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Scream (2022) Movie Review

Scream (2022) movie poster Scream

Theatrical Release: January 14, 2022

Running Time: 114 Minutes

Rating: R

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Writers: James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick (screenplay): Kevin Williamson (characters)

Cast: Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers), David Arquette (Dewey Riley), Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Marley Shelton (Deputy Judy Hicks), Melissa Barrera (Sam Carpenter), Jenna Ortega (Tara Carpenter), Dylan Minnette (Wes Hicks), Jack Quaid (Richie Kirsch), Jasmin Savoy Brown (Mindy Meeks-Martin), Sonia Ammar (Liv McKenzie), Mikey Madison (Amber Freeman), Mason Gooding (Chad Meeks-Martin), Kyle Gallner (Vince Schneider), Reggie Conquest (Deputy Farney), Chester Tam (Deputy Vinson)


To some degree, all Miramax films from late last century and early this one seem tainted. All those awards they won practically warrant an asterisk, as if they were part of the spell that Harvey Weinstein cast over the industry and the world while in private he raped and assaulted actresses and hopefuls to decades of inexplicable silence. I’m sure many of the people who made the films would now prefer you missing the credits entirely than seeing his name and have your mind turn from the film you’re watching to topics like abuse, power, and overdue reckoning.

Scream, however, is somehow alleviated of this burden, even though one of Weinstein’s highest profile accusers and most vocal critics is billed fifth in it. Though it credits Harvey and his brother Bob as producers, Scream stands today, a quarter-century removed from its Christmas 1996 opening as a landmark in horror cinema and the genre high mark for a generation. Whereas teens of the ‘70s and ‘80s had Halloween,
Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and too many sequels to recall, teens of the late ‘90s had Scream and then a whole mess of other horror movies that channeled its mix of irony and pop culture savviness to heighten their thrills.

Scream rung in a career revival for director Wes Craven, a genre-seasoned vet best known for scripting and helming the original 1984 Nightmare. It also provided a career launchpad for screenwriter Kevin Williamson, who used his awareness of horror movie tropes to ride the subsequent boom on to other hits like I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Faculty and on the side earned financial security and long-lasting admiration as the creator of the six-season WB teen drama “Dawson’s Creek.” Scream sequels were as inevitable as follow-ups to any horror hit and yet the two that quickly came did not eliminate fans’ goodwill, a tough act to pull off in a genre whose fans are passionate yet hard to please. Even the fourth, arriving more than a decade later in 2011, brought back Craven and the original cast and continues to command a moderate amount of respect.

The fifth "Scream" movie opens with a new Ghostface attacking Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega).

And so this fifth film in the franchise, curiously titled just Scream, invites only about as much skepticism in genre fans as one of Richard Linklater’s Before sequels arriving after a similar hiatus did from the arthouse crowd. Yes, this is the first installment untouched by Craven, who passed away in 2015 at age 76. And yes, it opens in January, traditionally a dumping ground month for studios, instead of the far more competitive December weekends the first two chapters braved. And yet, the series marches on with surprising and satisfying grace. COVID may have shook your existence and undoubtedly the act of moviegoing and yet there is still both demand and supply for clever, funny slasher films.

At the helm this time out are Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, a duo that graduated from low-budget found footage fare (2012’s V/H/S) to a studio dud (2014’s The Devil’s Due) to apparent redemption (2019’s well-regarded Ready or Not). They have the privilege of reteaming with their Ready or Not collaborators, accomplished producer James Vanderbilt and co-writer Guy Busick, who share screenplay credit here. The script is the foundation of much of the franchise’s success, with Williamson establishing a high standard with his twisty, sly original script that embraced the imitative nature of horror cinema instead of trying to hide or ignore it. Vanderbilt and Busick do that again here early, often, an skillfully. It’s more or less expected that the movie must open with an attractive young woman getting an upsetting phone call from someone she doesn’t recognize. In this case, it’s Tara (Jenna Ortega), a teenager whose expectations of a fun unsupervised night of underage drinking are quickly shattered by a knife-wielding home intruder in the infamous Ghostface mask.

Despite its unnumbered title, this fifth Scream rightly expects it’s not your introduction to the franchise, but also doesn’t require an intimate knowledge of the four prior installments. It leans upon them as a useful weapon in its arsenal, not a crutch or cheap ploy for easy nostalgia. Sensibly bringing back Neve Campbell as original target Sidney Prescott, Courteney Cox as reporter Gale Weathers, and David Arquette as deputy-turned sheriff-turned grizzled retiree Dewey Riley, Scream complements its teen-centric thrill ride with the perspectives and wisdom of past traumas. In this world, the real Woodsboro murders are best known from their dramatization in the Stab movies, which mostly correspond with our Scream movies. The fake franchise has had a few more sequels including a latest one the fans are not happy with.

Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox are back for another go in 2022's "Scream."

Our focal teens all have some working knowledge of the movies and the real local horrors they reflect. That means these new killings are copycat crimes and any one or two of them could be the killer(s). Our attentions and sympathies mostly remain with Tara,
who prefers “elevated horror” like The Babadook, her estranged older sister Sam (In the Heights' Melissa Barerra), and Sam’s boyfriend/bowling alley coworker Richie (Hunger Games alumnus and Dennis’s son, Jack Quaid).

The film keeps us guessing throughout, never revealing its answers too soon by giving us a push towards or away from the killers. The murders, another integral component of both the series and the subgenre, are brutal and inspired. The returning cast members are well-utilized and easy to root for. It’s almost impossible to believe that Cox in this movie is just two years younger here than Jamie Lee Curtis was in 2018’s Halloween. That movie, a “requel” in this film’s appealing vernacular, is the perfect comparison point for this project and Scream bests it in every way imaginable. The two franchises are, as acknowledged here, quite similar at their cores and it’s no coincidence that the principal sisters here share a surname with the original Halloween creator John Carpenter.

But whereas that autumnal tradition struggles to keep its boogeyman Michael Myers alive and an active threat, Scream deftly uses its premise and lore to expand and develop and subvert. There are another eleven years of horror movies to take cues from and many of the standouts secure a loving reference here. But if seeing and referencing other movies was enough to win over moviegoers, then those millennial spoofs Disaster Movie, Date Movie, etc. would not be among the most lowly regarded films of our time. The directors, writers, cast, and crew assembled here all deserve credit for taking a franchise that should feel long in the tooth and making it as fresh, vibrant, and relevant as ever. The new Scream is not just good by the low standards of January debuts and horror movie sequels. It’s just a good movie, plain and simple, and probably the most entertaining one we get over the next few months.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Spider-Man: No Way HomeThe King's Man
From the Directors: The Devil's Due
'90s Horror: The Faculty

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Reviewed January 11, 2022.

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