The Scream franchise has returned for a fifth film and sees a new cast of characters face the notorious killer Ghostface.
Ghostface has remerged and attacks Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) when she’s home alone. This action forces Tara’s estranged sister, Sam (Melissa Barrera) to return to Woodsboro and Sam soon has to find out why Ghostface is after her. Sam’s best hope is working with Tara’s friends and the retired sheriff of the town, Dewey Riley (David Arquette).
1996’s Scream was considered a seminal horror film of the ‘90s and helped revitalise the slasher subgenre. It was known for its self-referential nature and meta-approach. Characters were aware of the rules of slashers and the film played with them. It was also a good slasher film in its own right. Ghostface can stand with Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Kruger as a great slasher killer.
The sequels have all offered commentary about the horror genre and cinema in general. Scream 2 was about the rules of sequels, Scream 3 focused on trilogies and stated all bets were off, and Scream 4 focused on the impact of reboots. Scream (2022) acted as a commentary on legacy sequels, elevated horror, and toxic fandom.
All the Scream films have a scene where a character dissects the rules of their scenario. In Scream (2022)’s case the characters realised they were in a legacy sequel.
In this film one of the characters states the cinematic landscape has changed because nostalgia is king, and franchises have turned to continuations of decades-old films. Terminator, Halloween, and Star Wars were used as examples.
In Scream (2022) a new set of characters take the lead with the legacy characters playing a supporting role. Sam replaced Sidney Prescott as the main character whilst Dewey was like Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens because he was the grizzled veteran who reluctantly agrees to help.
Scream (2022) aimed to be a film that used the tropes of legacy sequels whilst also playing with them. It wasn’t just nostalgia bait.
Scream is a franchise and is known for being subversive, but as the films have progressed, they have developed their own tropes. Scream (2022) had to embrace them, like being aware that it takes a lot to kill Ghostface. However, even with this approach, Scream (2022) did feel same old, same old during its climax. Still fun though.
When Ghostface called Tara she said her favourite film was The Babadook. This shows how much the horror genre has changed since the release of Scream 4. Horror films have become more prestigious and weightier. Scream (2022) aimed to have emotional resonance through Sam and Tara’s relationship.
They obviously had a strained relationship because of Sam’s leaving and Sam wasn’t just acting in her own self-interest, she also had to protect her sister. Sam also had to face up to her own past because she was a teenage tearaway and she had a dark secret that connected her to the original Woodsboro killings. Both Barrera and Ortega did give excellent performances in their roles, and they have long careers ahead of them.
In the previous films Dewey was always a well-meaning but comical character. In the fifth film he was a more grizzled figure who lived alone in a trailer. He was jaded and reluctant to help Sam and her boyfriend but still assists them. Dewey was a damaged character and Arquette gave his best performance in the role because he had so much to work with.
However, many of the friends were not as interesting. Many of them were blank stales like Chad (Mason Gooding) who was the jock, Wes (Dylan Minnette) was the nice kid, and Liv (Sonia Ben Anmar) was so boring even the film drew attention to it.
Amber (Mikey Madison) was given the most to do because she was Tara’s best friend and hostile towards Sam. Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) was also notable because she was the movie geek who broke down the roles and she had an infectious sense of fun.
Scream (2022) was the first film in the franchise not to be directed by Wes Craven, who died in 2015. Ready or Not directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett took over the franchise.
They did an admirable job. Scream (2022) had a more serious tone than the previous films. It was like Ghostbusters: Afterlife which was more like a coming-of-age drama than a horror-comedy.
There were effective scenes like the opening attack where Ghostface sliced and diced Tara. The final act was fun for horror hounds who like the red stuff. The most effective scene was when Ghostface was in the hospital and taunted Sam over the phone as he slowly approached a disabled Tara.
Scream (2022) was a more serious offering in the Scream franchise but still kept the meta-commentary. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett made an effective slasher because audiences can get invested in the characters and their plight. It’s one of the better films in the franchise.