Unlike the rebooted “Halloween” and “Candyman,” which successfully dragged their franchises into the present with added social commentary, the tired teen slasher film is stuck in the past. And proud of it.
Though “Scream” is set in the modern day, it’s a cinematic time machine to 2000. The whole time you feel like you’re surrounded by Beanie Babies while gorging on Pizza Bagels and listening to the Backstreet
But should a serial killer blood-bath be so comfy and nostalgic for an audience? Not if it wants to maintain our interest. Over two hours, Cinco de Scream-o lumbers along with routine kills and few surprises even when it makes lame attempts at shocking us.
The heroine’s backstory is a groaner. A should-be devastating development is totally unmoving. And when you think you know who is behind the Ghostface mask, you’re probably right.
Ah, oh, the meta jokes. They got out of control in the later sequels, and Cinq drowns in them.
The big gag here, for example, is to mock the recent rise of critically-acclaimed (and, um, better) horror films.
“What’s your favorite scary movie?,” Ghostface asks young Tara (Jenna Ortega) at the start as she stands in her Woodboro kitchen, a la Drew Barrymore in the first chapter. But whereas Drew said, “I dunno,” cinema-savvy Tara replies, “‘The Babadook.’ It’s an amazing meditation on motherhood and grief.’”
Can Ghostface murder me, too?
After Tara is stabbed — not fatally — the self-referential bits come faster than they did in “3” and “4.” They make fun of “The Witch,” “Jurassic World,” “The Last Jedi,” Jamie Lee Curtis, David Arquette and Courteney Cox’s divorce and on and on. Trouble is that Parker Posey isn’t here to bat the bland material out of the park.
The rest of the story follows the worn-out old pattern.
Tara’s estranged older sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) rushes to her side at the hospital, and ends up at the center of another Woodboro murder spree. We ask the same questions as always: Which friend will die next? Is that sweet guy the killer? What was Courteney Cox’s last movie role?!
Sam explains to her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) that a Ghostface copycat tries to make a splash in town “every decade or so. The last time was in 2011.” See? It’s been 10 years since the third sequel. Who came up with these amazing zingers?
That’d be writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, who put so much effort into the humor, such as it is, that they’ve thrown the fright in a blender. I’m a wimp and I might as well have been watching “The Great British Baking Show.”
The new cast fits in snugly. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, taking over for the late Wes Craven, have poached a few popular young actors like Dylan Minnette (“13 Reasons Why”) and Mason Gooding (“Love, Victor”) perhaps in hopes of drawing in their impressionable fans.
And Barrera, who was wonderful in “In The Heights,” has an earnest intensity that will give her a long career. It’s fun seeing her kick ass with Neve Campbell, Cox and Arquette, whose chemistry is a sure thing at this point.
Yet as much as “Scream” references the aughts films and celebrates the slasher genre, it forgets the most important part — the original was actually scary.