While humorous and nostalgic, 'Scream' (2022) sadly sacrifices good writing for modernization
There is an expectation among moviegoers that sequels must be original while maintaining iconic aspects of the previous films; that is especially true with a franchise like “Scream,” which has become a darling of both horror movie buffs and superfans. This, however, is no easy feat.
Horror movie sequels often lack the same je ne sais quoi that the originals have due to overused tropes, predictable jump scares and a new cast that struggles to rival the original gang. “Scream”(2022) – the franchise’s fifth film – falls into a similar boat: it attempts to renew a franchise for younger generations while incorporating OG castmates but is ultimately a dissatisfying end for Ghostface enthusiasts.
After the death of the franchise’s creator, Wes Craven, fans speculated how the fifth “Scream” film would proceed. Would it continue as yet another unnecessary sequel torturing our poor heroine, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell)? For better or — in my opinion — worse, the new film attempts to become a “re-quel”, meaning that the original cast appears alongside new characters in a bid to modernize the franchise while keeping Craven’s original themes.
The film opens with Tara (Jenna Ortega) texting her friend, only to get a phone call from a mysterious caller. The caller threatens Tara’s best friend while asking the teen trivia about the original “Scream”. This leads to a classic thrilling Ghostface chase, with modern flair: at points, Tara attempts to arm her home security system and uses her phone and the internet to answer Ghostface’s questions. This memorable scene mirrors the first movie’s iconic sequence with Drew Barrymore, simultaneously incorporating aspects that a Gen Z audience can relate to. Unfortunately, this is one of the only moments of the film that did a respectable job enhancing a “new” scene with nostalgia, with later attempts seeming overly cheesy and random at times.
After Tara is brutalized, her angst-ridden estranged sister comes to her aid, equipped with a ridiculous backstory and suspiciously kind boyfriend. As the main character of the new “Scream” film, I expected Sam (Melissa Barrera) to have the same grit and presence on screen that everyone’s “final girl,” Sidney Prescott, had. I was disappointed by her bland characterization, especially since other modern horror films have been churning out great female leads.
“Ready or Not,” “Midsommar,” “Knives Out” and “Us,” amongst other contemporary thrillers, are notable examples of films with fantastic female leads. Those actresses are able to provide unique and charismatic perspectives on terrifying situations while proving that femininity isn’t a disadvantage. And just when I thought we had left bland female characterization in the early 2000s, we get “Scream (2022).” Sam’s connection to Ghostface is that she is the daughter of Billy Loomis, one-half of the original Ghostface. She has a troubled past after finding out the identity of her birth father and struggles with hallucinations of him, a role that is actually reprised by the original actor, Skeet Ulrich. While this premise is intriguing, her backstory was rushed, and I couldn’t take anything she said seriously with Barrera’s delivery rivaling the corniness of a CW show. Jenna Ortega honestly had the best acting within the film, playing a perfect ingenue with a lot of emotional baggage. She definitely overshadowed the leading lady.
Outside of the new cast, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) return as Ghostface’s biggest rivals. The most hype from this movie was the return of these characters, but I was still disappointed at their lack of interaction. I would’ve preferred more screen time from them than from Sam. Neve Campbell’s return was my favorite performance- her character’s long past with Ghostface has become this witty and physical dance that was pure fun.
Overall, the movie relied heavily on nostalgia by making the new characters have direct relation to characters from the original movies. While the new group of teens were funny, stupid and everything cliché that horror movie buffs enjoy, they had little chemistry and backstory, making a supposed “tight knit” friendship appear anything but.
The jumpscares and Ghostface reveal didn’t have me gasping, but the film itself was certainly entertaining. How can a bloodbath with cringy characters not be fun? The creators leaned into the premise, but ultimately underdelivered, making fun of critics’ qualms about past movies but sacrificing a developed plot and memorable lead for humor. While the immense amount of cultural nostalgia ensures the lasting popularity of the “Scream” franchise, this film was a bit unsatisfying. No matter how many new “re-quel” characters are introduced, I will continue “craven” more from the plot than just a Ghost(face) of Wes Craven’s previous cult classics.