By John Mulderig | Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Imitation is said to be the highest form of flattery. But in the case of a masked, knife-wielding maniacal murderer, perhaps the compliment is better left unpaid.
Such may be the takeaway for moviegoers unwise enough to patronize the gruesome slasher flick “Scream” (Paramount).
Debate apparently rages, among those who care, about whether this fifth installment constitutes a reboot or merely a sequel within the blood-soaked franchise inaugurated by director Wes Craven in 1996. Either way, as helmed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and scripted by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, the movie is driven by the incredibly misguided notion that its predecessors are beloved classics.
Thus the scenes of slaughter are interspersed by references to, and excerpts from, a fictitious film series that corresponds to the all-too-real one of which this is an unwelcome extension. That may give the two-dimensional characters something to talk about when they’re not too busy being gutted like fish or having their jugulars slit, but the result is meta-stupid.
It’s hard to tell, meanwhile, who is duller, the newcomers or the veteran victims.
Among the former are high school student Tara (Jenna Ortega), her estranged older sister Samantha (Melissa Barrera) and Sam’s boyfriend, Richie (Jack Quaid). Survivors of earlier predations include author Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), newscaster Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and boozy lawman Dewey Riley (David Arquette).
They’re all potential targets for whoever has decided to uphold the homicidal tradition that has periodically plagued the small rural town of Woodsboro. So, in between discussing the genre tropes showcased in the imaginary pictures riffing on Woodsboro’s misfortunes, they speculate on the copycat killer’s identity and his probable modus operandi.
Amid proceedings as unwarrantedly self-satisfied in tone as they are sick in content, the downside of mutual suspicion is the closest thing we get to a theme.
The film contains hideous bloody violence, a scene of lesbian sensuality, several profanities, about a half-dozen milder oaths, pervasive rough and frequent crude language and obscene gestures. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.