The landmark horror franchise gets a modern update that delivers some of its most intense thrills and clever humor yet
Wes Craven’s Scream franchise pumped fresh blood into the veins of the floundering slasher genre at the end of the 90s and has continued to inspire the horror landscape over two decades later. Effectively satirizing the very genre Craven helped create while also indulging himself in the usual violent thrills associated with it, the horror legend solidified his legacy with the series, with Scream 4 (itself a legacy sequel released over a decade after the previous film) being his final film before his death.
Besides its meta sense of humor, the series has also stood out for its lovable and consistent cast of Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette (a true rarity for horror franchises), its commentary on violence in media, and its murder mystery formula that always manages to stay one step ahead of the audience. But after four films, an anthology television series, numerous stabbings, murders, and previously unknown family members, it’s hard to say where the Scream franchise can be taken next.
This new entry once again comes a decade after the previous film, acting as yet another legacy sequel to the franchise as well as a supposed reboot. While the original cast has returned, this is the first film without Craven directing, Kevin Williamson or Ehren Kruger writing, and the first to not feature a score by Marco Beltrami. Instead, filmmaking duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have taken the reins, with a script from James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick and a score by Brian Tyler.
Diehard fans may understandably have cause for concern with these major changes, but they thankfully don’t have to worry, as Scream 2022 is a very worthy follow-up to Craven’s tetralogy. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett (who were behind 2019’s excellent splatter fest Ready or Not) decide to up the intensity of both the scares and the violence, and it makes for some of the most intense and brutal sequences of the entire franchise. There’s not much in the way of mere suggestion in the film. They want you to see everything, and there are plenty of moments where you’re likely to wince in sympathy with whatever unfortunate victim is getting holes poked in them at the time.
You know how it goes: A young girl named Tara (Jenna Ortega) gets a call from a sadistic murderer with a familiar voice who toys with her and then attacks her wearing a familiar outfit, prompting a series of several murders that bring Dewey Riley (Arquette), Gale Weathers (Cox), and Sydney Prescott (Campbell) back to the town of Woodsboro once again. Tara’s older sister, Sam (Melissa Barrera), returns to her hometown as well, holding a dark secret that explains why Tara was targeted.
The new cast this time around is thankfully filled with genuinely engaging personalities that are given more to do than your average slasher victims. Tara’s high-school friend group (Dylan Minette, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sonia Ammar, Mikey Madison, and Mason Gooding) spend all of their time accusing one another of being the killer and receive the honor of delivering the franchise’s signature style of horror movie riffing and metafictional, self-aware jokes that keep these films feeling smart and never too dismal.
The opening sequence pokes fun at the arthouse dreariness of elevated horror that’s dominated the scene the past few years – Scream is clearly mean slasher gooeyness that isn’t afraid to get goofy with it sometimes. It knows it and it embraces it. The biggest laugh at my screening came from Sam’s tag-a-long boyfriend, Richie (Jack Quaid), knowingly laughing at himself for saying he’ll be right back as he goes down into the basement by himself. My personal favorite scene was Savoy Brown’s character Mindy – a parallel to Jamie Kennedy’s horror movie buff Randy, one of several mirrors to the original film – explaining to everyone how the movie they’re in is neither a sequel nor a reboot, opening up the film’s exploration of fan-driven content and its (depressingly real) potential for radicalization.
The film can fall into the familiar and at times too predictable slasher beats (I think we’ve had enough of fake out jump scares) but the pure and at times cruel intensity of the violence this time make those beats count. They’re sickeningly memorable, and they’re matched with the intensity of the performances from the film’s leading duo of Ortega and Barrera, whose estranged sibling relationship makes for the needed emotionally compelling drama.
Scream 2022 doesn’t think too far outside the box, but these movies are always defined by their third acts, where the blood really starts flying and all of the red herrings and whodunnit clues reveal the true killer behind it all. This one delivers once again, providing a clever take on modern murder motives and media fandom that pairs well with the vicious fun of its final bloodbath. And try as you may to guess, the villain reveal still manages to surprise and be a ton of fun.
Openly commenting on tropes and subversive storytelling while still giving in to the very things you’re supposedly poking fun at isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but then again, this film is ascribing by the solid rule of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It works. This is one of the best Scream sequels on par with Scream 2 or 4, whose shortcomings are mostly made up by its visceral action, fun characters, strong acting, and genuine cleverness. It’s nothing too new, but it is the whole delightfully scary package for fans of one of horror’s best franchises.
‘Scream’ is now playing in theaters.