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  Scream Better Than Stab 8
Year: 2022
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Stars: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Melissa Barrera, Jack Quaid, Mikey Madison, Jenna Ortega, Dylan Minnette, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Sonia Amarr, Marley Shelton, Skeet Ulrich, Kyle Gallner, Chester Tam, Heather Matarazzo
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Tara (Jenna Ortega) is in the house on her own, texting her friend Amber (Mikey Madison) when the landline begins to ring. She ignores it, but it persists and she grows irritable, so answers and it's someone she suspects is her mother's new boyfriend. However, as the conversation progresses and she tries to find out more, the man on the line turns threatening, and insists on asking Tara about the series of Stab films that were based on real life murders in her area of Woodsboro. If she gets an answer wrong, Mikey will die! She manages to get all the answers correct thanks to a websearch on her phone - all except one.

Is there such a thing as being too clever for your own good? If there is, then this fifth entry in the Scream franchise (ditching the numeral) could well be accused of it, as new writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick took the original's meta leanings to heart and scripted a sequel where the whole cast were practically winking at the camera and tapping the side of their noses with each fresh development relating to the cliches of moviedom and the expectations of the fanbase. It was certainly the most violent of the series since the original, but that original contained a genuine tension that was missing here.

Each of the Scream franchise had a rock solid premise to work from, one that was difficult to get wrong, so even the weakest of them were able to generate some degree of entertainment and this was no different. If the jokes were not laugh out loud funny, then they raised a smile of acknowledgement, but it came to something that the only character to really be offered any sympathy at all was Deputy Dewey (David Arquette), a deputy no more and living in a trailer forlornly watching his old flame Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) on morning television. Everyone else was battle-hardened.

Even the characters who had not been through what Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) had suffered - as the years have gone by she appears to take each killing spree in her name in her stride, something to be dealt with like a recurring weed in the garden that needed to be uprooted at regular intervals. As we were down to a total of three performers who had been with this story from the beginning, the film served up surrogates for characters from the initial instalment, led by murderer's daughter Sam (Melissa Barrera), with a few less obvious choices included for diversity, but not really making much of an impression, not the same as, say, Rose McGowan or Jamie Kennedy in the original (which with the passing of time looks like a fantastic example of the casting director's art).

As a whodunit, it was perfectly fair, throwing in the red herrings with aplomb and misdirecting the audience who would try to second guess it, yet even here there was a feeling they were looking down on us as they tried to pull the wool over our eyes. The ending confirmed it, as the killer identified themselves as toxic fandom advocates and that was their motive, perhaps playing with fire for a long-running series of films and television shows, and about as convincing a toxic fan as Dennis Christopher was in his would-be breakout film Fade to Black, which beat this to the punch in that respect by over forty years. Besides, while murder to prove how much you love pop culture is a no-no, here it provoked scepticism as the grand finale, the psychology was strictly movie-movie and never had you believing it, not even in the twisted world of overreaction of Scream. All that said, as a slasher it was efficient, lacked a big setpiece but had a cumulative effect, and was well-acted if a little dutifully presented. There's never really been a total dud Scream movie. Music by Brian Tyler.

[Scream is available to Download & Keep now and on 4K UHD, Blu-ray & DVD from April 11 2022.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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