Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Writers: James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick
Starring: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Dylan Minnette, Mason Godding, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mikey Madison, Sonia Ben Ammar, and Marley Shelton
Review: Full disclosure, as of last weekend, I had only seen one Scream movie. I saw the first one a couple of years ago and, while I really enjoyed it, I didn’t have much interest in tracking down the rest of the franchise. I wish I had. Because, in preparation for this one, I went back and watched the entire series within a week and had quite a fun time. These movies are right up my alley. I love the interconnected nature of each subsequent sequel. The look of Ghostface is so simple, yet brilliant. I like trying to figure out who the killer is and almost always being wrong. But, most of all, I love the commentary on the horror genre that these movies bring. No matter the decade, we can always count on the Scream franchise to cut deep on the current state of the genre. The only one I didn’t care for is Scream 3, which seemed to drop the clever writing and just seemed like your typical bad horror flick. Other than that, the series has been remarkably consistent, which you can’t say about many film sagas (let alone horror ones). So, did the Scream (2022) live up to the rest of the franchise? Absolutely, it did! This movie is easily one of the better in the already stellar series.
As I said before, my enjoyment of a Scream movie comes from the commentary. How well does this movie make fun of itself and movies like it? Well, the good news is that that’s probably this movie’s strongest point. While the first Scream was a commentary on the slasher cliches, the second on sequels, the third trilogy closers (?), and the fourth remakes, this one is based on the concept of the requel. You know, the belated sequel that brings back legacy characters but, more importantly, passes the torch to the new upcoming generation. While many of these young characters are new, they are all playing into archetypes and/or related to characters previously established in the Scream franchise. Think The Force Awakens or Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Oh, and while we’re on the topic of those particular fandoms, this is also a brilliant teardown of toxic fan culture. It comments on how nothing but the original is ever good enough for these fans, so studios have no choice but to just make the same movie over again. As someone who’s (a happier) member of some pretty toxic fandoms, they hit the nail on the head. The final act especially (which I obviously can’t go into due to spoilers) felt very familiar as someone who’s spent a ton of time on the Star Wars subreddits. So, again, the Scream writers seem to have their pulse on pop culture. They know what these studios are doing and are ready to ridicule them while also taking full advantage of the situation. Because, not only is this a parody, it’s also a damn fine good example of that type of sequel.
Speaking of legacy characters, I very much enjoyed all of the new additions to the cast here. Everyone perfectly understood what type of movie they were making and played their parts to perfection. I wish I had time to talk about all of them, but this review is probably too long as it is. Instead, I’ll point out some highlights. Melissa Barrera, who was excellent in In the Heights last summer, absolutely steals the show here. She’s probably the best horror/slasher lead we’ve had in a movie in almost a decade. Without getting into spoilers, I love how sensible she is. She’s one of the only characters in the franchise who not only knows the rules of horror films, but actually follows them. Most of the time, they’re like “Hey this is a bad idea” while actively doing the thing. Not her though and I appreciate that. I also really appreciated her backstory and thought it added a lot of depth and emotion to her character. When we get our next Scream movie (whether it’s next year or a decade from now), I hope they find a way to bring her back. (Fun sidebar: I almost compared her performance and the whole tone of this character to Samara Weaving in Ready or Not, which I just learned is directed by the same guys! So, yeah, if you liked Ready or Not, I think you’ll enjoy this one quite a bit too!) Likewise, I really enjoyed Gooding and Brown as a set of twins who grew up in Woodsboro and are obsessed with the Stab franchise. They were the less obnoxious versions of Jamie Kennedy’s character from the original trilogy and just oozed charisma. Again, without confirming whether that’s possible or not, I’d love to see more of these characters later on down the road. And, since we’ve brought up returning characters, let’s talk about the Scream OG trio of Sidney, Gale, and Dewey. While I do wish we’d seen more of them (Sid in particular), I do respect what this entry did with each of these characters. It wasn’t afraid to take risks that might allienate those fanboys this movie was commenting on. But, personally, I think all of their actions are perfectly in character and make the narative better. Which, again, is hard to go into without dropping spoilers.
Lastly, I gotta praise something that I’ve never praised in any other Scream sequel: the kills. You see? For as great of a series as I think this is, the kills have always been kind of underwhelming. 90% of them are just a quick stab to the gut, chest, or back. In fact, they’re so unscary that I found myself checking the ratings more than a few times. In an R rated franchise, the gore has always seemed rather PG-13 to me. Well, not in this fifth installment! I don’t know if it’s the change in directors, better special effects, or just the changing of the times and what you can get away with, but the murders in this movie actually get kind of gnarley. There are three in particular that I would rank among the best in the franchise. One of those was so brutal that I actually had to look away. I’ve never once had to hide from anything going on in a Scream movie. They’re generally fantastic, but not that scary. It was a nice change of pace to have something geniunely freak me out. (I hope they don’t cover it on the Kill Count until James A. Janisse comes back, because he’s the one that’s pointed out to me how un-innovative the Scream series has been in that regard. I’d love to see his opinions here.)
So, as you can probably tell, I really, really enjoyed Scream (2022). It had everything I love and have come to expect from the franchise. The commentary was top-notch. I laughed just as often as I was freaked out. It was probably the scariest movie in the series thus far. And, I thought all of the cast did a terrific job. I walked out of the theater extremely happy. This has probably moved the franchise into my favorite horror series of all-time. I just can’t think of one that’s been this consistantly good. And, I cannot wait for the next entry! I’m sure they’ll wait another decade or so for the horror landscape to shift once again and that’s more than ok with me. I’ll be first in line whenver they decide it’s worth making. Because I love me some Scream and it’s obviously not out of steam just yet.
TL;DR: In Scream (2022), the franchise proves that it hasn’t lost any of its biting commentary, while also providing its scariest entry to date.
Score: 8/10 (Great)