Few horror franchises have transcended the genre like Scream did back in 1996. Through a series of sequels, viewers have been treated to blood, societal winks, and a mix of sharp and meta dialogue. Putting all of this on the screen with competency isn’t easy and after the passing of Wes Craven, some thought we’d never see another continuation; or at least a good one. After an opening night screening with many fans laughing and reacting around me, I can say that this is undeniably a good film worthy of the franchise.
Roughly a decade has passed since the last time a masked killer attacked the residents of Woodsboro and a new generation must learn the horrors of landline phones. After an attack on her sister Tara, Sam (Melissa Barrera) returns to town for support and to talk to the local young adults, any of whom could be a suspect. Melissa is great, and the rest of the cast is competent but Tara (Jenna Ortega) stole the show, enduring physically and emotionally in a way that we don’t often see in this franchise unless you’re the final girl.
Speaking of main characters, Scream royalty returns starting with Dewey (David Arquette) giving arguably his best performance as a lonely ex-cop back to living on his own until he’s pulled back into help. The required phone calls and texts pull Sidney (Neve Campbell) and Gale (Courtney Cox) in as well and all of them are still having fun with their characters even if they seem a tad squeezed in. The banter and chemistry is still there and like many good elements, it simply made me want a bit more as the plot zipped forward.
The zipping is both a gift and a curse as there are a few times, especially in the third act where things could’ve been slowed down. Will you guess who the killer(s) are before the end? I’ll admit I did and the motive in this whodunnit will likely cause a divide, but then again, that may be the point. Screenwriters (James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick) wisely embrace the unpredictability of fans, even setting aside scenes to poke at it with a fun meta monologue from newcomer Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown).
In fact, the dialogue and setups are some of the films strongest points. But whether you agree with the ‘why’ the actual horror in this movie is delightfully brutal. Ghostface is at his most serious and it doesn’t come across as silly most of the time. Woodsboro hospitals are in dire need of a security service and there isn’t a lot of investigating crimes this time around. Frankly, I don’t think we’ve ever seen Ghostface this frightening. Directors (Matthew Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett) of Ready or Not acclaim deserve a lot of credit for their aggressive approach and smart camera choices. Scenes set at night are still mercifully clear and after several intense sequences, they cleverly slow down one attack because they’re playing the audience like the best horror directors do.
So hiccups aside, was it worth it? Undoubtedly, yes. However, I’m going to harp on one of my biggest modern movie sins and that is the advertising leading up to the film. Make no mistake, the cast and crew don’t control that but after claims of misdirection throughout the promotion period, I think they gave away too much. It still wasn’t as revealing as the trailers for Halloween Kills but if there’s one thing I suggest to producers for next time: cut it down and don’t play it safe with some of the characters. The audience reaction was strongest during parts they had no knowledge of and those scenes were far and between as several deaths and miraculous survivals were easily guessed which took away some of the impact.
Having grown up with this franchise, I think this film ranks somewhere close to the top, perhaps tied with Scream 2 as the most competent sequel. It’s a rollercoaster ride to be sure. Funny, violent, and doing what all the Scream films have done beautifully, which is to reflect the world around them. Die-hard fans and horror lovers, enjoy. I’ll parrot what others have said: Wes Craven would be proud. This film starts off 2022 with a bang!
Scream is now playing in theaters.
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