Melissa Barrera - Samantha Carpenter
Jenna Ortega - Tara Carpenter
David Arquette - Dewey Riley
Neve Campbell - Sidney Prescott
Courteney Cox - Gale Weathers
Mason Gooding - Chad Meeks-Martin
Mikey Madison - Amber Freeman
Dylan Minnette - Wes Hicks
Jack Quaid - Richie Kirsch
Marley Shelton - Judy Hicks
Jasmin Savoy Brown - Mindy Meeks-Martin
Kyle Gallner - Vince Schneider
Roger L. Jackson - Voice of Ghostface
Genre - Horror/Mystery/Slasher
Running Time - 114 Minutes
Twenty-five years after a streak of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town’s deadly past.
It’s hard to believe it’s been a bit over 25 years since the original SCREAM, the slasher film by Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson that brought back the horror genre back into prominence in 1996. Not only did it inspire countless slasher wannabes that emulated what SCREAM brought to the table, but its own wannabe sequels that varied in quality despite the same principal people in charge to comment on what was going on in the horror genre at the time. 2011’s SCREAM 4, a film I actually like and prefer over the third film, was polarizing to say the least and didn’t light the world on fire. Then Wes Craven would unfortunately pass away years later, despite plans for two more SCREAM films under his direction. Despite a television show that was hit-or-miss, it seemed the franchise would rest alongside its beloved director.
Then it was surprisingly announced that SCREAM (2022) would return to theaters in the form of a sequel rather than a true remake, despite Craven having passed away and Williamson not having much involvement besides a producer’s credit. I was pretty disinterested about the project until I learned that Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett of Radio Silence would direct. Having enjoyed their 2019 horror film READY OR NOT, I became intrigued as to what they would bring to the table. Getting the remaining survivors of the franchise [Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette] to return also had me more interested in this movie. If HALLOWEEN could get its footing back somewhat, then there was hope for SCREAM (2022) right?
Considering we’re still in the midst of a pandemic [yeah, that’s unfortunately still a thing], I was debating whether to see this in a theater or wait until some streaming service picked it up after the theatrical 45-day window had lapsed. But considering I had watched the other SCREAM films theatrically, I was willing to safely risk it to see the return of Ghostface and Woodsboro. Luckily, I went to a showing that was socially distanced due to not a huge crowd. But that also deprived me of that horror theatrical experience I wanted to have. Still, I had a fun time with SCREAM (2022), giving me hope that this franchise can survive without its legacy characters.
As with every other SCREAM film, the story is very meta and acknowledges it without shame. Similar to SCREAM 4, the commentary here is about the new kind of remakes called “requels” - which are remakes that also act as sequels to some point in a franchise’s continuity to create an alternate universe. Referencing other “requels” like 2015’s STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS and 2018’s HALLOWEEN, the characters believe that Ghostface is recreating events from the first film [or in this case, the film-within-a-film STAB] because the franchise went off the rails by the fifth film and the killer wants to bring the Woodsboro murders back to the status it had in the late-90s and early-00s. Because of this, the killer is targeting people connected to the original story so these legacy characters can return for a proper ending to the franchise.
The commentary works well here because the film never really discusses it to the point where it distracts from the story being told in the film. The film just shows the commentary by having many scenes reference the original film, especially in the opening scene and the film’s final act. The newer characters even act somewhat like some of the original characters in the first film, establishing them for a newer generation and potentially more sequels that wouldn’t require the original actors having to appear to legitimize the movie. It might feel a bit deja-vu for some, but the film cleverly changes things up a bit and makes them feel fresh to separate itself from what came before it.
Also with the commentary, there is also an underlying idea of how toxic fandom has changed not only the horror genre, but altered the opinions and storytelling for other major franchises. Public forums and social media have done a lot of positive things for our society. But some people have taken their love for certain things to a point of obsession and bullying, making storytellers defensive about their art by either lashing out at their fanbase, or just changing their stories back to the status quo in order to appease the hardcore fans. Even certain characters in the film consider the STAB series as not worthwhile since they’re not “elevated horror” like films such as THE BABABOOK, THE WITCH or even HEREDITARY. Not only does that motivate Ghostface to bring back the horror of the old school slasher, but it also makes some of the victims kind of forget how to act in a slasher film since their tastes are above that now. The film could have really taken a side when it comes to toxic fandom, but SCREAM (2022) never does. It doesn’t really put down this portion of the community and just uses it as a motive for our killer. I thought that was actually smart since we all know people who take their love for these kinds of films beyond the point they really need to.
I thought the actors were pretty good in the movie. Of the newer cast, both Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega stood out as Sam and Tara Carpenter respectively. The two actresses had nice sister chemistry and both had their own individual emotional beats to play throughout the film. In particular, Barrera had more pressure since there’s a twist to her character that gives her a bit more to play around with - something that could really extend to future installments and take it into interesting directions if done right. Dylan Minnette is also good as Wes Hicks, the son of Judy Hicks from SCREAM 4. And Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown had some highlights as siblings Chad and Mindy - the film nerds of the group. Brown, in particular, is super charismatic and had some great moments. She’s a star. And Jack Quaid is just awesome as Richie. He had the funniest moments and he knocked each one out of the park.
As for the legacy actors, they all do well with what they’re given. Neve Campbell can play Sidney in her sleep. Courteney Cox gets to do more emotional stuff as Gale. And Marley Shelton seems more confident as Judy Hicks. But of the four that do return, it’s David Arquette who steals the show as Dewey. Arquette plays the role in a more subtle manner, being more grizzled and traumatized by the previous events and wanting no part of the murders until he realizes he can save lives by returning. It’s a more serious and focused Dewey that we’ve seen and I thought Arquette sold it perfectly. In fact, I thought the writing worked because it was more serious and it gave more depth and dimension to the legacy actors who had to sell how serious these murders were instead of treating it as some meta joke like in previous sequels. This helped elevate Ghostface [still voiced by an incredible Roger L. Jackson, in probably his most sinister performance] into more of a threat, which I greatly appreciated.
The direction by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett would have made Wes Craven proud. It’s a confident, well-paced and smart horror sequel that does enough to bring the SCREAM feeling back after a decade while managing to do new things that make it stand out from the other films in the series. The film has this somewhat muted look that I actually liked, since the film is a bit darker in tone. The kill scenes were pretty brutal for once, as this version of Ghostface was not messing around and wanted people to die. I mean, there’s nothing really graphic but the way Ghostface just stabs people reminded me of Rob Zombie’s Michael Myers at times. I also loved how the two directors would play with horror tropes to create suspense and tension, despite how common this type of direction has been for decades. They play with expectations to mess with the audience and I actually laughed when it would keep happening within one scene as some sort of game with the viewers. Radio Silence did a really nice job bringing life back to the series and I’m glad they’re interested in doing more SCREAM movies because I’d like to see where they would take the franchise.
I felt the tone was off at times. SCREAM (2022) is mostly a more serious film than the previous movies. But since the movie is known for its quirky humor, I felt like the filmmakers had to add moments of comedy in spots to make it match the rest of the franchise. I’m not saying the jokes or funny dialogue was terrible. In fact, I laughed at a lot of them. But considering it felt like a serious SCREAM film for once, maybe since the first film, the comedy felt out of place at times. I mean, I’m glad there was some levity but the flow could have been slightly better.
As much as I enjoyed the cast, I thought a lot of the newer squad got the shaft in terms of development and even screentime. I forgot certain characters existed in this story because I hadn’t seen them in so long. One character, in particular, felt like they were missing for half the movie. It’s unfortunate because I found them kind of interesting and wanted to see what more they could offer. Even the legacy characters felt somewhat unnecessary until the film’s final act. It’s obvious fans wanted these actors and characters back, so the deals were made. But besides maybe Dewey, the rest of them could have skipped out and let the newer characters lead the franchise into the future. I mean, I’m happy to see the survivors return for one more round, but they weren’t really the focus, unlike what the marketing wants you to believe. But HALLOWEEN (2018) grabbed viewers because Jamie Lee Curtis returned. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS brought back Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill to great success. For the commentary to work, you couldn’t do a new SCREAM without Campbell, Cox and Arquette.
I felt like of all the SCREAM films, this was the easiest mystery to solve in terms of who Ghostface was. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched too many slashers, mysteries and gialli, but once the suspect(s) appeared, I pretty much said that they were the culprit. And when the reveal was made, I felt both satisfied and disappointed how easy it was to figure it out. I’m not saying it isn’t a fun ride getting to the reveal, but I was expecting to be swerved somewhat considering the whole “requel” deal. At least the motives were interesting and worked within the context of the story.
THE FINAL HOWL
I’m surprised how well SCREAM (2022) turned out, considering it’s been eleven years since the last installment and the first film without the direct involvement of either Wes Craven or Kevin Williamson. Despite a predictable mystery reveal of Ghostface [at least for me], lack of scares, and possibly having too large a cast that doesn’t allow certain actors and their characters to get enough development to really care about them, SCREAM (2022) is still a fun ride and a worthy sequel. Radio Silence’s Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett direct a confident movie, playing with horror conventions in an amusing way, while making Ghostface feel like a genuine threat for once with his suspenseful stalking and brutality on many of the characters. The actors all do well, in particular Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega as our new leads with great supporting roles from Jack Quaid, Jasmin Savoy Brown and especially David Arquette in his best turn as Dewey since the first movie. And I enjoyed the clever use of its social commentary on Hollywood relying on the reboot/sequel [known as the “requel”] to make money, which the film shows rather than tells, recreating many memorable moments of the first film but twisting them around to create something new. Wes Craven would be proud of this one, since SCREAM (2022) is a better film than both SCREAM 3 and SCREAM 4 at least, potentially taking the series into an interesting direction if handled correctly.