Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (also known as ‘Radio Silence’) — Screenplay by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick.
What’s your favorite scary movie? That question instantly makes me think of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s 1996 horror movie modern classic Scream, which revitalized the horror slasher genre while commenting on tropes in a really clever and funny way. The so-called Ghostface killer, dressed in black from head-to-toe except for his white mask that appears to be inspired by Edvard Munch’s unforgettable painting (The Scream), asked that exact question to a nervous teen back in the 1996 picture, and the question has since become quite iconic. And, just for the record, my favorite scary movie franchise has, in fact, always been Craven and Williamson’s Scream meta-slasher series of films.
Although the third and fourth films are, admittedly, not nearly as good as the first two modern slasher classics, I have been of the opinion that there are no bad Scream films, and, frankly, I think the latest sequel continues that trend. 2022’s Scream — intentionally not titled Scream 5, even though it is a direct sequel to the previous film — is, however, the first film in the franchise to have been made without director Wes Craven’s involvement. The film is dedicated to Craven, who passed away in the summer of 2015, though.
To continue the franchise — revitalize it, in fact — Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group turned to horror filmmakers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who are also known as members of the filmmaking group ‘Radio Silence’. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett made names for themselves with the wildly entertaining and very successful Samara Weaving-led comedy horror film Ready or Not. As a fan of this franchise, it makes me very happy to say that they’ve shepherded the franchise well here. Scream 2022 is terrific.
Bettinelli-Olphin and Gillett’s Scream takes place 25 years after the events of the original film and begins, as these films always do, with a Ghostface killer attack. While home alone, Tara Carpenter (played by Jenna Ortega), a teenage high school student, toyed with and viciously attacked by the masked killer. When her older sister, Sam (played by Melissa Barrera), learns this information, she and her boyfriend, Richie (played by Jack Quaid), rush back to Woodsboro, where they meet Tara, and her friends, at the local hospital. As more attacks start to happen, Sam decides to contact Dewey Riley (played by David Arquette), who knows the Ghostface pattern better than most, to find out how they can survive these attacks, prevent more killings, and stop the Ghostface killer.
There are always things to spoil in a Scream film. They are essentially the slasher equivalent of murder mystery movies. So, I’m going to try to tiptoe around some details as I continue to talk about this movie, which both, like the very best Scream films, has something on its mind and has a lot of fun with its own clever self-referential ideas. This film is a legacyquel — a ‘legacy sequel,’ i.e. a continuation (often with new main characters and supporting legacy cast-members) of a previous film that takes place a long time after the events of the original film — and it, quite appropriately, spends a lot of time, in one of my favorite scenes in the film, trying to explain the rules of these kinds of films. Jasmin Savoy Brown (Yellowjackets) has basically taken over as the new film buff and trope explainer, which was a role that Jamie Kennedy’s character had in earlier films.
Scream 2022 deals with legacyquels quite a bit, and it even makes fun of the term ‘elevated horror,’ which is a phrase that irks some horror movie enthusiasts. If you, like me, know these terms well, you’re going to have a lot of fun with these scenes, as the film is basically in direct conversation with film fans. The film also isn’t unafraid of making a little bit of fun of fandom, but it does so in smart ways. I was particularly impressed by the way the film weaves the theme of toxic fandom into the plot. With Scream 2022, the writing is as self-referential, fun, and provocative (it doesn’t hold back as much as I feared it would) as fans would want it to be.
I was also quite impressed and surprised by just how brutal and grisly some of the Ghostface scenes were. There is a memorable sequence in broad daylight, the film doesn’t ever hold back the violence, and sometimes it even takes its time to build up both tension and brutality. I also had a lot of fun with how the film would try to tease audience with presumed jump-scares. Admittedly, some times the attacks are a bit too obvious, but most of the time I thought they were inventive and even modern.
Sometimes legacyquels can be overwhelmed by how they make use of legacy characters, but I was pleased with the amount of time characters like Neve Campbell’s Sidney, Courteney Cox’s Gale, and David Arquette’s Dewey (the principal legacy characters in the film) were used. None of them outstay their welcome, but Cox is used particularly sparingly. I thought that Arquette really delivered a strong performance here as a broken man, while Campbell also did a good job of returning to her iconic role. She and Arquette don’t miss a beat. The new cast is uniformly solid with Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, and Jasmin Savoy Brown being the most memorable members of the new cast.
The very best films in the Scream film series have their fingers on the pulse of the industry, and that is also the case with Bettinelli-Olphin and Gillett’s fantastic new Scream (or Scream 5, as I will probably refer to it going forward). The film is funny but brutal, as well as clever and provocative as it comments on the legacyquel trend (and toxic fandom). It fits right into the existing franchise and is probably now the third-best film in the series.
8.5 out of 10
– Review Written By Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.