Movie Review: Scream (2022)
Sometimes to create the perfect addition to a franchise you need to go back to the beginning. While each of Scream‘s inductions has done just that through mothers, past lives, and locale, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett‘s Scream takes the franchise one step further, bringing its characters and its audience literally back to its original roots. 25 years after the release of Scream, audiences return to Woodsboro through a humorous, yet brutal reemergence of Ghostface. With new rules, violent kills, and a new generation, Scream delivers in every essence it can.
Ghostface is faster, smarter, and unrelenting in the franchise’s fifth induction. Opening in classic Scream tradition, viewers meet Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega, You). She is home alone, conversing via text with her friend Amber. Her landline keeps ringing from an “unknown” caller, the sound of the phone instantly plunging viewers back into the world of Scream, nostalgia immediately setting the framework for the film’s brutal beginning. As the opening scene finds both a familiarity to the opening of Scream ’96, it raises the bar in both terror and violence.
As we transition away from the opening scene, there is an expectation and anticipation of where we will find Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell). But the filmmakers behind this latest induction embrace a momentary reprieve from Sidney’s story, instead, introducing us to Sam (Melissa Barrera). There is an off-kilter feeling as the narrative begins to form around Sam, the franchise breaking from the hyper-focus of the horror story that has made the franchise a success. And while it initially feels like a slightly strange decision by Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett, it evolves into creative brilliance. Through Sam, the film adds a layer of suspicion and mystery necessary to make another sequel a success, especially within the idea of returning to its roots.
First and foremost, Scream is a film you will not be able to stop thinking about – especially if you are a fan of the franchise. Each element of the film from framing, dialogue, soundtrack, and performance lends itself to its own unique conversation and observation. A homage to the films that came before, both in the franchise and the genre, Scream is a literal easter egg hunt. It’s also a film that lends itself to new discoveries with each viewing – an element that will be an initial driving force for multiple rewatches. Yet where it succeeds is not in alienating those who may not be so familiar.
And in true Scream fashion, its own critical examinations are not only modern but make sense within the escalation of the genre itself and each induction of the franchise. While it is not until the film’s third act that all is revealed, there is a culminating observational power that crescendos with the violence and brutality of Scream that gives it an overarching success. And not one is safe from its observational prowess.
With its critical societal examinations aside, there is also a brutal simplicity to Scream that further drives its power. Where reboots and sequels often go over the top to outdo the films that came before, or to explain the continuous rise of a killer, Scream welcomes the uncomplicated, giving its own examination of the endless and tiresome sequels horror films generate. Yet, it is in the simplicity and familiarity that it finds its terror. An unceasing birth of horror behind a mask is far from new, but there is a new feeling that Scream is able to harness and lean into. There is a more menacing feeling that emanates from Ghostface, a familiarity, yet a deeply rooted terror. There is something deeper in the blackened eyelets of the mask – not only can the killer see us but we can see the internal drive for violence and death. This is not a killer running around in a costume anymore, this is an ideology seemingly impossible to kill.
Yet, while the film excels well beyond expectations, it is not without a few bumps in the road. While some kills seem out of place from the film’s end game, it is the film’s third act that truly holds the most highs and lows throughout. There are some pacing issues that make the climax feel rushed in both execution and dialogue, leaving viewers to catch up, only to feel like the final moments drag a bit more than they should. In the face of the epic final shot of Ready or Not, this movie takes a moment to find its conclusion. But these bumps do little to take away from the overall effects of the film, Scream finding itself a worthy addition to the franchise.
Scream is a knock-out success, showcasing the power horror inductions can still wield through modernisation and an honouring of the past. This is a homage to not only the series but to its fans – all while warmly welcoming new audiences to the franchise. And as the film speaks of that one horror film that kicked off a love of a genre, Scream ’22 finds the strength and power to wield the same result for a slew of newcomers.