A love letter to the 1996 original Wes Craven classic proves that in an era filled with lazy reboots and “elevated horror”, a good old-fashioned slasher can be just what the Ghostface ordered.
By Sean Blanford
I want to tell you a little about myself. This year I will be turning 39 years old, and I fell in love with horror films when I was thirteen. The 1996 Scream to me was what Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street was a generation before mine and what Psycho was a generation before that. It was a gateway into a genre that would have many iterations and one that I would fall in love with. In 2022, Scream is the fifth movie in the franchise and is the best since the original.
Revisiting Woodsboro for the first time since 2011’s Scream 4, a new group of teens are being stalked and slashed by a new Ghostface killer. When Tara (Jenna Ortega) lives through an attack in the opening moments of the film, her sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) and boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) come from Modesto to check in on Tara’s well-being. Among Tara’s group of friends are Amber (Mikey Madison), twin siblings Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding), Mason’s girlfriend Liv (Sonia Ammar), and Wes (Dylan Minnette). All of whom could be seen as stand-ins for the group in the original that included Rose McGowan, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy, and Skeet Ulrich. Wes is the son of Sherriff Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton, returning from Scream 4). Woodsboro’s past and present meet as the body count begins to climb, and franchise favorites Dewey (David Arquette), Gail (Courtney Cox), and our long-standing final girl Sidney (Neve Campbell) lend whatever help they can to stop this new massacre.
In the hands of Radio Silence collective heads Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Terry Gillet, who brought us the beautifully tongue-in-cheek Ready or Not in 2019, Scream takes the structure of a great slasher and infuses enough comedy to lull the audience into a false sense of security. Much like how the original lambasted what the slasher genre had become while also educating a new generation into “the rules” of horror films, this new version doesn’t shy away from its own brand of commentary. Toxic fandom, changes in technology, and “elevated horror” are all fair game. While I might like or agree with the terminology of “elevated horror,” I felt at home when Tara said her favorite scary movies included some of my recent favorites like The Babadook, It Follows, and The Witch. We both love pretty much anything in the A24 horror catalog.
While there is a lot to love about Scream, moments like one character naming his biceps Hobbs and Shaw or using rhetoric about 4Chan gives the film an instantly dated element. You will also be asked to suspend your disbelief a lot. One particular scene in a hospital will make you wonder how these events could possibly occur. However, these moments are few and far between, and as long as you don’t ask yourself, “how could they survive this” too many times, Scream is that much more enjoyable. Some might also find the abbreviated screen time our “legacy characters” have, but they all get enough to be critical to the film’s story.
Overall, 2022’s Scream is an homage to the original, embracing what that film means to the genre while also being its own film. 2018’s Halloween decided to ask you to forget everything about the original sequels and follow a new timeline. Scream doesn’t want you to forget what came before it. From returning to Stu Macher’s house to the Nick Cave Red Right-Hand needle-drop, this is a satisfying extension to the franchise. To go into too much detail would be a disservice, and hopefully, a new generation of horror fans will discover through this latest version just how amazing the films that came before it were. Just make sure when you leave to get more popcorn, don’t tell who you’re with that you’ll be right back.
Grade: 4.25/5 (A-)