‘Scream’ (2022) is a ‘requel’ that’s ripe with charm and slashes of nostalgia

Boyce Rucker, Staff Writer

Eleven years after the release of its fourth installment, Wes Craven’s “Scream” franchise makes a triumphant return in “Scream” (2022). As a series known for its metacommentary and satirical spin on horror clichés and stereotypes, the new entry uses this feature to great advantage and maintains a unique freshness. Directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett inherited the franchise from Craven, who passed away in 2015. While the film is dedicated to Craven, the two introduce new characters and ideas to the franchise that remain faithful to the late filmmaker’s legacy. As being part of a cross-generational franchise, the film blends together Generation Z culture elements and classical conventions of slasher horror films. The result is an installment that is nostalgic, yet fresh and presents enough twists to not become a cliché itself.

Twenty-five years after the events of the original film, the Ghostface killer resurfaces in Woodsboro, targeting victims who are related to past franchise characters. After teenager Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) is the first to be attacked in a revived killing spree, her estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera), accompanied by her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid), returns to Woodsboro to find the killer. Sam and Richie enlist the help of former hero cop Dewey Riley (David Arquette) to help discover the killer’s identity. But to discover the truth, the trio must consider that everyone connected to Tara could possibly be the killer. As the stakes rise and secrets come to light, original Ghostface survivors Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) find themselves back in the nightmare scenario they have encountered several times before.

Jenna Ortega in Scream (2022). (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin/Paramount Pictures)

Like its predecessors, the film utilizes metacommentary to highlight cinematic horror concepts. This time around, the film takes aim at toxic fandoms and franchise fatigue. The series mythologizes the past films’ events as the “Stab” franchise, which is the principle source the characters go to when figuring out clues or making predictions. In some cases, the predictions are right on the nose, with near recreations of key events from past films, but also deviates in surprising ways to keep us guessing. 

The film is very self-referential, making note of its place in Hollywood as one of the few long-running slasher franchises amid a generation of more psychological horror films like “The Babadook” or “Hereditary.” As the film pokes fun at itself, it plays with viewers’ expectations brilliantly. A slasher franchise and its tropes feel dated nowadays, as we can easily guess what happens next, but “Scream” takes creative liberties and acknowledges these tropes, reminding us of its prowess in metacommentary. One darkly humorous scene features multiple jump scare fake-outs as we watch a character perform trivial tasks, with the shots framed in a way to make us anticipate jump scares that never happen. It does not strive to be overly different or over-reliant on its own predecessors to please one side of the fandom, nor does it feel like an obvious launch pad for more films. It instead strikes a balance of both old and new elements to create a unique product that respects the elements of Craven’s films.

Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Melissa Berrera in Scream (2022). (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin/Paramount Pictures)

“Scream” shares parallels with the 1996 film’s focus on teenage characters, citing a contrast between generation Z and generation X. If we look back to the older installments, they featured callbacks to horror films like “Halloween” (1978) and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984) when the characters would call out clichés while searching for clues. Here, we can recognize the evolution of horror cinema during the franchise’s traditional phone call opening. When Ghostface asks Tara what her favorite scary movie is, she responds with “The Babadook,” noting the film’s deeper meaning. Every film has meaning somewhere, but if we were to look back on older horror films from the ‘80s or ‘90s, we may still find a theme that may not resonate with us in the same way it did for viewers back then. 

In the age of modern cinema, noteworthy horror films are given attention for their thematic context, such as “Get Out” and “Midsommar.” Aside from social context, modern cinema relies less on gore or gratuitous violence and instead leans on psychological elements. Furthermore, whereas the original film’s characters took the “rules” of horror slightly seriously, the new characters seem to disregard them and laugh them off at a few points. Although we may not find the older tropes of horror as effective or thrilling today, “Scream” reminds us that the slasher genre can still be thrilling and bone-chilling in some cases.     

Scream (2022). (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin/Paramount Pictures)

This may be one of the bloodiest and unsettling films of the franchise so far. The “Scream” franchise’s horror violence may feel simplistic as a whole on the basis of the killer just being a knife-wielding maniac, but the violence here is possibly the most brutal it has been since the original film. The deaths all have bloody and disturbing results, but their weight is amplified by the characters’ connections to the franchise or to each other. The film is not entirely gruesome, however, as some of the film’s violent moments feature instances of dark meta comedy from its characters, as staple of the original films that carries over well here.

The film maintains the franchise’s feel of a mystery story and retains the horror elements that make it unpredictable. Each character is given much to do and, played charmingly by their respective performers, they have enough depth to them that makes us consider them as suspects as well. Tara’s friends Wes (Dylan Minnette), siblings Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), Amber (Mikey Madison) and Liv (Sonia Ben Ammar) are the characters we follow for much of the film. Each character is considered a suspect at some point of the story. As the film narrows down the list of suspects, the stakes rise as more knowledge surfaces. The dialogue and writing provide great clues to the killer’s identity and a few misdirections given the meta aspect, but the greatest strength lies in how certain lines are enhanced or take on new meaning after watching the film.

David Arquette in Scream (2022). (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin/Paramount Pictures)

Each installment of the “Scream” franchise boasts a great cast playing eccentric characters, which often contributes to the excellence behind each film aside from the metacommentary. The same can be said here for the new cast mates and returning cast members. Arquette, Campbell and Cox play their characters as well as they did in 1996. The trio continues to portray their characters with zeal, but with an additional fatigue that fits the characters given their history and circumstances over the course of the franchise. As the original trio’s screen time is lesser in comparison to the new characters, the cast carries the film exceptionally well. Barrera and Ortega share a down-to-earth characteristic as siblings with a troubled past, like Campbell’s Sidney, making both of them great potential leads for the franchise if it were to continue. Quaid’s charm and comic relief shines through as Richie, one of the film’s best additions to the franchise. The supporting cast of high school characters is also played well as some of them are callbacks to some of the franchise’s characters, but they never seem like imitations or copycats.

“Scream” is a strong revival of the revered slasher franchise. It expertly mixes the feel of modern horror with the series’ signature metacommentary to deliver an entry that maintains the DNA of Wes Craven’s franchise. As far as Wilmington productions go, this is another great one to add to the watchlist soon.