It's all fun and games, until you realize the joke is on you.
In the last 10 years since the last installment to the Scream franchise came out, Hollywood has changed for better and for worse.
With business models being rewritten, streaming services taking over, and intellectual properties being made as bankable as possible, we have seen a spike in reboots, sequels, requels, spinoffs, and cinematic universes that put us in a chokehold that we can’t (and sometimes don’t want to) escape.
The original Scream mocked the outdated tropes of the horror genre that lacked any innovation, taunting the audiences’ expectations for recycled material and anticipating a world where everyone would do anything to be recognized by the public.
The newest Scream, the fifth installment to the franchise, came out ready to mock and celebrate the trends in the genre once again, teasing "elevated" horror, re-evaluating fandoms, and poking at the requel craze that has taken over Hollywood.
When Tara (Jenna Ortega) tells the unknown caller that she likes scary movies, preferably elevated horror films like The Babadook and The Witch, an eye roll moves through the audience.
Elevated horror is a strange, almost elitist, viewing of horror films that the general public has considered to have more complex messages and mean something more than a slasher film. The truth is, horror has always been complex, commenting on society and the ways people deal with grief, anger, and revenge.
Yes, The Babadook is “an amazing meditation on motherhood and grief,” as Tara says over the phone to the unknown caller, which mimics Drew Barrymore’s cold open in Scream—but Pet Sematary, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Exorcist all comment on grief and motherhood as well. Elevator horror films have always existed. Whether it was an episode of The Twilight Zone or the arthouse horror-comedy, Hausu, directors have been expressing their visions of the bizarre rules of life through blood, guts, vomit, and slowly approaching killers that may just be a figment of the imagination.
We have been going through a horror renaissance that has been dubbed the era of elevated horror. Directors like Jordan Peele, Ari Aster, Robert Eggers, and Mike Flanagan are creating horror that is not only visually fantastic but speaks on an emotional level that was missing from the horror of the 2000s or was always waiting in a dormant state of the mainstream horror conversation.
While they don’t think they are creating elevated horror, the new wave of horror fandom likes to dub their taste in horror as elevated, distancing themselves from the horror of a bygone era that they haven’t even watched.
The Rise of the Requel
This is a portmanteau of “remake” and “sequel” that dominates and decides the new rules of Scream. The requel is a term that has embedded itself in the framework of Hollywood over the last 15 years.
According to Jasmin (Jamie Kennedy), the niece of deceased horror geek Randy Meeks, a requel brings back older characters and familiar plot beats while introducing a new cast that is meant to hook in new audiences and franchise fans.
The term can be applied to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the new Halloween, Terminator: Dark Fate, Jurassic World, and soon The Exorcist and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (but the final girl had to be recast, since Marilyn Burns died in 2014). As Jasmin points out, the franchise extensions that don’t follow this rubric, like Child’s Play (2019) and Black Christmas (2019), tend to fail due to their lack of nostalgia and respect for the original.
In a dose of irony and can be seen as fan service, the new Scream dubbed itself a requel as it saw the return of Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette in their iconic Scream roles. Without them, the new film would have felt like a rehash of the original that tried to modernize its themes. The third act even takes place in the house that belonged to Stu (Matthew Lillard), letting fans and Sydney relive the third act of the original film.
While Scream 4 outlined the all-too-real culture of everyone chasing notoriety on the internet while acting as the perfect ending of the franchise, the fifth film restarts the world that was already established by playing into the rules of the new reboot and spin-off phase of horror.
Anyone can die, and most of the time an original cast member does die. Scream has always worked to reveal how Hollywood has transformed. Many reboots and revivals feel like a cheap money-making scheme that promises to say something new, but there is nothing new to be said. Scream is more than aware of this and pokes fun at the idea that something new can be taken from a movie that already said what it needed to say.
Fan culture consists of those who love the franchise deeply, finding community with those who equally appreciate almost every aspect of the film. Unfortunately, fandoms can create environments that will fight tooth and nail to protect the imaginary thing they love.
The problem is that fandom often is oblivious to the faults in their communities. The Ghostface killers, toxic fans of the Stab films (the fictional version of Scream) who met on a Stab message board, use terms like “Mary Sue,” which describes an over-idealized female character free of flaws while there is no go-to equivalent use to critique heroic male characters. These toxic fans have a lot to say about whether this film adequately honors the franchise.
Instead of enjoying what the filmmakers have to offer us, the fans think they know what should happen. Scream's killers have this mindset and try to write their perfect version of a requel that will honor the original story and honor the fans who have dedicated their time to the work. Unfortunately, that isn’t how Hollywood or life works. As fans, we have what is presented to us, and it is our job to find the beauty in the good, the bad, and the ugly moments in films.
Scream carefully toes the line of the fandom commentary to not alienate genuine fans who are excited to watch the film. While Scream is definitely fan-service, it is a warning of the addictive powers of nostalgia and how care can else fall into blind obsession, an issue that Hollywood is all too happy to exploit for profit.
No one is safe in this requel—that is the point.
Scream will scratch that itch fans have for a fun slasher that pokes fun at audiences and the industry. The film also slightly punishes mainstream audiences for not doing their homework or abandoning the horror genre and originality that once drove Hollywood.
Scream takes the hard pill to swallow about the reality of the film industry and the fans that power it and forces us to take it, while new characters we care very little about are killed, and iconic characters are murdered at the hands of a devoted fan.
What did you think about the new Scream's commentary on today’s movie culture? Let us know in the comments below!