“What’s your favorite Scary Movie” roars Ghostface for the fifth time of asking as a new masked fiend targets a new set of movie loving teenagers… Good or bad its like 1996 all over again-literally!”
Its been twenty six years since Casey Becker picked up that phone while making some popcorn and answering a simple Friday the 13th question wrong which resulted in her poor boyfriend Steve getting “gutted like a fish!” and poor Casey herself, ending up swinging from a tree, having suffered from the hands of a new bogeyman in town and her mother screaming in horror at the discovery.
Scream (1996) is a horror masterpiece. I can not tell you just how much I adore the film that the dearly missed Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson created. The impact of its arrival, much like Halloween in the late 70’s, spawned a mini Slasher boom with Ghostface himself getting two quick sequels, the first follow up gaining as much love as its original, while the third is mostly remembered for Courtney Cox’s ghastly haircut than the quality on offer, even though it does have a section of devoted fans.
Scream 4 came out in 2011 and when I originally reviewed it, my four star rating was greeted with many negative comments from fans of the franchise who simply did not share the love that I managed to gather when watching. Even now, eleven years on I will still state that its one of the most underrated slashers of all time and while over the years its rightfully gained more respect from fans, its oddly still considered a flop, an entry that ended any new plans of a new trilogy.
And yet here we are. With the new craze that the likes of Halloween and Candyman have adopted over the last two years, the stupidly titled SCREAM arrives with a huge buzz behind it. This “requel” or “legacyquel” as the new modern horror fans like to say, doesn’t rewrite the past like David Gordan Green has in his trip to Haddonfield, instead it happily sets out to “honour” its own history. Good or bad, its much like The Force Awakens in that it sets out to re-boot the franchise, but holding on to the many elements of its glory days to appease a demanding fanbase.
With his sad death in 2015, this is the first time that a SCREAM film has been made without the deft touch of Craven, but thankfully Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett who delivered one of the best horrors in recent times with Ready or Not, deliver a film that looks like it belongs in the franchise, with even the added touch of the Red Right Hand tune – which was rudely ignored in the 4th film – returning to all its glory, a clear sign that we are back in Woodsboro.
Its clear that Olpin and Gillett have a lot of love and respect for the original and it does shine through in the many love letters that sparkle from the screen, the problem is, is that while their deliver in that aspect, this entry is at times let down by the same old repetitive script that since its own original was a massive influential film, most slasher films have jumped on the bandwagon and parodies have become the norm.
What we have now is a script that is basically poking fun of itself for being aware its post-modern so lets make fun of it being post-modern and as we know we are making a joke of it being post-modern, lets make it even more post-modern. That once cutting edge of Ghostface’s blade is really starting to feel blunt!
Don’t get me wrong, the killer or killers – no spoilers-are one of the most ruthless of the franchise. Brutal killings aplenty, much like Halloween Kills this entry will no doubt find praise and love from the gore-hounds, but not so much for those who are looking for some fun and a great mystery to solve.
One of the reasons why I never liked SCREAM 3 is because I thought the opening segment which is always important to set the mood in this franchise was quite bland and somewhat dull. Sadly SCREAM 2022 follows suit. I was hoping that the glimpses we saw in the trailer release were red herrings and that we would have a proper terrifying intro for the new killer in town and something that will get this generation of fans giddy with horror delight, much like we were when Drew Barrymore appeared on scene.
But sadly its all very stale! The set up is very much similar to the original with a young teenager Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) in the kitchen, the phone rings and yes, its Ghostface asking a very familiar question. The cutting edge dialogue is clearly missing and there is not one ounce of tension as Tara starts to realise just how much danger she is in.
The twist here though and this is the only bit of tiny little spoiler that will be in this review is that Tara actually survives the attack (how is a question that will linger long in your mind through out), but it does set off a chain of events that see’s her sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) arrive back in Woodsboro after a few years away running from a dark family secret and with her loving boyfriend Ritchie (Jack Quaid) in tow, they soon face danger from the notorious local celebrity bogeyman.
When another killing hits the town, Sam and Ritchie decide to go for help and seek out someone who knows how to survive a horror movie and they arrive at the door of Dewey Riley (David Arquette) our cherished deputy and while life hasn’t been kind to our hero who has survived being stabbed nine crazy times, since the last time we saw him, its great to have him back and Arquette actually kills the performance this time.
Gone is the jokey character we have come to expect, this Dewey is played like a tortured soul, a guy who is living his own Happy Death Day loop in that he is destined to live in this murderous town and will always be called upon to fight off the guy in the black gown and white mask.
Of course with Dewey on screen, Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and the film’s franchise lead Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) are too far away and while they all take more of a backseat in the impending chaos, they still play a pivotal role in the plot, more so as the script races away to the eventual third act reveal and mayhem.
Look, there are moments that did really work for me, some I can not write here without spoiling. There is one particular moment that was really surprising and a welcome delight, while there is one brutal killing that had me shaking my head in admiration that this film had the killer instinct to actually go there, but while there are some positives, there are also many flaws that had me feeling we were more in the world of Scream 3 than the delights of the real great sequels.
The constant use of “oooooh is Ghostface hiding behind the now opened door?” is really overplayed to the point that I thought it was a running gag that I didn’t find funny the first time. The film isn’t scary at all, which for a horror film is a massive turn off and there is not one memorable scene that matches the delights of Sydney climbing over the unconscious Ghostface in the police car, to even Scream 4’s brilliant “I didn’t say what door?” set-piece.
The truth is the lack of tension is felt through out, yes there are some great moments that heighten the nostalgic value, but we want a SCREAM film to thrill and spill and this struggles in every department. Even among the new generation of teens, there is no one who will become as memorable as Kirby Reed (keep an eye out for a delightful nod regarding this character), despite an impressive performance by Ortega who really does stand out among the new breed.
The mystery angle also feels all rather sluggish. I admit I had one theory for a good period and while that was to be proven wrong, it wasn’t long before the big reveal that I worked it out, then instead of enjoying what was happening on screen, I was consumed with anger as I wanted be blown away like I have with these films, I wanted that “OH WOW!” moment that I experienced in three of these franchise entries, was it a poorer script or after the fifth time of the guessing game, us fans are now working them out to easily?
The third and final act is way too similar to past glories, further evidence that the makers are more concerned in offering fan service that would be appreciated, than actually setting out a path of their own and the motive and the reasons behind it all, well….its all a bit silly, something we have all heard before, but I am guessing the new horror crowd will lap up the “meta” on offer.
But, despite all the negatives, this is still a SCREAM film and its still wonderful to see Ghostface back on the big screen kicking ass, even though the killer is more clumsy than usual in their approach this time around, spending more time being knocked down than actually being a threatening presence and even if you are a huge fan of this entry, you can’t ignore the obvious cheat ploy of using Ghostface in certain kills which will annoy you massively once the end is played out. You’ll understand that more once watched!
Much like recent Michael Myers return, I am guessing this will spilt the fanbase down the middle, but for me personally and honestly I am a huge SCREAM fan, I left the cinema a tiny bit disappointed at what I saw.
There is one pivotal scene that really hit home, its when Ghostface tries to do their usual big speech to Sydney and she replies “I’ve seen this movie before” and as I sat in the dark of the cinema, I could not help but agree with this beloved character and think to myself “yes we have, but at least parts 1,2 and 4 were better at it….”
Scream 2022 is no where near the low level of its third film and it does have something good to say about the state of modern horror and its toxic fandom, but once the murders have stopped and the killer or killers are apprehended, you can not help but feel that the in-jokes and narrative were masterfully better told in the other Scream from 1996.