Menu Close

Scream (2022) review: Old title, fresh faces

Scream is a franchise that made waves, proved it wasn’t a one-off, faltered, and then came back a decade later to show that it was more than just a product of its time fueled by the attitude permeating off a disgruntled generation of slasher fans. It’s a horror series that walks the lines of meta plots, fourth walls, and nearly falls into the same traps and tropes it uses to push these sequels forward, but in the end, save for the travesty that was the third installment, they somehow keep delivering. These may not appeal to everyone, but prospects of a returning core cast and new victims for Ghostface’s vicious assaults still draw.

Scream (2022) starts with the classic festivities — a young victim alone at home being savagely attacked. Ghostface is back, no one is safe, and Woodsboro is ready to bleed once more, which will eventually see the old heroes drawn back into the fray. This time is going to be a bit different, however, not only is Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) not the main target of the killers, but the initial victim, Tara Carpenter, played by Jenna Ortega, didn’t die. Instead, it looks as if she’s being used as bait to bring her sister, Sam Carpenter, portrayed by Melissa Barrera, back to their hometown. Now, with the help of former Sheriff Dwight “Dewey” Riley (David Arquette) and intrepid reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), a new crop of teens must uncover secrets and discover who is trying to kill them before it is too late.

It’s a fine premise, creating a solid entry into the franchise, one of the better ones, in fact. There’s just the matter of that dumb title, choosing not to call it Scream V. It’s confusing, especially when trying to Google a specific entry, but it plays into the story a bit, and part of the message is acknowledging how dumb the “requel” trend is. This particular Scream relies on the audience having seen at least the first film, so much to the point that it even ends in the exact same location as the original — a stylish reveal I only got right before it happened. Writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick embraced the series’ past, while directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett helped craft a film that felt like it sat perfectly in the slasher’s aging world. They understood what worked.


The Potential Pincushions 

The returning characters are all fantastic here and have their own moments to shine, especially Dewey, but it’s evident that this Scream is meant to pull them back and pass the torch in a way – they even say it in the film. We are introduced to Sam, Tara, Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), and Chad (Mason Gooding), new faces that help enrich the movie and are all related enough already to the previous events that it doesn’t feel as weird for them to accuse their friends of being potential Ghostfaces and ready to throw down when things get violent. These actors may not be quite as good as the original cast at the moment, but they’re easy to root for, and it feels right after 25 years.

Sam and Richie (Jack Quaid) have great chemistry and are believable as a short-term couple. He actually has some incredible lines and may be the funniest part of the movie, so it sucks that he was the slightly-less-obvious killer — I thought they were going to pull something else with him. It was so telegraphed. Amber (Mikey Madison) is a bit more forgettable, but something always screamed DANGER with every scene she was in.

This brings us to the other murderer in the room, Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), who is only present in Sam’s head, as being her biological father has left her with something a little off. Was that a good choice? It didn’t work for everyone, but I enjoyed it as a way to tie back to the original and give the new final girl an edge over her competition. Sidney became a badass out of necessity, but for Sam, there may be some DNA involved. This could have gone horribly wrong, but it adds a level of horror the films hadn’t explored up to that point.  

It was incredibly neat seeing a lot of the old cast return, especially some more minor characters like Sheriff Hicks (Marley Shelton) from Scream IV and Martha (Heather Matarazzo), Randy Meeks’ sister from Scream 3. These inclusions help the Ghostface massacres feel interpersonal, not just to the main characters, but to an entire town, like a larger legacy being passed down that will continue to infect new generations because of the ties.

Death With A Purpose

Some of the residents are brought back just to die horribly. The death scenes are still creative and brutal, as fans enjoy watching Ghostface play with his prey, but a couple are incredibly jarring. It’s neat to see the filmmakers utilizing new technology instead of just ignoring it while still embracing some of the old franchise favorites (yes, some people do really still have landlines… who knew). The visuals are solid, minus two or three odd cuts, but the fake-outs in some scenes were almost overkill, as tension is usually built quickly in these films. Also, I know it’s tradition for someone to miraculously survive the final massacre in this series, but I swear the killers are getting worse at stabbing people.

Scream as a franchise has always been incredibly self-aware, but with every new entry, that element risks becoming a hindrance. In Scream (2022), we hear characters discuss aging IPs that won’t evolve or die, how elevated horror stories are attracting new fans to the genre over slashers, and toxic fans who feel some ownership over the property can spoil it for everyone else. It may seem juvenile at first, but there is a reason they aren’t subtle about the message. The point is straightforward, with no smugness involved, and although I often wonder if they should pull this part back and retreat into their fiction, they keep making it work.  

This was the first film in the series done without director Wes Craven, even saying “For Wes” at the end and having a character named Wes die, so they could throw a party for him and yell the phrase in the final act. I think he would have been proud. Ghostface is still alive, slashing, and this particular return to Woodsboro made a killing. 


Posted in Reviews