl.
There is some suspense for a while about who’s doing the Ghostface thing this time out, but viewers with sharp eyes and ears should be able to figure it out pretty early on. That’s really the big problem with Scream: there’s a sense of going through the motions this time out, and even the trying-to-be-smart cultural and genre observations feel more forced than usual.
Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett add the expected heavy gore to the whole thing–this may be the most viciously violent entry in the series–and try to amp up the tension with a constant stream of fake scares, but they run out of ideas early on: There are so many shots of Ghostface either popping up behind a victim or emerging from behind a closing door or cabinet that one begins to wonder if the directors are actually parodying those shopworn moves (to be fair, in at least one scene, which takes place in and around a well-lit, sunny kitchen, that seems to be the case).
Arquette is a welcome presence, as are Campbell and Cox, but they’re not nearly as essential to the plot this time as, say, a couple of veteran webslingers who show up in a recently released superhero movie. The rest of the cast features a mix of both lesser known supporting Scream characters and new faces, many of which don’t survive, but the newbies in particular don’t make much of a lasting impression once the credits start rolling (and once they start, you can leave, as there’s no bonus scenes or table-setters for Scream 6 attached to the end of this one).
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