March 21, 2023

FILM REVIEW: Scream (2022) Still Has Enough Terror In the Tanks

Delivering a single horror film sequel that is even a fraction as good as the original is rare. Delivering four quality sequels without a reboot, a reimaging, or a remake is just improbable. Well, what about a requel?

The term, which was new to me, refers to the very popular trend for films that lies somewhere between a sequel and a remake often bringing back much of the original cast. That is what we have with Scream, the fifth film in the Scream franchise. After an 11 year absence since 2011’s Scream 4, partially due to covid delays, fans finally have the latest follow up Scream film. The key players including stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette all return to revive their parts. As the latest entry states in the latest set of horror movie rules, “the movie always goes back to the original.” The film is self-aware.

These meta aspects are synonymous with the series. It explains the thinking behind the much maligned title for the film. Fans were up in arms on Twitter complaining why it is not titled Scream 5 or Scr5am or Scream Again, or Scream 5 Scream Furious. Nope, just Scream. A meta gag, which based on more recent Twitter comments, some people still haven’t wrapped their heads around.

This Scream continues with a trope it famously starts with the traditional killer opening sequence where a big star is in peril before the title card hits the screen. Tara Carpenter, played by skyrocketing star Jenny Ortega, is in the Drew Barrymore role this time around, who even mirrors some of Drew’s fateful actions. The idea of being hunted in your own home, the one place you should feel safe, taps deeper fears, especially as we are only meeting the character and the attack seems so random. No matter how many times they play off this trope it raises my heart level. This was no exception.

The premise for this entry is familiar, that opening murder scene sets of the Ghostface-sense of our original Scooby Gang trio of Sydney Prescott (Campbell), Gale Weathers (Cox) and Dewey (Arquette) all of whom have moved on in life in one way or another. They are just a few of the familiar faces making a return. One return in particular is certain to divide fans, but appears to be the direction the series is heading. I will leave that and all the other surprises for you to experience. They are there to help Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera last seen in In The Heights) figure out who attacked her sister, Tara.

Of course, with a new Scream film comes a new set of potential victims and potential killers including Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jack Quaid, Mason Gooding, and Jasmin Savoy Brown. Your typical who’s who of new Hollywood faces that may ring more identifiable with the new generation of fans than us who have been around since the original… 26 years ago. As always, everyone is a suspect,

The suspension of disbelief is required when stepping back into Woodsboro. It is actually part of the franchise’s charm, it embraces what fans love about the previous entries, ignores common sense and keeps building off it. The town remains infatuated with the Ghostface killings as established in the previous sequels. Just about everyone in town is extremely knowledgeable about the murders and the films that followed them. After all these years and copycat killings, the love affair is not ending – there are new insights and revelations at every turn. The town relishes its violent legacy. Even with all the knowledge of the past murders and how horror films work, take note of the emptiest hospital you have ever seen since maybe Halloween 2. Will they ever learn?

It constantly teeters the line between ludicrous and tense in a way long time fans will appreciate. It remains a throwback to its 90s slasher horror origins; more about providing good scares instead of nightmares. With that said, the level of gore is definitely ramped up compared to previous entries with some brutal killings.

The genius is that the series can always keep going since there is always another copycat. That formula still works, but as it proceeds it stretches thin, forcing new twists that are less plausible than previous entries. While entertaining throughout, The intense moments will have your heart racing, it will keep you guessing until the end, even if when you get there you may feel some of the convoluted explanations are probably the series showing its age as it tries to follow its own rules. Written by the team behind Ready or Not, James Vanderbilt and Guy Busickthe film’s screenplay is clever and squeezes in a lot of familiar for returning fans to enjoy, as well as numerous contemporary pop culture references to apease the new.

The return of the OG Scream team (Neve, Courtney and David) provides a surprisingly heartfelt reunion, reconnecting the characters with each other and the viewers after a prolonged absence. It is great to see them in action yet again and they are put to good use here. I am happy to report that Neve still nails Sydney, an underrated badass horror heroine. 

The new cast has some standouts Ortega, Quaid, Savoy Brown, Barrera. Unlike most new casts, I expect to see some again (but will avoid mentioning to prevent spoiling.) What I think we are seeing here is the passing of the torch since the writers go all in on the nostalgia tying the new cast with the past. Some of these connections work better than others, but in the sake of keeping the franchise going I am willing to let much of it slide.

This fifth entry does not reinvent the wheel. It would not be a Scream film without numerous meta references. While always fun, at this point they are not as novel as they once were. This is not suddenly elevated horror, something the film mentions like a timestamp so viewers will always remember where this one lands in the timeline of horror films history. This Scream is a requel and proud to be one, even with the genre’s spotty past.

If the goal of a requel is to revive a dead or dying franchise, it often works… at least in a business sense. At the same time they often strip away much of what we love about them creating cinematic parasitic symbiosis relationships. Luckily, unlike the recent Halloween that brought back Jamie Lee Curtis (to big box office and hugely disappointing creative returns) Scream is much more successful moving the franchise forward. Scream avoids this pitfall by keeping much of the lore untouched. 

To have four sequels, spread out over 26 years that are still entertaining and stays loyal to its fans is quite commendable. As mentioned, this entry does bring back the core cast with one significant absence – the original director, master of horror, the legend Wes Craven – who passed away in 2015. This is the first film in the franchise that does not have his participation, but I think he would be pleased with what they did here. 

If you are a fan, there is a lot to enjoy.  Most should walk away happy to have another turn with the big three. Not sure it will be a frequent revisit in the series but it won’t be avoided either. That makes me curious how it will play to the next generation of fans who are new to the series. Since a 20 year old watching the film was only 9 when the last Scream came out, will lacking prior knowledge to the familiar dance steps of the franchise increase the horror elements? Does a lack of knowledge of the legacy characters change the experience? We will find out and have another chance as this looks like it will be a hit making Scream 6 looks to be inevitable. Ghostface always comes back.


Quick Scan:

Scream is a lot of chilling fun with enough life in the old franchise and characters to merit this long-awaited sequel.

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