Review by C.J. Bunce
When we think of the big horror franchises, Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street come to mind. But for audiences coming of age in the 1990s, you may need to add Scream to that list. Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, and Skeet Ulrich are back again in the unlucky town of Woodsboro, where the serial killers behind the long “ghostface” mask first made their mark on the town 25 years ago. Another movie delayed by the pandemic, this new Scream delivers goofy slasher horror fun with all the right beats, proving once and for all this franchise is here to stay. Scream is now in theaters and available on streaming platforms including Paramount+ and Amazon Prime.
Shaft, Halloween, Predator, Fast & Furious, Final Destination, Star Wars, Star Trek–all these franchises have proved by repeating movie titles (sometimes twice or adding a “the”) that audiences don’t really care about titles, so long as you deliver the goods. That’s the case for the fifth Scream movie, titled just like the original, Scream. Like the 1996 Scream 25 years ago, the 2022 Scream learned everything from Halloween, the original slasher horror franchise, and its recent sequel trilogy, using all that made the first entry in the franchise popular while only slightly updating it as a 21st century homage–and often a spoof–of itself (yes, the last Star Wars and Star Trek movie trilogy did that, too). Although it doesn’t take itself seriously, this Scream knows all the elements that make a modern horror suspense thriller “requel” work (don’t know the word? It’s explained in the movie). The result, like last fall’s Halloween Kills, is a horror movie fans of the original are bound to enjoy.
This Scream may even be better than the original. It has the best of both worlds, a new cast of interesting characters to take the franchise forward, and the stars of the original (even those who played characters killed in the original). It’s not about whodunnit, but how directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick are going to reveal it all. In this case, it’s by doing everything the same as the Halloween franchise did for Halloween Kills, including bringing everyone back to the town of a crazed serial killer on an auspicious anniversary.
Who is behind the mask this time? Why is he (or she or them) after a high schooler and her sister? Why is everyone in town hooked on the Stab movie franchise, which echoes the “real-life” murders in Woodsboro? Scream will test the bounds of audience’s appreciation for “meta” stories. It’s likely no other movie has taken the idea this far–so far. This means all the rules of slasher movies get revisited. Do they still apply? As characters bash the previous movie installment (the writers mean Scream 4, but in the movie it’s the last Stab) the writers bring back tangent character ties from all four previous entries.
The best feature is that the new stars–and their characters–have enough of what it takes to deliver a promising sequel in 2023. That’s new scream queen screen sisters Jenna Ortega (Iron Man 3, Insidious 2) and Melissa Barrera (In the Heights), and friends played by Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan’s son Jack Quaid (The Hunger Games, Logan Lucky), Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s son Mason Gooding (Star Trek Picard), Jasmin Savoy Brown (Grimm, For the People), Dylan Minnette (Awake, Lost), Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars, Medium), and Mikey Madison (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). There’s talk by the characters about how movies pass the torch to a younger new cast in sequels, and the kids of former movie stars starring in this sequel/requel proves that out in yet another layer of meta quirkiness. And that’s voice actor Roger L. Jackson back as the voice.
It’s the first sequel in the franchise not directed by Wes Craven, who died in 2015.