Scream: A Fitting Tribute to Wes Craven & the Franchise’s Legacy

The fifth Scream film over 25 years works as both a heartfelt tribute to the series director Wes Craven and a legacy sequel that honors the franchise and its history.

While it doesn’t break any new ground in the genre, it doesn’t seek to, instead of serving up all the things fans want from a Scream film, dutifully checking off the list while adding a few welcome twists along the way. 

The film opens with a new version of the classic Drew Barrymore scene that memorably kicked off the original film back in 1996, with Tara (Jenna Ortega) home alone, receiving a phone call from a very familiar voice. It’s a tense way to bring us back into the Scream-iverse, and while not adding much new apart from the latest technology (app-controlled door locks and phone clones), it kicks off the story by bringing Tara’s estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera), and the main character, back to Woodsboro.

Sam, and her quippy boyfriend Richie (a fun Jack Quaid), find themselves at the center of a new murder spree as well as Tara’s group of friends, including Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), the new Randy Meeks (with a close connection to the deceased horror film nerd) who lays out the state of the game with her spiel on re-quels and what that means for the characters new and old (basically everyone is once again a suspect).

A grizzled, trailer-dwelling ex-Sheriff Dewey Riley enters the fold to help the teens with their investigation. Dewey provides the beating heart of the film, a wounded warrior who (like Sidney and Gail) has been fighting the specter of Ghostface for over half of his life. He also provides a few good laughs in his interactions with his savvy younger cohorts. Dewey’s former goofiness has been replaced with a palpable sadness (over the end of his relationship with Gale) and a gritty determination to stop the latest rampage. Seeing Dewey face off against the masked killer once again is undeniably thrilling and gives the film a huge boost of tension. Arquette may be the MVP here – he gives an excellent performance that feels in line with where Dewey has ended up. His scenes with Cox have an emotional weight to them, from both the previous films and their real-life relationship.

official Scream 5 movie poster

Eventually, Gail ( reliably sassy Courtney Cox) and then Sidney (Neve Campbell as strong as ever) is dragged back into the fray, and all the beloved characters are accounted for. While the film’s balance of the new and old characters is a touch awkward at first, it settles in once everyone is present and brought together.

It’s great to see Sidney having found her place in the world, living away from Woodsboro with a family of her own. She has accepted her role as both survivor and unofficial soldier in the ongoing fight to stop the latest killer(s) to don the mask and doesn’t hesitate to return to her old stomping ground when needed. Gail isn’t given a lot to do, but her story is an emotional one—in fact, this may be the most emotionally affecting Scream film since the first one. 

If anything, Scream 5 is the Force Awakens of the franchise, both a remake of the beloved first film while adding in some likable new characters and twists, though this film is arguably more successful than JJ Abrams more straight remix. One scene in particular (you’ll know it when you see it) dealing with a legacy character, lands with so much more weight than a similar scene in The Force Awaken. The film uses its meta-textual commentary to justify its remake status and while initially feeling a bit obvious, makes sense in the grand scheme of things. The raison d’être of the killer is hilariously on the nose, but is also a potent skewering of a particular subset of genre fans and made me and quite a few others in the cinema laugh.


The biggest downside is the unavoidable absence of Wes Craven, who sadly passed away in 2015.

His filmmaking energy, craftsmanship and consummate understanding of the genre elevated even the weaker sequels, somewhat more amazing considering the interference he faced from the Weinsteins on all four of his Scream films. Thankfully, the Weinsteins are absent for good, meaning the trajectory and vision of the film are intact, meaning the film never feels like it’s straining to work in spite of itself (as Scream 3 and 4 did).

New directors Matt Bettinelli-Olphin and Tyler Gillette (from filmmaking troupe Radio Silence) bring their penchant for balancing scares and laughs, as found in their previous film Ready Or Not. I would’ve liked to see something more bold and dynamic from the directors, but they remain dutifully respectful of Craven and original screenwriter Kevin Williamson’s creation and were probably under the mandate to craft a safe crowd-pleasing follow-up as opposed to trying something new. The film is touchingly reverential in its tribute to Craven, with a character named Wes and a straight-up toast scene likely to hit you in the feels, as it did me. 

Ultimately, this latest installment is fun, funny, emotional, has some brutal kills, and treats its characters with respect and while it doesn’t even try to reinvent the slasher wheel, fans can be guaranteed a good time with some old friends which is probably the most that can be expected at this point.

Denver Grenell

Denver Grenell


Denver Grenell is a horror aficionado and an emerging author whose short fiction can be found in various anthologies including Bitter Chills by Blood Rites Horror as well as Shallow Waters by Crystal Lake Publishing.

Please select your product

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
My cart
Your cart is empty.

Looks like you haven't made a choice yet.