What's your favorite scary movie? Chances are that Scream – Wes Craven's genre-bending, witty, self-aware slasher – is high on your list. And while the franchise has been absent from the big screen since 2011's Scream 4, the fifth installment, simply titled Scream, brings back Ghostface with a brutal, bloody bang.
While legacy characters Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Dewey Riley (David Arquette), and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) return, there are a whole host of new characters in the spotlight. Center stage is Sam Carpenter (In the Heights star Melissa Barrera) who returns to the Ghostface-plagued town of Woodsboro when her younger sister Tara (You's Jenna Ortega) is viciously attacked by the masked killer – and Sam's handling this nightmare "very stupidly," according to Barrera.
"It's the first rule of horror movies," she tells GamesRadar+ with a laugh over Zoom. "That's what's brilliant about Scream, is that all the characters are very aware about the rules of horror movies, and they're talking like we as an audience talk, like 'Oh, why is she doing that? Why is she going to look there, she's going to die' and yet they still do those things.
"She's going into la boca del lobo, as we say in Spanish, the mouth of the wolf. She's going straight in asking for it, basically. But she's a big sister and she would do anything for family, and that's something that I can relate to, because I'm a big sister too. I have three younger sisters. So I can understand the dumb move, and honestly, we wouldn't have a movie if it weren't for that."
Joining Sam on her trip back to Woodsboro is her boyfriend Richie Kirsch, played by The Boys' Jack Quaid, and he's also a little out of his depth. "I do love playing audience surrogate characters, because I just get to essentially befriend the audience, in a way, and be one of them going through what it would be like if one of them was going through this experience," says the actor of his character. "Honestly, I just had a blast. It was awesome."
"It's happening again"
Ghostface's modus operandi in Scream, co-directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, is the same as ever: Tara gets a creepy phone call from that distinctive, terrifying voice, and is then tormented by the knife-wielding killer before the bloodshed begins.
"It was really amazing, because they actually got [Roger L.] Jackson on the phone, so I was able to speak with the real Ghostface, and that was my first day on set," Ortega says of filming Tara's ordeal. "So it was my first experience of the Scream franchise, and suddenly, everything felt very real, and I felt immense pressure to do the best I possibly could, especially seeing all of the incredible Ghostface phone calls I've seen before me.
"But it also was exciting to put myself in my character's shoes and see what my reaction would be as her. Also, I love to do stunts, and I love it when things get bloody and messy, the way horror is supposed to. So for me, it was a dream scene."
Sam doesn't have to face Ghostface alone, though. Joining her in the struggle are Scream legends Sidney, Gale, and Dewey, with Campbell, Cox, and Arquette back in the roles.
"Watching them work, watching them so seamlessly slip right back into those characters that they played for 25 years was fascinating and thrilling to watch," says Barrera. "But also, all the knowledge that they bring with them of the first four movies, the stories that they told us of anecdotes that they've gone through, from when they first met in the first movie, how it was, how they didn't expect it to become such a huge hit. And just seeing their professionalism, it really was a life lesson."
"Neve at one point did say one concrete piece of advice, which was just have fun," adds Quaid. "Like, 'This is such a fun movie, and I want you guys to relish this experience as much as you can.' And that's what we needed to hear, because we shot this thing in the middle of a pandemic. We were all so lucky to be there working on something we cared about, working on something we thought was awesome."
The trio aren't the only ones who are back. Also returning is Marley Shelton as Judy Hicks, last seen as the deputy with a big crush on Dewey in Scream 4.
"Judy has been promoted," Shelton says. "She's gone from Deputy Judy Hicks to Sheriff Judy Hicks. And she has a 16 year old son. She's a single mom, we're never sure exactly who the father is, and what that story is. A lot has happened to Judy, since [Scream] 4."
Judy's son, named Wes Hicks, is played by Thirteen Reasons Why's Dylan Minnette. "I would describe Wes as a good son, he's a good boy," says the actor. "He really respects his mother, and he really takes her very seriously. He doesn't like to let her know that, but it definitely reflects with his friends, because he's trying to protect his friends. Judy is very protective of him. Wes takes on a lot of characteristics of his mom. He's a deeply caring person, he cares about the people around him. Wes is the nice guy of this movie."
Knowing the rules
This wouldn't be Scream without a meta, self-referential approach to the genre. Already in the series, we've been inctoduced to the in-universe Stab franchise, based on the Woodsboro murders (AKA the events of the Scream movies). Then there's the franchise's heavy focus on the rules of horror, sequels, threequels, and so on.
In the original Scream, Jamie Kennedy's Randy Meeks knew the horror movie rules backwards – though it couldn't save him in the sequel. This time around, Jasmin Savoy Brown's Mindy Meeks-Martin is picking up that baton.
"Scream is very smart, very self-aware, good at doing some callbacks but also remaining new and fresh," says Brown. "And I am very much a part of that."
"You are that in spades, mind you," adds Mason Gooding, who plays Mindy's twin brother Chad Meeks-Martin. "To echo Randy's sentiment, you embody the rules of surviving a horror movie."
Whether that encyclopedic horror knowledge will save the twins remains to be seen, as getting through these movies alive is no easy task. There's a killer on the loose, and just as with the previous installments, we don't know who's lurking under the Ghostface mask. On more than one occasion, it's been two killers wreaking havoc. The only clue we have is the tagline to the new movie: it's always someone you know. And to keep the secrecy at a maximum, even members of the new movie's cast have no idea of the killer's true identity.
"It was a pretty unusual experience, I don't know if we will ever have that experience again, doing a project where nobody really knows how it's going to end, and where there's different versions of the script," says Mikey Madison, who plays Amber Freeman, a close friend of Tara's. "[It's a] pretty strange, interesting thing, I think it really emphasizes that whodunnit situation in real life. So I think that really translated to the film as well."
Naturally, not knowing the killer's identity meant things got meta for the cast. "It made it feel like the movie was real life, because we'd go get dinner and we'd be like, 'Who do you think it is? Who do you think it is?'" Brown says. "And a couple people knew before other people knew, and it made the scenes feel much more alive."
Scream has all the hallmarks of, well, a Scream movie then, but don't expect it to be exactly the same as what's come before.
"It honors the original story, because we have the legacy cast," says Sonia Ammar, who plays Liv McKenzie. "But it also adds a fresh, new take to it and meshes the legacy with that new cast and fresh blood, and makes it exciting both for people who've grown up loving the franchise and are big fans of it, and also people who've never seen it or are new to the Scream world, [who] I think are going to really enjoy it and fall in love with the story and all the characters – or hate them!"
Shelton agrees. "It's certainly honoring the legacy, and in step with the legacy, but with the infusion of a new cast and our directors adding their own touches. It definitely has a fresh take on it, as well."
Scream walks that tightrope between old and new, similar to how other famous franchises have done recently. Indeed, the horror landscape today looks crowded with reboots and sequels – last year alone brought Halloween Kills, a new Candyman, and a Chucky TV show – but there's a very good reason this film stands apart from the rest.
"Well, none of them are Scream," says Brown. "Scream was the first and Scream was the best, and that holds up today."
The film self-consciously positions itself as a "requel" (that's reboot/sequel), which, as Gooding explains, just makes sense for the franchise. "It's funny, we draw [on] a lot of perception about other requel or reboot franchises, but I feel like it's the nature of Scream, and the satirical elements present in it, that it's natural and organic within our movie to point out different tropes."
"It's so self-aware in a very funny way," Brown adds. "Very of the moment, while remaining timeless, which is why you can watch the first Scream and the jokes hold up. It's just as good as it was then."
But as much as Scream is a fresh take on the franchise, it hasn't lost sight of what came before. The film is dedicated to Craven, who died in 2015. Shelton worked with him on Scream 4, his last movie, and believes the new film is a worthy continuation.
"The filmmakers went to great lengths to continue his legacy and continue what he started, which was so groundbreaking, this really unique tone of being self-referencing, and terrifying, and funny, and with wild characters, and there was just nothing quite like it when the first one came out," she says. "And Matt and Tyler, our directors, they're great students of horror, they're passionate about horror, and they really wanted to make Wes proud."
Scream hits theaters this January 14. In the meantime, check out our guide to the best horror movies of all time for the ultimate scary movie marathon.