Scream (2022) Slices Up Brilliant Commentary on the New Age of Horror While Honoring the Past
Updated: Feb 6, 2022
First Non-Festival Release: January 12, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillet
Writer: James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick, Kevin Williamson
Runtime: 114 Minutes
Starring: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Sam (Melissa Barrera) rushes home to Woodsboro after a five-year absence when she learns her sister (Jenna Ortega) has been attacked by someone in a Ghostface costume. Determined to get to the bottom of this, Sam recruits her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) to investigate. She’s re-introduced to Jenna’s friends and not long after her arrival, the killer strikes again. She finds her way to Dewey Riley (David Arquette), former sheriff of Woodsboro and famous survivor of four iterations of Ghostface. Eventually he enlists the help of news reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and the final girl herself, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell).
Brutal, sharp, and reverent, Scream ushers in a new era of terror for the new generation of horror fans.
Decidedly darker than the original franchise, this film still feels at place in the Scream cinematic universe. Screamcenters its fifth installment on the idea of a “requel”, the phenomenon when a franchise soft reboots its property by forgoing a traditional remake or sequel label and incorporating new and old characters to continue a story. While similar to the plot of Scream 4, this is an ingenious way to bridge the gap between the first portion of the series and the presumable new direction it is taking. By the time Scream finishes, it touches on the concept of “elevated horror,” toxic fandoms, fan service, and of course plenty of meta horror. It feels right at home in the 2020s when all these concepts and more are prevalent in modern cinema and discourse related to it.
While we are deprived of an exceptionally good chase scene in this Scream, the Radio Silence team makes up for that with some unforgettable moments. Three kills stand out including one done in broad daylight and another in a hospital. The team here does a fantastic job of honoring the legacy of Wes Craven while not relinquishing their own vision of the series. This is so important because it not only ties in with the idea of passing the torch, as mentioned in the film, but gives the next generation of filmmakers and audiences to forge their own path. Clinging to the past is an exercise in futility and this Scream shows that with enough care, moving forward can be cathartic, exciting, and, of course, narratively sound.
Motivations for this film’s Ghostface feel weaker than others but not entirely out of line for the series. Nothing, in this reviewer’s mind at least, can top the ridiculousness of the third film’s reveal. For what it wants to say about the current state of horror, it’s a needful sentiment to overstate especially based on key events in film over the last eleven years. Scream lives and dies by its twisty reveals and while this one is easy to forecast that isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes simplicity works best and there are still enough red herrings to make the mystery fun and keep the fans guessing what happens next when the credits roll.
The new cast are welcome additions to the Woodsboro family despite not getting enough screen time. This will hopefully be rectified in the next installment with those who survived or were at least not shown to be definitively dead. The original trio is given enough to do to feel necessary for the plot. The recurring motif of passing the torch is magnified in the third act where many parallels to the original film are made signifying that those new survivors can and will take the lead. In fact, it’s refreshing to see them take a backseat to the newer cast members who will eventually need to take the lead on the series.
While this Scream is more viscerally terrifying, the jokes still land, especially for those with a drier sense of humor. Campbell’s delivery particularly sells the camp underneath the more outlandish moments in the script. Legacy cast members Arquette, Cox, and Campbell bring their usual gravitas to the table here. Arquette’s Dewey is noticeably more broken and resigned, helping show what years of constant diligence and brushes with death can do to you. Cox and Campbell showcase an phenomenal talent of bringing forth the empathy and wisdom needed to survive this terror while letting their irritation and boredom of Ghostface’s antics shine through.
Newer cast members carry the weight of bringing a modern Woodsboro to life too. Despite the bizarre fixation from some internet trolls, Melissa Barrera gives a fine performance as Sam, juggling some of the more complex character building moments in the film. With some more digging, the character of Sam has plenty of places to go moving forward, which gives Scream and exciting edge moving forward. Jenna Ortega’s performance as Tara exemplifies how much of a budding talent and gem she is to the horror community. Her command of vulnerability and strength make her someone to root for without completely gutting her of personality or faults. The remaining ensemble cast members deserve their moment in the spotlight too. Jack Quaid, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Kyle Gallner, and Mason Gooding make for a great group of friends that harken back to the good ole days of the original.
A perfectly paced love letter to fans of the original, Scream is an accessible and blood-soaked slasher with enough razor wire wit to cut through modern sensibilities towards horror. Balancing between honoring the work of those from past films and embracing the talents of the next key players, Scream does the work to appeal to all key constituencies thirsty for more Ghostface in cinemas. Its lively cast, eye-popping kills and thrills, and knack for deconstructing the beats of horror cinema makes this Scream entry one of the most refreshing and exhilarating. Woodsboro hasn’t seen the last of its serial killers and we will Scream with glee when we hear the news on another segment in the series after this success.
Overall Score? 8.5/10