‘Scream’ movie review: gory 2022 “requel” a meta throwback to Wes Craven original

The Scream series comes full circle in 2022’s Scream, or more fittingly Scream 5, a sequel-slash-reboot of Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher classic that pays homage to the original film and its story while introducing a new generation of characters to a new generation of viewers.

Half-reboot, half-sequel, the film’s characters term this kind of reheated nostalgia a ‘requel’, but the depth to which the filmmakers are willing to go down the meta rabbit hole turns the latest Scream into a genuinely fun ride, and possibly the best in the series after the first.

Scream 5 stars Jenna Ortega as high school student Tara Carpenter, home alone and stalked by the ghostface killer in Scream’s franchise-standard opening scare. But here, there’s a (small) twist: Tara manages to survive the attack. Hospitalized with serious injuries, estranged older sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) heads back to Woodsboro to come to her aid.

Some skeletons in the Carpenter family closet are responsible for the attack, and soon Sam and boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) are deep into lore behind the Woodsboro murders and the Stab movie franchise that they inspired, which is now up to number eight.

Sam and Richie rope retired Deputy Dewey Riley (David Arquette) back into the fold, and with news that the ghostface killer has returned, reporter Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox) and survivor Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) soon follow. Other characters from Scream sequels, including Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton) and Martha Meekes (Heather Matarazzo) are also around for this redux.

The irony of the Scream movies, in which the killer asks “do you like scary movies?” is that they’re never really scary. The opening scene is always terrifying; it was what inspired scribe Kevin Williamson to write the original film (after watching a report on the Gainesville Ripper while alone at home) and has since inspired real-life killers to torment their victims.

But the bulk of the Scream movies after that opening? Instead of the horror tropes that they self-consciously invoke, the Scream flicks tend to follow a well-worn mystery narrative borrowed from Agatha Christie or Scooby-Doo: there’s a small cast of characters and a guessing game as to who’s the killer while they’re knocked off one-by-one.

Scream 5 is no different, which is a shame considering its talented young cast doesn’t get a whole lot to do. Tara’s friend group consists of bestie Amber (Mikey Madison), wannabe-boyfriend Wes (Dylan Minnette), bad girl Liv (Sonia Ammar), horror movie aficionado Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), and her brother Chad (Mason Gooding), and it’s implied from their very first scene together that one of them is the killer. There’s also Kyle Gallner in a throwaway role as Liv’s summer fling, but he gets even less to do than the others.

This latest entry in the Scream franchise feels more graphic and blood-soaked than the films that preceded it, which is no small feat given the first movie’s intro with Drew Barrymore set a standard of sorts for mainstream slasher movie violence. There’s an almost fetishistic quality to some of the stabbings here, with knives thrust towards flesh slowly and methodically; one shot of a blade entering one side of a throat and being slowly pushed out the other is especially unsettling stuff, and recalls some of the violence in David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills.

But one of best scenes in Scream 5 involves a slow-burn scare setup as Minette’s Wes, fresh out of the shower, walks around the kitchen and prepares the table for a sushi dinner. The filmmakers draw out the inevitable – Wes opens and closes three doors as the camera teases us with what might appear behind them – but there’s something scarier than the ghostface killer in this scene. We’re more apprehensive about what Wes will find if he opens the front door, a gruesome scene that hits closer to home than any jump scare could.

Minor quibble: unlike a Halloween or Friday the 13th, we know (probably) that the killer here is one of these dumb teens, and yet the person behind the mask seems to be superhuman. They’re killing police officers in broad daylight, making breathless escapes as sirens descend on their position, and even coming back from the dead.

While this Scream is no breath of fresh air in its wink-wink self-awareness – Ghostbusters: Afterlife and The Matrix Resurrections, both now playing in Prague cinemas, have attempted to pull off the exact same thing – it’s a lot more relevant in its commentary.

The entire concept of the Scream franchise is in breaking down familiar horror movie tropes, and this one attacks remake-reboot-nostalgia culture with the same piercing satire. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett made one of 2019’s best horror films in Ready or Not, and they’ve started 2022 off on a strong note here.

Scream

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

6 Responses

  1. As a fan of the original ‘Scream’ franchise, I was excited to dive into the 2022 “requel,” and boy, did it deliver! This gory and meta throwback to Wes Craven’s masterpiece pays homage to the classic while bringing fresh twists and scares. The film blends self-awareness, suspense, and a stellar cast to create a thrilling and nostalgic experience. If you’re a fan of the slasher genre and the original ‘Scream,’ this “requel” is a must-see. It’s a blood-soaked love letter to horror fans everywhere.

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