Sharing an exact title with the 1996 slasher classic, 2022’s Scream is the fifth film in the long-running franchise. Scream (5) sees the directorial duties handed over to Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and is, as such, the first Scream film not to be directed by Wes Craven, who passed away in 2015. The directing duo previously received acclaim for their 2019 horror-comedy Ready or Not, so getting behind the camera for a Scream film isn’t exactly out-of-character for them.
The movie opens with a scene pretty much directly paralleling the classic Drew Barrymore intro of the original: a young girl at home by herself soon gets a call from a new appropriator of the Ghostface persona, voiced once again by the one-and-only Roger L. Jackson. Something I liked is how patiently the phone call evolves in the intro this time around; Ghostface just CHATS for a bit before getting down to the usual murder-mouthing, which we haven’t really seen a lot since the original intro. It’s a small detail, but one that stands out quite as a bit more unique as far as comparisons to the other three sequels go.
What works best here is how the film handles its characters, both new and familiar. As is to be expected with a Scream film is the return of franchise-characters like Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), and Dewey Riley (David Arquette). Meanwhile, Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera headline the list of fresh faces as a pair of sisters who find themselves not only at the center of Ghostface’s return, but directly connected to the bloody history of the killings.
While the previous four movies primarily revolved around the recurring characters, THIS Scream instead gives the spotlight to the new ones. Focusing mainly on the two sisters means you actually CARE what happens to them, whereas new characters in the other sequels felt more like meat for the grinder — they’re only there to get killed off. It’s also worth noting that this change helps the film feel like its own distinct installment. Instead of feeling like a fan-service-filled epilogue to the original film, it instead works as a distinct entity in its own right.
That small change also helps support something the Scream films have always had going for them anyway: the mystery aspect. With Ghostface being a different character in each installment, Scream movies add a layer of ‘whodunit’ on top of their slasher-movie base. That aspect is definitely very present here, with the most entertaining and distinct bunch of suspects since the original.
The other thing that makes the Scream franchise distinct from other slashers is how incredibly self-aware it is. The original made fun of itself as a 90’s slasher, the sequel and threequel commented on their existence as those respective points in a series, and the fourth movie noted the changes in the horror scene at the time of its release compared to the original trilogy. Releasing 25 years since the original and 11 years since the fourth film, Scream once again comments on its existence in the modern age, one now filled with ‘elevated horror’ such as The Babadook, Hereditary, and The VVitch (all of which are referenced by name here). As a huge fan of each of these films, I found it hilarious that the writers accepted the inherent inequality between their muder-fest of a movie and a more psychological pick of the crop. The long gap between Scream 4 and this new film certainly helped in giving the meta-side of the writing a bit more to work with as the modern horror climate evolved.
Covered with even more emphasis is Scream’s existence as a modern ‘requel’ (reboot/sequel). It directly addresses toxic fanbases, specifically the way some fans react to sequels that stray too far from the original(s) in a franchise; i.e., calling them ‘inferior’ or claiming it ruined their childhood. Specifically, There’s a pretty direct implication of blame being thrust upon haters of the eighth Star Wars film, The Last Jedi — hilarious, to say the least. Similarly, it also pokes fun at itself for having the same title as the original, instead of just ‘Scream 5.’
I had a blast with this film, and not just because I had a theater all to myself to watch it (a rather romanticize-able experience, indeed). Ultimately, the new Scream is not only one of the better sequels in the franchise, but probably THE best since the original. It gives room to a new set of stars while still maintaining the legacy the other four films have set it up with.
Overall rating: 7/10