Movie Review: “Scream” (2022)

I was very excited when a fifth Scream film was officially announced. As anyone who regulars Nightmare Shift can vouch, I am no stranger to the slasher subgenre, and I consider the subgenre’s contribution to the greater whole to be some of the most fun, memorable, and distinct characters overall.

In the mid-90s, it can be argued that the original Scream reinvigorated the worn genre, offering a meta approach and offering a return to mainstream notoriety. In a way, it is poetic how the newest Scream film likely owes debt to the recent Halloween reboots’ success, a series that helped kick the subgenre off altogether. It’s a cyclical ecosystem in which all ships are raised by the rising tides, and, at least, for now, the slasher subgenre is once again relevant.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see the Scream film in theaters in spite making plans for it – offset by being diagnosed with Covid-19, an outbreak that also canceled the Comic Con I was attending that weekend for Mishmashers Publishing. In a grim coincidence, with the March 1st digital release, I find myself watching Scream – again, diagnosed and fighting a bout with Covid (I’ve coughed so much these last couple days I can’t speak a sentence without my voice going out about halfway through).

In spite its name, Scream is a direct sequel to Scream 4, and sees the return of legacy cast members Courtney Cox, David Arquette, and Neve Campbell, as well as a couple others, sprinkled in. This is similar to the recent Halloween reboot, but I actually found this film better earned the otherwise goofy naming decision. This is because, although the film is absolutely a sequel, it sees its former lead characters in supporting roles, with a new cast at the helm.

It is a difficult needle to thread, but I do think the best way for the series to continue and flourish is to eventually step away from the lead trio of protagonists, allowing new blood and new opportunities to arise from that.

Although the film wasn’t directed by the late Wes Craven (the director of all prior installments), Radio Silence‘s Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett are very aware of the film’s roots, having it play an integral role in the film.

Set twenty-five years after the original, a new Ghostface has begun targeting a group of teenagers, all carrying an unapparent link to the original killings.

I could break it down and apply more specifics, but I think, by now, everyone knows about what to expect with the films. Ghostface plays mind games through malicious phone-calls, and gradually picks his victims off one by one. Meanwhile, the characters try to survive and piece together the killers responsible, using a meta explanation for how they rationalize it. For example, what would be the best twist?

Although the characterizations of its characters can sometimes feel extensive and bloated (a lot of backstory I wasn’t as immersed in as I would have hoped), I mostly liked Scream’s new cast of characters. In recent times, the reboot-sequel, or the “re-quel”, as it was called in this film, have seen a mixed-bag of success, but have proven popular.

Last month, I wrote about Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s attempt, which borrowed heavily from Halloween 2018, but wasn’t able to check off the same boxes. Meanwhile, in my review of Halloween, I credited it as one of the best Slasher flicks of the 10s, even if it didn’t do anything new or exciting, so to speak. This new Scream film, I think, has more ambition than either film, wanting, not only to celebrate the original, but breathe life into itself and add new memories.

The slasher segments or ‘kills’ are fun and well-shot, with solid camerawork, a good mix of ideas, and a handful of memorable moments to write home about. The way they incorporated its legacy characters and the new cast, too, I believe, stuck the landing, delivering better than expected results. There were a lot of theories about where they could have went, and many of them were so over-the-top fun I almost would’ve accepted them, I think what they did and how they did it, was the best way to do it.

I liked the Halloween reboot well enough, but I was not incredibly interested in seeing Laurie Strode have it out with Michael Myers again – I’d seen that film. Jamie Lee Curtis had a shorter haircut and the film was named after water, but I’d seen it, and was mostly alright with it. It didn’t matter if it was done significantly better, there would be diminished returns simply based on exposure. This film strikes a better balance at developing new characters and a way to establish their connections, and maintain itself as fun.

The twist? That is, the answer to the whodunnit? The first film had it the best – the crazed psychopaths inspired by film. The second film worked off of that, and was a mixed bag, – the mother of one of the crazed psychopaths. I didn’t love that twist, but I accepted it. The third film’s twist was an absolute train wreck, and the less said about it, the better. The fourth film returns to form, offering a reasonable, well-executed idea. This film, for the most part, feels more like four’s, then, it does any other. At least in terms of my reaction to it. It doesn’t do anything too stupid, but it doesn’t do anything I was actually surprised by in a significant way. I don’t think the “twist” makes these films, per se, but, conveniently, I do find that my thoughts on each twist accurately reflects my rankings of each film.

By the time everything was settled, I dug the Scream film a lot – a lot more than I expected, too.

In a lot of ways, I think many of slasher fans have an unabashed desire for more sequels. We want a new Friday the 13th or a new A Nightmare on Elm Street, but, a lot of the times, deep down inside, we know, honest and truly, it’ll probably suck. I looked forward to the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but when I watched it, and didn’t love it, my expectations were low enough I was able to treat a subpar film as a victory.

This new film achieves more than that. This is a legitimately solid entry in the Scream series (I’m thinking – below Scream and 4, above 2 and 3), and one that makes me excited about the greenlit sequel.

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