The 2022 edition of “Scream” is a film for those who grew up watching the 1996 version of “ScREAM” and its three sequels. The original screenplay by Kevin Williamson took what fans talked about John Carpenter and Wes Craven in school cafeterias and coffee shops about into something daring and exciting, whereas the new script by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick takes place in a world where those talks take place on a larger scale in Discord chats, Reddit threads, and fan conventions. It’s a horror film for a world in which everyone has an opinion on horror flicks. It cleverly balances references to the initial films while avoiding self-conscious smugness, delivering a product that feels similar to the first four movies but distinctive enough to have its own voice. Some of Craven’s craftsmanship and acting ability are lacking here, but by the time the film reaches its bonkers climax, I don’t believe any true horror fans in the audience will mind.
Of course, the star of “Scream” is a phone call—and it’s still a landline. Again, a young woman home alone is compelled to play movie trivia with a psychopath, but the way in which this “Scream” will continue the original isn’t hard to see early on when Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) states that her favorite horror film isn’t a slasher classic but an “elevated horror” picture like The Babadook. The way we define the horror genre has evolved significantly in the last 25 years, as has the link between filmmakers, spectators, and even “true story” subject matter that creators mine for escapist entertainment. The characters in the new “Scream” don’t just share the same genre movie knowledge of Randy Meeks from the original film, they’d destroy him in a trivia contest.
Tara is attacked by someone wearing the Ghostface costume from the in-universe “Stab” series, which is based on the Woodsboro murders perpetrated by Stu Macher and Billy Loomis, but she survives, bringing her estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) back to their hometown. Much like Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) in the original film, Sam has some dark family drama that compelled her to leave her sister behind, however, it appears that this new, terrible killer has attacked Tara in order to bring her home.
She invites her new lover Richie (Jack Quaid of “The Boys”) aboard, even though he has never seen a “Stab” film before. By the way, they’ve shot eight “Stab” films and the most recent was particularly despised by fans for seemingly disregarding what made the franchise successful in the first place. Of course, Rian Johnson oversaw it.
Even before Tara can return home, Ghostface is in a killing frenzy, forcing Sam and Richie to seek out the person they believe may be able to help them figure out who’s behind the mask this time: Deputy Dewey (A very efficient David Arquette, given more emotional beats than usual. I hope it leads to more work similar to it.) The return of Sid and Gale (Courteney Cox) is amusing, but the filmmakers wisely avoid having them take over the narrative. They’re adding flavor, a reference to the past rather than the entire meal, as in previous prequels. Consider them like Star Wars sequel characters who are important yet don’t dominate the narrative — they’re just there for flavor.
No, the focus here is on a group of teenagers who have seen enough “Stab” films to know that the murderer is likely to be one of them. It doesn’t help that almost everyone in town has a tie to the original characters, such as Wes Hicks (Dylan Minnette), son of Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton) from “Scream 4,” or Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding), connected with poor Randy. Then there’s Amber (Mikey Madison), the one who appears to be Tara’s most loyal and wary of Sam. As for Samantha, she hallucinates talks with a previous character, which is kind of strange (since it has some dodgy CGI that makes them less effective than they probably were on paper). One of these youngsters may very well be a murderer. Given the series’ history, it’s likely more than one.
The method in which Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett construct their truly effective set pieces is what really matters for the “Scream”s success. One of the stone hospitals has the visceral power of John Carpenter, with a violent party sequence/climax that always finishes at a party, filmed by Brett Jutkiewicz with smooth camerawork and tightly edited by Michael Aller. The score adds to the graphic violence in death sequences, which don’t come across as carefree or tongue-in-cheek as a lot of retro horrors do. So many movies, like “Scream,” wink at their audience and fail to be genuinely frightening. The new “Scream” attempts to be a genuine horror film rather than simply a meta-reference to the genre.
It’s hard not to think about how the movie would have been different if Craven had lived long enough to make it himself, but I do believe that he would have elicited better performances from the young cast, who are all good enough but nowhere near as distinctively memorable as the original crew. The original trio, on the other hand, is fantastic in conveying the stress of having to go through this nonsense again in a manner that feels genuine. In addition, what matters most is how much Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett have learned from the Craven originals in terms of craft. Whereas Craven looked to filmmakers like Hitchcock and Carpenter for visual inspiration, the new directors have Wes himself as a role model, and they unquestionably get to the heart of a lot of what he did best both in craft and genre deconstruction. After all, there’s a reason that the film’s dedication reads “For Wes” and that there’s even a scene in which someone says “passing the torch.” I’m not sure about the former, but I’m sure that Wes would be amazed enough to consider it.
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Movie Name: Scream
Cast Leads: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Melissa Barrera, Jack Quaid
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Producer: Paul Neinstein, William Sherak, James Vanderbilt
Written by: James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick, Kevin Williamson
Music: Brian Tyler
Director Of Photography: Brett Jutkiewicz
Movie Rating: 3,2/5