I Love the ‘Scream’ Franchise, But the Newest Film Has a Major Problem

*Warning: Minor spoilers ahead (don’t worry—I won’t spoil the ending)*

Let me start by saying I am a huge fan of the Scream movies. They’re funny, they’re smart, they’re scary. And unlike a lot of other horror films that feature a masked killer such as Jason Voorhees, each Scream is also a whodunnit—which makes them so much fun to watch. Who will be underneath that Ghostface mask at the end of the film?! The long list of suspects a la an Agatha Christie novel (some of whom become victims themselves, again, just like a Christie novel) keeps the films much more exciting than traditional slasher flicks.

So, naturally, I was beyond excited for the latest iteration which is currently crushing at the box office. Scream (the new one, which technically is Scream 5 but bears the same name as the original) introduces a plethora of new characters and brings back our favorite survivors from the previous installments. Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courteney Cox), Dewey (David Arquette) and more are back to do battle with the latest crazed killer.

 This new version has all the makings of a Scream hit: the self-referential jokes, the unveiling of the ‘rules’ if you want to survive, the foolish newbies who know not to split up but seriously can’t help themselves. However, there’s a big problem: I didn’t care about any of the new characters—and I think I know why.

Part of any good horror movie involves creating a bunch of potential victims who we get attached to just in time to see them killed off. Certainly by the time Tatum (aka Rose McGowan) kicks it courtesy of a garage door in the original, we were all in love with her character and rooting for her. Part of the key to making us care about her death? She didn’t want to die, and we as first-time viewers weren’t sure if she would or not until it happened.

Fast forward to the latest film which has made it nearly impossible to root for or give a crap about the roster of victims. The reason? The self-awareness that typically makes the franchise feel fresh has finally gone too far. This time around, rather than the characters simply knowing there are rules for survival in a horror situation, this friend group explicitly calls out that they are each inevitably going to die and that the killer is definitely one of their friend group. (No spoilers here on whether that all comes true or not.)

But making self-referential remarks about how they are doomed and how one of them is the killer lowers the stakes and diffuses the tension. The fun of “any one of us could be next” (emphasis on the ‘could’) is replaced by the tension-less “yeah, each of us is gonna die.” And the clever “one of us could be the killer” (emphasis again on the ‘could’) that leads to a degree of whodunnit-ness is substituted with “it’s definitely one of us,” removing any mystery or investment from the audience in who the murderer will turn out to be.

All of this aside, I want to be clear: I enjoyed the movie and I think it’s a real blast, especially for fans of the franchise. But I can’t help but think they’ve finally gone too far with their self-awareness, preventing me from becoming emotionally attached to any of the new characters. Fortunately, the return of the classic characters helps keep some degree of investment.

A bit of advice for the inevitable sixth installment? Let’s tone down the rhetoric. Let’s return to our Scream roots (something this film really tried to accomplish, down to a very familiar climax) by reintroducing naivety to our characters. Should they be smart? Yes. Should they try to outwit the killer by staying one step ahead? Yes. But should they also lack juuuust enough knowledge that they still manage to get in trouble while keeping us on ‘Team Victim’? Absolutely.

Screenshot 2023 05 04 at 1.11.39 PM

VP, News and Entertainment; 'And Just Like That' Podcast Host; Up-And-Coming Bowler

Philip spearheads PureWow's news and entertainment team. He has 10+ years experience working in entertainment coverage and viral media, previously serving as a writer/editor...