Do the new Scream movies live up to the originals?

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

“What’s your favorite scary movie?”

“Scream,” the horror mystery film released in 1996, was the first in its iconic franchise. Years later in 2023, there are now six films in total for the series. The latest installment, “Scream 6,” released March 10. 

The first four Scream movies include unforgettable opening scenes, like in “Scream,” where Drew Berrymore’s character is taunted by Ghostface, or in “Scream 2,” where Maureen Evans (Jada Pinkett Smith) is stabbed to death at a “Stab” movie screening. 

The idea of horror movies having certain “rules” (don’t have sex, don’t drink or do drugs, etc.) is also a running theme that the meta dialogue tackles through one of the earlier central characters Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), and is a staple in the franchise. These “rules” are even brought up through Mindy Meeks (Jasmin Savoy Brown) in the newer installments. 

These films are known for being meta, shown especially in the dialogue and their ability to poke fun at horror tropes without losing the serious tone of a thriller. Like many other slashers, the films follow a group of young adults that become the target of a killer, or killers. The main character of the first Scream film, Sidney Prescott, is usually a part of the targeted group. 

Throughout the films, the characters must uncover who the killer is, which always turns out to be someone close to them.

After the release of “Scream 4” in 2011, the franchise was put on pause until 2022, when the fifth film “Scream” was released. With there being an 11-year gap between the last film released, the newer installments have some interesting differences. 

An important thing to note is that Wes Craven, the original director of the first four films, died in 2015, leaving a new set of directors to take on the responsibility. 

[Ghostface in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s “Scream VI.”]
Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Although being meta is a trademark of the Scream franchise, something that annoyed me in the fifth “Scream” was that they overdid it. It felt like the film was attempting to appeal to the younger generation and therefore made the dialogue cheesy and unnatural. 

For many fans, much of the excitement for this film came from some of the original cast appearing in cameos. Other than the nostalgia factor and an outstanding performance from actress Jenna Ortega as Tara Carpenter, the film fell flat for me.

Despite the fifth film leaving me disappointed, “Scream 6,” sought redemption and earned it. This franchise has always been about mystery and subverting the audience’s expectations, and this film did just that.

This time, instead of the story being set in Woodsboro, California, the characters have been placed in New York City. This change of scenery was a great choice as it made for a lot of fun locations, two of those being a bodega and alleyway. 

Personally, I found that in the fifth “Scream,” the identity of the killers were incredibly obvious and the story was predictable. However, in “Scream 6,” I was left gasping every 15 minutes from surprise, and at no point did I have any idea who the killer, or killers, would be.

Not only was the suspense increased, but the violence in the murders were too. Since the Scream films are slashers, having a lot of bloody, intense murder scenes is always a plus for audiences. As someone who enjoys a good slasher, the kill scenes were exhilarating and painful to watch (but in a good way).

This film also included the nostalgia factor, same as the fifth film did. However, since the writing was much stronger this time around, the movie didn’t necessarily need to rely on its returning cast members — Courtney Cox as Gale Weathers and Hayden Panettiere as Kirby Reed — to keep audiences engaged. 

I found it interesting just how much the overall quality of “Scream 6” improved from the fifth “Scream.” 

The writing was sharper, and although there were some scenes written specifically to appease the metaness of the franchise, it wasn’t overbearing. The main cast of these new Scream films are all strong and have clearly improved their performances since the last film. 

To compare any of the subsequent Scream films to the 1996 original is unfair. The first film was incredibly smart in its writing and is one of the best screenplays I have ever read. Especially with Wes Craven’s genius in directing the first four films, anyone else would have the nearly impossible task of following in his footsteps.

Although the fifth movie didn’t impress me, “Scream 6” continuously had me on the edge of my seat. I look forward to the next installments of the franchise with a lot more excitement than I had before.

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