‘Scream’ Review: A Safe but Satisfying Enough Slasher Sequel
By Daniel Rester
After horror master Wes Craven sadly passed away in 2015, fans wondered what would become of the Scream movie series. Sure, they had the TV series to watch for a bit, but that show could never meet the heights of the films. Excitement and nervousness was in the air when it was finally announced a fifth film was coming from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who made the excellent Ready or Not (2019). While their new sequel, simply titled Scream (a nudge at recent “requels”), never matches Craven at his best, it does pay respect to the director and the series in entertaining ways.
The plot begins with a phone call and an attack by Ghostface like they always do, this time on teen Tara (Jenna Ortega). This sparks Tara’s estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) to come back to Woodsboro, with her boyfriend Richard (Jack Quaid) coming as support. The two meet up with Dewey Riley (David Arquette), now alone in a trailer, in order to get his support in finding out who Ghostface is. Eventually Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) are dragged back into the mix as well. And that’s all I’ll say about the plot so as not to spoil anything.
Scream 2022 revamps the series with a fun cast, thrilling kill scenes, meta commentary, and a whodunit plot, all staples of the series. With such elements, directors Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett and writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick certainly make the film look, sound, and feel like a Scream movie on the surface. A lot of it works, but the boldness of Craven and the cleverness of Kevin Williamson (writer of the first, second, and fourth entries) are missed at times. These new filmmakers simply play it too safe outside of a couple of risky swings while I kept wishing they would push the shock and surprise factor up a few notches.
Arquette effortlessly slips back into the role of the likable Dewey and gets more to do than Campbell and Cox. The three of them become supporting “legacy characters” this time around, so ultimate final girl Sidney is no longer the center of attention – and mostly feels shoehorned into the story. This allows us to spend more time with the new faces, but Sam is no Sidney, and Sam’s characterization becomes more awkward than fascinating as the writers attempt adding some layers to her.
Barrera tries her best as Sam but is outshined by some of the supporting actors. Quaid is particularly entertaining as Sam’s clueless boyfriend, who tries to research the “Stab” movies in order to gain some survival knowledge. The cast also includes young talents like Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Kyle Gallner, and Jasmin Savoy Brown. They all bring energy to their supporting characters, though I wish they had a bit more to do at times than just reference the past events of the other movies.
The references are thick here. The Scream franchise has always had plenty of meta jabs at both the horror genre and the previous Scream films. While some of the winks work in this film, the film also stalls at times as it becomes too in love with the original picture and some of the humorous dialogue comes across as clunky. Craven and Williamson enjoyed their nudges, but they always made sure to keep things brisk, snappy, and scary first. The writers and directors of Scream 2022 comment on requels and fandom, but it plays out in obvious and easy ways too often.
Though I wished it tried harder on the whole with its story, Scream is still an enjoyable time for slasher fans overall. The kills are occasionally wild, with one involving a stove being a standout. The opening scene and some hospital scenes are also really intense. Brian Tyler does a fine job of filling in for Marco Beltrami on the music side of things too. The editing by Michael Aller helps with the playfulness of the suspense as well, especially with a kitchen scene that pokes fun at the setup trope of “someone is behind that door.”
Scream 2022 isn’t as mediocre as Scream 3 (2000), but it also isn’t as strong as Scream (1996), Scream 2 (1997), and Scream 4 (2011). The film is entertaining and the cast and crew do a solid job here, but they keep going for simple body jabs too often when they should be going for the jugular. Ghostface works better when he moves in fresh directions and cuts deep.
My Grade: 7/10 (letter grade equivalent: B)
Running Time: 1h 54min