Scream 5 isn’t in on the joke.

4 min readFeb 14, 2022

With 1996’s Scream, director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson established a meta voice that would become practically standard for Hollywood in the years to come. The novelty of hearing characters in a horror movie discuss the genre’s tropes seems almost quaint in the face of an industry where no genre film can succeed without at least some level of awareness towards the absurdity of its concept. As if seeing the future, the team behind Scream approached its sequels with an awareness that the surface sheen of self awareness is not enough forever, instead continuing to centre the lives of their characters while asking more pointed questions about the machinations of the horror genre and the film industry at large. Craven and Williamson’s Scream sequels are films that could not exist without the franchise’s meta approach but their priorities are consistently the humanity often obscured by that.

Scream (5), the first film in the series to not involve either Kevin Williamson or the late Wes Craven sees a new generation tormented by Ghostface with the franchise’s original leads taking a more supporting role, a structure that is not subtly a commentary on the Hollywood trend of franchise revivals as torch-passing legacy stories. On this level, the film is largely successful. The mystery is adequately exciting and its characters, both old and new are entertaining and endearing. Although the film’s meta-commentary feels somewhat cheaper, with bizarre allusions to online film discourse that are eye-rolling at best. This comes to a head in the climax where the film reveals itself to be more blatantly about Star Wars than even previously suggested as it intentionally moves to parallel reactions to The Last Jedi, specifically those of more aggressive fan communities.

The new entry, headed by Ready or Not directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett is fine, even good, but there is an unshakeable sense that it is just going through the motions of being “another Scream movie”, something compounded by the film’s promotion which put very scarce focus on the creative shift. This, while understandable establishes a central irony that haunts the film from beginning to end and is never really resolved as the film tiptoes around any question of authorship in service of maintaining a brand.

The first three Scream sequels each take aim at different components of franchise filmmaking; 2 plays with the rules of sequels, 3 does the same to the idea of the third entry in a trilogy and 4, produced 11 years later, is a commentary on the horror remake. The conceit of all of these films is a tongue in cheek acknowledgement that each film falls into the category it is commenting on. That the same creative team returns for all three provides a necessary layer to this where the role of the filmmakers is almost as perpetrators, often framing themselves through the killers. These first four films exist as a conversation between Wes Craven and his audience; when eyes are rolled at the idea of a sequel it is done with an awareness that that is the hurdle the film must overcome.

Scream 5, in presenting itself as “the next Scream movie” feels ultimately insincere in that regard because it never attempts to reckon with what a new creative team means to the question of what a Scream movie is. In aiming squarely at one specific mode of franchise reboot and the reactions to it, it sidesteps the complications in its own existence. The film makes constant references to Rian Johnson having directed the fictional Stab 8 but little thought is given to the role of authorship in these franchise reimaginings beyond that namedrop. Perhaps because asking those questions may force Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett to reflect on their own role as hot indie talent brought in to revitalise an IP collecting dust. Craven and Williamson’s Scream sequels are intentional and thorough in their commentary, exploring both personal and corporate motivations for the types of films they send up in a way that Scream (2022) seems utterly terrified of.

The irony of Scream 5 is that it is exactly the kind of film it aims to satirise because it is fundamentally unconcerned with the question of authorship, treating the franchise as yet another intellectual property to be revived indefinitely independent of the original creators. The criticisms of The Last Jedi, regardless of your own perspective are based not simply in that it is a bad film, but that fundamentally it is not a Star Wars film; that some invader has taken the franchise and made it his own in a way that clashes with the personal relationships fans have with their own idea of the series. In designing the film’s antagonists as bitter fans, angered by the idea of change, the filmmakers ultimately foreground a conversation that feels wholly irrelevant to a film that is so self conscious about being seen as an unequivocal successor.

Scream 5 is self aware in the loosest sense; its references to other films are as broad and unsubtle as the franchise has always been and it will never let you forget that you’re watching the latest entry in the Scream franchise. But approaching self awareness as an ability to ask questions about its own existence, the film could not be further from the concept. The comedy of being the Scream film that exists because someone secured the rights and attached a trending indie director is untouched in favour of 4 year old discourse on a Star Wars movie. It is not remotely aware of itself. That the witty spirit of those earlier films can seemingly successfully be repackaged and resold with such little thought accidentally says more about this particular trend of reboots than the film’s own story ever comes close to.

Scream (2022) is self aware in the same way that Harold Ramis is in Ghostbusters: Afterlife.