Sunday, January 16, 2022

It's A Scream '22, Baby: Scream (2022) Review

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin,Tyler Gillett

Notable Cast: Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Dylan Minnette, Mason Gooding, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mikey Madison, Sonia Ben Ammar, Marley Shelton, Kyle Gallner


Over the last couple of decades, the Scream franchise has seen its fair share of praise and detractions. The original Scream was unleashed when I was 11 years old - and depending on your age in comparison that makes me either a baby or ancient but never betwixt, and it’s been a part of my horror history throughout. The meta commentaries, the satire, and the status as kick-starting a multitude of trends has cemented the Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson film and its subsequent sequels as one of the most iconic modern (post-modern?) horror series ever. 


In a day and age where the slasher is slowly but surely rearing its head once again, it’s not shocking that a new Scream film, tenaciously titled Scream - and from this point on will be referred to as Scream ‘22 for the sake of clarity, would also be coming back to theaters to take another stab at reigniting the franchise. 


It’s a new horror era though and the fresh minds of Radio Silence are slicing the line between modernizing the series and staying true to its core values with surgical expertise. Granted, the meta nature of its satire practically makes the series critic-proof to a certain degree, but it’s hard not to appreciate a legacy sequel that actively maintains the values of the legacy sequel while simultaneously running a cold, sharpened blade to its impracticalities. You know, as we all expect from a Scream film. 


If Scream was an active reflection of the original Halloween, enough so that parts of its finale use the Halloween score threaded into its tension builds, it becomes very obvious upfront that Scream ‘22 is mirroring Halloween ‘18. From its repetitive title to the manner that it’s building out its legacy characters by literally killing off the next generation of their bloodline in the plot, it becomes quite apparent that the series is still razor-sharp with its satire and it’s moving quickly to capitalize on the changing nature of horror cinema. Discussions on legacy sequels, the horrifyingly labeled elevated horror, and toxic fandoms that expect a franchise to only exist within headcanon approved lanes are all littered throughout the script. This may not be Kevin Williamson writing the film, but the writers here certainly came from his school of meta-commentary. 


Egregiously dictated monologues and slyly revamped plot elements from previous Scream films remain intact, but Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (the duo known as Radio Silence and the ones responsible for one of the greatest horror comedies of the modern era in Ready or Not) impressively balance the tone of the original films. In particular, they harken back to the original as is the legacy sequel format - while adding in their own bits of style and humor. 


The kills are brutal and the tension in the horror sequences is palpable and there are a few key moments that remain the best the series has seen. Ghostface, as a themed villain, knows how to stab a character and the film leans heavily into the brutality of repeated penetration with a hunting knife. Slasher fans ought to enjoy the film for its kills at least.


As is often pointed out in its self-referential script, Scream ‘22 is running the gamut of focusing fully on a new set of teen characters in the now cursed town of Woodsboro while slowly and loosely introducing the legacy characters of Sid, Gale, and Dewey. The new characters get to have their moments, including a relatively fascinating character arc for the new lead of the film Sam - played by Melissa Barrera, and there are a handful of humorous and intriguing moments between these characters that play on tropes and as a reflection of the Scream series in full. There is even a shower scene, but it’s a guy and not a girl as a small but effective example of pulling slashers into the modern era. 


There are some fun performances here from everyone including its villains, red herrings, and suspects. A particular note goes to Jenna Ortega who gets multiple wince-inducing sequences and sells its emotional sister character beats. What’s most impressive though is Scream ‘22 sets up a solid enough new cast to carry through a legacy trilogy - if it truly wants to satirize Halloween ‘18 or the newly proposed Exorcist legacy trilogy from Blumhouse. 


But like the legacy sequels its referencing, Scream ‘22 is a film meant to pass the torch. A phrase that takes hilarious meaning in the third act, but that’s all I’ll say on that point. And this means that certain previously mentioned characters are back. While all three of the Scream Trinity do arrive on scene in the film, the roles they play are far more secondary than expected or what the marketing would have led people to believe. By the end though, it’s David Arquette’s performance as the comedic and heartfelt Dewey that deserves the big award. He is the one character of the original three that gets a full character arc and he able delivers the most heartfelt moments in it. 


It wouldn’t shock me if the other two get their due if a trilogy does happen though - ala what the new Star Wars trilogy did for its legacy characters. Fuck, man. Scream ‘22 truly is setting itself up to play off of the legacy sequel tropes in full. 


While fans will always have stark and robust opinions on which of the sequels in the series are worth the highest praises (for my money it was the ahead-of-its-time Scream 4 which still fuckin’ slaps to this day), Scream ‘22 slashes its way to the top in fine form. The balance of adhering to its own universe while modernizing the messages for a post-legacy sequel horror world is sharp, witty, and cutting. It’s going to be polarizing for those who still don’t buy into the entire Scream concept, but when it comes down to it - Scream ‘22 kills it. 


If they do announce another one, mark my words right now…


I’ll be right back. 


Written By Matt Reifschneider

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