Will the ‘Scream’ Reboot Live Up to the Franchise’s Legacy?

The original Scream franchise revolutionized the genre. Can the new one do the same for a younger generation?

There’s a new Scream in town on January 14. With the first film, released in December 1996, and the sequels that followed, Wes Craven famously relaunched the slasher genre. Now the question is if and how the reboot—informally known as “Scream 5” but actually just called Scream—will relaunch the original franchise, especially without Craven, who died in 2015.

The first Scream brilliantly played with the rules of classic horror films. As the old film frequently declared, there are guidelines: To survive a horror villain, one must take no drugs; never leave the room; say, “I’ll be right back”; and, crucially, keep one’s virginity intact. On that note, Scream famously departed with horror’s most infamous trope, letting good-girl Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) lose her virginity before winning the day.

Today, such rules seem about as quaint as a landline. A slew of horror films since Scream have splintered and redefined the genre to explore class, race, gender identity, motive, and technology far beyond its touchstones. The new Scream plants itself among them.

“You have a diverse cast that’s very reflective of today’s world and what the world looks like,” new lead actress Melissa Barrera says via Zoom. “You have the technology. It deals with mental health. But you also have the young generation that’s so woke.”

The original Scream knowingly winked at every horror film from Halloween to A Nightmare on Elm Street to Friday the 13th to Candyman to Psycho to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It also notably combined horror with satire and comedy, baffling critics who were divided over whether a horror movie about horror movies having fun with horror movies could succeed.

(Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures/Brownie Harris)

With a script from then-unknown Kevin Williamson and in the hands of Craven, the answer was yes. The first Scream took in around $173 million in theaters (closer to $300 million in today’s dollars) and birthed three sequels that had their charms but never surpassed the original. It remains among the most successful—and influential—horror franchises of all time. Without it, it’s not just that there would be no I Know What You Did Last Summer (also penned by Williamson); it’s that there’d also be no Scary Movie or even Get Out— Jordan Peele has acknowledged how much Scream influenced his own horror stroke of genius.

The new film is directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, whose Ready or Not is also indebted to Scream. It sees the return of not only Campbell but also original cast members Courtney Cox (playing ruthless, hard-charging reporter Gale Weather) and David Arquette (as the former doofus deputy sheriff Dewey Riley).

Bettinelli-Olpin convinced Campbell to come back based on their mutual deep admiration for Craven’s work. Barrera says the late director was “a constant conversation” on the shoot.

“Everything we did on set was, like, ‘What would Wes do?’ ” Barrera says. “Neve, specifically—she had a very deep connection with Wes. She was also adamant about taking care of the little details. And she would tell us, ‘This is how we did it in the first one.’ ”

As with the first, Barrera insists the new Scream is not just terrifying but also a scream. “It will make you jump out of your seat and want to jump out of your skin,” she says. “It’s very bloody. But it also has very funny moments.”

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