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Scream Review

January 14, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Ghostface in Scream; Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group's "Scream." Image Credit: Paramount Pictures
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Scream Review  

Directed By: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Written By: James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick
Runtime: 114 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout and some sexual references

Neve Campbell – Sidney Prescott
Courteney Cox – Gale Weathers
David Arquette – Dewey Riley
Melissa Barrera – Sam Carpenter
Jenna Ortega – Tara Carpenter
Jack Quaid – Richie Kirsch
Marley Shelton – Sheriff Judy Hicks
Dylan Minnette – Wes Hicks
Mikey Madison – Amber Freeman
Jasmin Savoy Brown – Mindy Meeks-Martin
Mason Gooding – Chad Meeks-Martin
Sonia Ammar – Liv McKenzie

The Scream series attempts its latest comeback with the simply titled Scream 4. Considering the franchise left off with Scream 4 in 2011, it may seem odd that the film series has been reset back to Scream. Well, the film has that all covered since the fifth film installment is all about having a go at the Hollywood “requel.” It’s not a full reboot or remake. It’s not a full-on sequel, but it features the legacy characters from the older movies, so it’s “requel” time for the Scream franchise. But let’s also ignore the TV series that launched in 2015 and had three seasons and 30 episodes.

It’s 25 years after the events of the original Scream, the events of which inspired its own iconic, in-universe horror film franchise series called Stab. The original cast members are a bit too old to center a film series around these days. Therefore, Scream generally follows a newer, younger cast, largely led by Melissa Barrera’s Sam Carpenter; who has an oddly convoluted connection to the original film. Sam’s estranged sister, Tara (Ortega), turns out to be one of the first victims of a new series of Ghostface attacks, drawing Sam back to her hometown.

Tara’s friends are similar to Sidney Prescott’s circle of friends from the 1996 film, and even Jill from the fourth movie. That means the latest Ghostface killer is likely among them. So, it’s back to more Ghostface antics as someone has once again taken their love of scary movies too far.

The original Scream is a modern classic. At the time, it felt fresh, new and different. The film rewrote the rules on modern horror when many of the top horror franchise flicks had seen a better day or were limping on life support. However, with the fourth film, it looked like the franchise was already running out of steam and was wearing itself thin. In many ways, Scream 2022 feels a lot like The Matrix Resurrections. It’s a long-awaited franchise update that has some interesting ideas, but the execution leaves something to be desired. It raises the question of why it took so long to make another sequel; especially one that’s nowhere near as good as the original.

The initial Scream sequels, while flawed, were at least entertaining, bolstered by their strong recurring cast. Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott, Courtney Cox’s Gale Weathers and David Arquette’s Dewey Riley, who emerged as the central trio from the first four films, are back for this film. At the very least, it’s nice to see them reprise their roles and learn what they’ve been up to the last 10 years.

Credit due to Sidney. Thankfully after 25 years and multiple copycat killers and all the trauma she’s endured, she’d either go insane or be leading a Ghostface Copycat Taskforce. The Ghostface Taskforce idea seems like it would be the most relevant idea considering the alarming regularity the psychopaths repeated the Ghostface killings. They happened even more in this film franchise than the current amount of Michael Myers incidents in the latest Halloween series; and yet, the characters of that film series seem to have even more in-universe knowledge about Michael Myers than Ghostface.

The new Scream is not as bad or downright idiotic as the execrable Halloween Kills. It makes better use of the appearance of the so-called legacy characters. While original franchise writer Kevin Williamson did not write the fifth film, James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick at least come up with some clever ideas on the Scream formula in the first half. The film does have a few moments that are genuinely interesting and surprising. Unfortunately, the plot of the film falls apart in the second half. That’s when not Scream 5 plays more like an older rehash of Scream 4.

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett don’t quite have the eye for horror that the late Wes Craven did, but they do manage to stage some gory, bloody kills. The “requel” setup device as the film’s hook is amusing at first but later wears out its welcome. Also, the in-universe Stab film franchise itself is based on real events and real people.

The new cast members are okay, but there’s a big sense of been there, done that with all of them. Out of all the new cast members, Jenna Ortega emerges as the star attraction. She was the most believable, empathetic character; especially considering what she goes through. Sam Carpenter functionally serves as the film’s new protagonist and Sidney Prescott. However, the twist to her backstory is rather convoluted and not given a proper explanation.

The other problem with the new characters is that when Sidney, Gale and Dewey are onscreen, the film struggles to justify why the film shouldn’t instead be focusing on them. Yes, they are all older, but they are the ones who have survived the past four films. Despite the flaws of the initial sequels, they are responsible for making the previous films so entertaining and compelling.

While Scream 2022 does ruminate on toxic fandom and the characteristics of “requels,” it never gets to the heart of the issue. Requels, reboots, long-awaited sequels usually always try to recapture that novelty or the original. They are trying to recapture that flash of brilliance and lightning in a bottle that the original achieved, but they can never manage to reach that height again. Requels may have varying results, but there’s always that sense that nothing is ever as novel as the original.

Scream fans will likely enjoy seeing the legacy characters again. Scream 2022 is not without interesting ideas. There are some fun kills, witty humor, and it’s nice to see the legacy characters, but that’s about the most this film has going for it. The film runs out of fresh and original ideas and rehashes too much of Scream 4, which was already the least successful sequel in the series in the first place. Rather than spawn a new set of sequels, Scream 2022 would be better off putting the franchise and further requels to bed.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
Scream 2022 has its moments. It's not the complete and utter misfire that was Halloween Kills. There are even some interesting ideas presented in the first half between some creative twists and the rumination on the Hollywood requel. But most of the new cast members are largely forgettable, and most of the movie plays like a retread of Scream 4. The biggest reason to see the movie is the return of Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette. The movie does at least try to integrate them in believable ways. This is the curse of having a long-running successful franchise. It never knows when to stop. For Scream, that time period was probably over 20 years ago.