Wes Craven’s Scream seemed to be like the slasher to end all slashers. His classic film focused on how the teenagers aware of a horror movie wouldn’t be able to escape the tropes. They might be aware of some of the rules to avoid some pitfalls but still stumble into others.
Minor Scream (2022) Spoilers Below
The mix of dark comedy and classic slasher staging made for a great combo of a parody. It’s a love letter to the genre that scrutinizes it as well. But slashers can’t stay dead and we ended up getting sequels.
Scream marks the fifth film in the series and it’s very aware of itself. It’s even aware of the lazy name, trying to hide the sequel number. The goal seems to be that the film will be so critical of itself that it’ll beat you to the punch, even if it’s a punch directly at itself.
Same Old Slashings
The chaos continues in the small town of Woodsboro. The Ghostface killer is once again on the loose and not much of his/her tactics have changed. He still calls up teens home alone, still questions them about horror movies, and still commits murders with knives.
The latest victim of the serial killer is Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega). She manages to survive the slashing but the town is now buzzing about the return of the killer. It’s enough to make her older sister Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) return home, a prospect she didn’t count on.
We’ve got a host of new teenagers who become both victims and suspects. They use their knowledge of horror movies to try to deduce who is behind the killings. They’ll also try to peer into the past to see if there’s any connection.
Old Dogs, Few New Tricks
Once more, familiar Scream characters grace the screen, complete with shots holding for claps. The final girl Sidney (Neve Campbell) finds herself drawn back to the town. She’ll be a little late but arrives just in time to cock a gun and jump into the investigation’s most brutal conclusion.
Some figures have remained in Woodsboro. Sherrif Dewey Riley (David Arquette) remains but is now a retired drunk. He’ll not only have to step up to prove himself but also repair his relationship with reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox).
For a more recent character, there’s Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton). She’s graduated from becoming a mere officer to the Sherrif of the town. But she’ll have her hands full with this new killer on the loose.
Keeping up with the times, Scream (2022) is very much aware of how slashers are more throwback horror. When Ghostface questions his first victim on horror movie knowledge, she mentions titles like The Babadook and It Follows. The killer then states that’s rather arty.
The other angle the film recognizes is the fans. The film comments on film franchise trends of soft reboots and sequels. One of the more knowing teens cites how there are very specific rules not just for horror movies but sequels as well.
So, once again, the Scream series is criticizing itself. It cites how continuations need to have new and old characters with stories that are familiar but not too familiar. You know, the Goldilocks zone where films are just acceptable enough for the scrutinizing fanbase.
Thankfully, the film never favors this mindset as being right. The real villain of this picture isn’t just one teen desiring fame. Rather, it’s fans of horror movies desiring to gatekeep.
Part of the Scream saga has been the adaptation of the killings into the film series Stab. During these killings, Stab is now on its eighth film and getting silly. The fans are getting angry and want to take action.
Without spoiling too much, the true killers are toxic fans. They hate the route that the Stab franchise has taken and aim to fix it. If there’s a new murder that is the same as the old murders, a classic slasher will be developed to bring things back to basics.
The Winking Killer
While the toxic fandom angle is unique, it’s unfortunately watered down by the meta nature. There is rarely a scene that goes by that isn’t giving a nudge towards the audience. There’s so much ribbing with the writing most audiences are likely to be bruised by the frequency.
There’s all this commentary on horror movies that becomes annoying after a while. Yes, I get that the third act will have some reveals and that legacy characters get dramatic kills. One would think the film would gain some sense of earnestness by an hour into the story.
Solid Kills In Scream (2022)
The best part of Scream (2022) is when it drops its winking and actually becomes a slasher picture. The chases and kills are all brilliantly staged. I particularly dug one kill where Ghostface manages to shove a knife straight through someone’s cheek.
The classic slasher elements work so well that it’s enough to make me wish the film had more faith in itself. Instead, it keeps referencing the external reactions and fandom controversies that it loses nearly all of its tension. The film spends more time talking about finding its way back to classic slasher pictures than ever being one that works on its own two feet.
There are some decent qualities to Scream (2022) but the series is clearly showing its age. It struggles to be the voice of commentary and satire for horror but rarely lands. Most of its time seems to be spent on film franchise jabs than ever delivering the more enticing stabs.
Couple this with some lukewarm performances and you’ve got about half of a good horror movie. It’d be great if the film could be that strong mixture of parody and satire. Unfortunately, the film ends up like that horror nerd who makes a few good points but won’t shut up about rules, studio interference, and how much they hate sequels divorced from the original.
Scream (2022) is currently playing in theaters.