Scream, 2022, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, 3.5/5 Stars
1996’s Scream, Wes Craven’s uber-meta slasher-comedy, was, and still is, a triumph of the horror genre. In an oversaturated market, Craven paved the way for self-awareness that few had seen before and allowed his characters to break out of the tired tropes and frustrating repetition of the most influential horror films of the 1970s and ‘80s. It was truly ironic, if predictable, that the Scream sequels would be so repetitive and prolific in the following years. The series is aware of this hypocrisy; jokes about sequels and formulaic plots abound throughout, and there’s even a series of movies within the world of Scream based on the events of the first three films called “Stab” that act as an in-universe parody of the films themselves. Craven directed the first three Scream movies, as well as the controversial fourth installment that came a decade later, and somehow, by the grace of constant in-joking and winking at the audience, managed to keep the franchise feeling fresh through every sequel before his eventual death in 2015. This brings the ongoing saga to its latest entry, the un-numbered Scream released in January of this year. It’s hard to say 2022’s Scream does anything especially novel or innovative, but it successfully updates the formula for a new generation of moviegoers, and has some genuinely thrilling moments. It’s nigh impossible to match the original, but this new “re-quel” (as the film calls itself) still manages to keep the audience guessing and deliver a fun, edge-of-your-seat experience.
The film, helmed by Ready or Not directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, returns to the quiet suburban town of Woodsboro, where a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask. The latest targets are relatives of the original ’96 cast of characters; notably Melissa Barrera as the estranged daughter of Billy Loomis, one of the original Ghostface killers, and Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding as the twin niece and nephew of horror film nerd Randy Meeks. This premise is eyeroll-worthy at first, but the film is quick to acknowledge this; the characters discuss the “rules” of surviving a horror film in classic Scream fashion, and even acknowledge the changing landscape of horror cinema, namedropping the likes of The Babadook and Hereditary. The plot doesn’t take any especially unexpected turns, aside from one genuinely surprising risk, but it’s hard to be mad at the story’s predictability when it’s so actively self-aware.
The script also touches thematically on some of the more toxic parts of internet fandom, especially in the exciting third act, but any real exploration of those ideas is held back by the structure a Scream sequel is obligated to adhere to. In one scene, the characters discuss a fictional “Stab” sequel directed by Knives Out director Rian Johnson, decrying how it diverted the franchise. This is a clear commentary on the internet discourse surrounding Johnson’s Star Wars sequel The Last Jedi, but the film’s dialogue moves at far too fast of a pace to make any real statement about the subject, especially when not a single Scream sequel resembles the major tonal shift that occurred in The Last Jedi, for better or for worse.
From a production standpoint, the film is well-constructed, if a little boring. A well-handled steadicam follows characters through fast-paced and well-lit set pieces, but not many risks are taken to deviate from most of the contemporary horror trends popularized by directors like James Wan and Mike Flanagan.
Though it’s essentially a rehash of its predecessors, as every Scream sequel has been, the ever-present self-awareness and competent filmmaking of Scream (2022) ensures that the latest entry in the series is still fun for both casual moviegoers and long-time fans.