January 14th, 2022
STARRING: NEVE CAMPBELL, MELISSA BARRERA, JENNA ORTEGA, COURTNEY COX, DAVID ARQUETTE, MARLEY SHELTON
DIRECTED BY: MATT BETTINELLI-OLPIN, TYLER GILLETT
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
When Wes Craven passed away, his style of horror, his brilliant brand of commentary on what the genre meant, all of that was taken with him, but of course the memory still remains. The idea of a new Scream movie being made without him still seems wrong, but as fans clamor for more of the things they love, and studios lean on old properties to bring in money, so arrives this newest installment to the slasher series. Although the architect is not behind the camera, there’s still a great amount of respect for the movies that went before, and more good slasher scares to be had. And with a new batch of high school kids in the town of Woodsboro to traumatize, plenty of meta talk about the rules of scary movies, and the traumatic murders that altered the life of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) always lingering, this new Scream knows how to cut deep.
In typical Scream fashion, it begins with high school teen Tara Carpenter (played by Jenna Ortega and a nice nod to the Halloween director with that last name is my guess), alone at home, texting on the phone with friend Amber (Mikey Madison), when all of a sudden the house landline begins to ring like crazy. Then Amber’s text messages begin telling Tara to pick up the phone or her friend dies, and when she does, the gravelly altered voice on the other end is asking, “what’s your favorite scary movie?” The fear escalates quickly and the famous ghostface killer is attacking and slashing her stomach. The violent attack prompts Tara’s sister Sam (Melissa Barrera from In the Heights) to come back to Woodsboro, along with boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid), to help look after Tara in the hospital. The question is why Tara? And who is behind this? Soon other bodies start piling up and it’s not just a random attack, but a new copycat, a sick person hoping to make a mark in this town’s history of connected murders. It could be anyone, including various high school friends, but after a connection with the past events involving Sidney Prescott, Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette), that’s when everyone must come back together to stop this new version of the ghostface killer.
What’s the most impressive about this installment of Scream is how much fun it’s having, poking fun at the horror genre, with characters referencing films such as It Follows or Hereditary, but also riffing on the Stab series in its own Scream universe. It also uses the meta movie plotlines to relate to cinemas current culture of fandom. A character states, “The fans don’t want reboots, but something fresh, but not different from what we saw before, and bring back the legacy characters too.” Writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, find a way to cover it all, turning the entire collection of Scream movies into their own little nesting doll. And if the meta commentary isn’t working for viewers, the narrative still remembers that it’s the slashing, the terrifying cuts, and bloody knives that make this brand of horror work.
Where the new Scream falters a bit is in various clunky moments, where characters look awkward in their place, or maybe the expertise of Wes Craven would have made it work better. I don’t say it proudly, but I predicted the killers quite early on, and although that’s not hard to do, I would say directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett could have found a better way to shield all of the characters they had, creating a darker veil of mystery. Similar to their last film Ready or Not, what the directors do succeed at is the films climactic third act, which builds up fast, and once various characters are stuck in a place of terror, it had me on the edge of my seat. It’s those last ten minutes of Scream that reel you in and make it clear that no character is off limits to meeting their demise.
By the end for me, Scream lands in the middle of the pack of the series, which is not a bad thing, because I more or less enjoy all that the Scream movies offer. Even this one succeeds at implementing Campbell, Cox, and Arquette in their own organic ways to the story, while reminding, that yes, Neve Campbell is still to this day one of the horror genres most unstoppable final girls. Her presence, that classic pacing, the iconic ghostface mask, and the self-reflecting beats of a Scream movie are all present once more. What matters most, is that this movie is an addition to the series that Wes Craven would be proud of. That’s a statement I am sure of. This Scream is a perfect slice.
SCREAM IS ONLY IN THEATERS FRIDAY JANUARY 14TH, 2022
Written by: Leo Brady