by Ahmed Negm
Gone are the days of the Hollywood sequel; it is the dawn of the requel.
In the newly released Scream film, the character of Mindy, played by Jasmine Savoy Brown, introduces the concept of the ‘requel’. The requel, as she clarifies, is a cross between a sequel and a reboot. It’s a way to revitalize an established Hollywood franchise by introducing it to new audiences while simultaneously not erasing the history of the original films, in an attempt to keep the ‘original’ fans happy.
While Scream is the first of the trend to acknowledge its existence as a requel, in typical Scream meta-fashion, it is far from the first franchise to explore this concept. Halloween (2018) and it’s sequel Halloween Kills (2021) are arguably the most recognisable requels of the horror genre, introducing a new generation to the horror of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, while subsequently erasing the infamously messy and convoluted sequels that followed the original film; essentially, a win-win scenario. The new Chucky series is another example of requels within the horror realm. Following the failed Child’s Play reboot of 2019, which re-imagined Chucky as an AI gone rogue, Don Mancini (the original creator of Child’s Play), took matters into his own hands by bringing the franchise back to basics, with Brad Douriff returning to voice the iconic killer doll amongst a cast of new characters.
Requels aren’t just popular in the horror realm either, perhaps the most notable example is the most recent Star Wars trilogy, which has caused division amongst fan communities and critics alike for its status as a ‘requel’. Ever since the release of the first film in the trilogy, The Force Awakens, the new trilogy has been faced with the critique that it is too similar to the original, essentially a remake that has been masked as a sequel. And perhaps, these claims are valid. Both trilogies follow an orphaned protagonist living on a sandy planet as they embark on a classic hero’s journey, discovering new abilities in the process, while being aided by a snarky pilot and a force-sensitive potential lover (but ultimately friend). When it came time to depart from the formula of the original films with The Last Jedi, the film was ultimately bashed by fans for being too different, which caused Disney to ultimately walk back on the originality of that film. This ultimately resulted in a final film, The Rise of Skywalker, that fumbled to piece together a story grounded in as much nostalgia and fan-service as possible – noted through Poe’s (Oscar Isaac) infamous line – “somehow Palparine returned”. In this sense, Star Wars took the concept of the requel too far, wherein the new characters simply became tokens to reintroduce familiar elements.
Requel films often feature the concept of ‘legacy characters’ – characters from the original films that are brought back to the franchise in a bid to bring back old fans and keep continuity in mind, rather than introducing an entirely new cast. It was the case with Star Wars, the case with Halloween, the case with Scream, the upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion, and funnily enough, the recent Jackass Forever. Thus far, most of these films have been critically acclaimed as well as being celebrated by fans – so these films do seem to justify their purpose and what they set out to achieve. And the thing is, these films tend to be good. Halloween was praised, Chucky was praised, Scream is currently being praised. By ditching the messiness of the many sequels and cutting off the fat, the films are able to re-establish themselves in popular society. The issue, however, lies when it comes to the sequels of the requels, wherein much like the sequels of the original films, is when the franchise loses its way by leaning too heavily into the iconography and nostalgia of the films as opposed to plot and characters.
On one hand, these films can be considered another lazy attempt from Hollywood to milk popular franchises dry, on the other, one can make the case that these films are effective in the way they help to keep older, beloved franchises alive and introduce them to new audiences. Moreover, requels feel like they make the most logical sense when it comes to decades-old franchises; once you’ve done sequels and reboots, what’s left other than a ‘requel’ – the perfect amalgamation of both. Scream has largely been out of the public eye since the release of Scream 4 in 2011, and the short-lived MTV series in the mid-2010s. Yet, the new Scream film has had one of the largest horror openings in recent years, and has helped revitalize the slasher genre for a new generation. Therefore, while it can be said that requels are just an attempt from Hollywood at a quick cash grab, that’s not exactly a new concept. Hollywood has always tried to bring back what they know will make money. But, requels are the first time wherein film studios seem to want to respect the vision and legacy of the originals, and make actual good films that are praised by fans and critics alike. And if the films are made well and are able to introduce beloved characters and films to new audiences, is that so bad?