From the onset, the fifth installment in the infamous Scream franchise establishes a familiar tone. We see a young woman alone in a massive house, when the phone rings. The sinister voice on the other end, once again reprised by franchise veteran Roger L. Jackson, toys with her. He makes her play a game which effectively serves as Scream 101, answering questions about the franchises history via it’s film-within-a-film, Stab. The film Stab echoes the events of the original 1996 film. Scream works so well not only for its poignant, meta commentary on the state of horror movies, but also that it is just a really fun slasher flick. Wes Craven’s Scream was a surprise hit. It spawned three sequels, all directed by Craven, all of which play out to frustrating results.
This time, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, two-thirds of the group known as Radio Silence, are at the helm. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet’s “re-quel” manages to deftly balance the laughs and the kills better than the previous three installments. The previous three’s sins revolved around building lore, and deepening the back story. Radio Silence’s version attempts to capture the feel of the original Scream, which it often does. Still, nothing about Scream, the 2022 version, feels distinctly original. Nevertheless, this new installment packs in a fresh young cast, mixed with the franchises veterans, to an overall satisfying result.
Scream (2022) begins with the aforementioned girl-in-a-house trope as Tara (Jenna Ortega) is the stand in for Ghostface’s next opening scene victim. But, even with that scene, the movie takes a new direction. Shortly after the opening sequence, we learn Tara has survived. It sets in motion a plot that will certainly feel familiar not just to Scream fans, but to horror fans in general.
As expected, a new generation of Woodsboro residents begins to realize that Ghostface is back, and is creating a “re-quel”. This summons the iconic trio of original cast members into the spotlight again to help put an end to this iteration of Ghostface. Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox all return to help our new young group of teens. The casting feels right on as they all have tremendous chemistry. Jack Quaid and Melissa Barrera in particular stand out here. But, Jenna Ortega is also quite good, and Jasmin Savoy Brown steals many of the scenes she is in. The casting is certainly meant to echo versions of some of the films original characters which mostly works. But it is quite obvious who mirrors who.
Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet’s prior film Ready or Not certainly in retrospect feels like a tryout for this movie. The kills are really well done and manage to be shocking which really stands out in a franchise full of unremarkable slasher sequences. They are able to build an atmosphere of tension in line with the original. What the sequels screenplay’s lacked in creativity, this version makes up for. James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick’s screenplay winks at the audience like original does, but still manages to be earnest, and just as clever.
All of these aspects certainly made Ready or Not stand out. But the Radio Silence crew’s ability to understand what made the original so fun and unique, is what makes this version ultimately work as well as it does. It is full of blood, high schoolers being dumb and of course, meta commentary on the current state of fandom. The commentary on fandom in the movie does ultimately feel heavy handed.
Their true accomplishment here though is updating this story for a new generation of fans, without making it a direct copy. It truly feels like a movie that stands alone, a rarity in the franchise game these days. A newcomer would never feel lost within the lore of the film. Perhaps that was the ultimate goal here for the folks of Radio Silence and the screenwriters. It’s impossible to know what Craven would think about this iteration of the franchise as he passed away in 2015. One would think based on the finished product, Craven would have enjoyed this film. Scream (1996) seemed to be the perfect intersection of Craven’s exploration of metafictional satire and the blurred lines of reality and dreams. The latter a concept he worked into his seminal horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Scream (2022) explores these things in a way that certainly echoes Craven’s style. This new version doesn’t surpass Craven’s original, which it should also be mentioned was accompanied by a wonderfully clever script from Kevin Williamson. But I’m not sure it needs to, or even could surpass the original. For a generation of people, the 1996 film was a phenomenon. This one likely isn’t bound for the same status. Yes, it is very obvious, formulaic and from the beginning you can tell exactly where it is leading you. But, so did the original. This is Scream for a new generation. And, for the folks already on board, it is a return to form.