Scream (1996) was capturing lightning in a bottle. It captured the state of horror, our cultural response to it, and damn, was it a fun whodunit. It’s a film that had a lot of people in my generation wanting to be a Randy, it set the pinnacle of a cold-open, and over the years, sequels have come and gone. While I think all the sequels have been good (and fabulous when we look at Scream 4 – this is my hill), I had a small note of hesitation coming into Woodsboro once again 25 years after the original. That said, directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett return to Woodsboro with a bloody bang and manage to capture lightning in a bottle once again with Scream (2022) by embracing the past and solidly carving out a road to the future.
Set 25 years after the iconic streak of brutal murders, Woodsboro is once again the home to more murders, this time centering on people connected to the town’s deadly past. The franchise’s stars return to the series for Scream (2022), Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette reprising their roles as the iconic trio (Sidney, Gale, and Dewey) now older, hardened, and wiser to the mechanics of surviving a horror movie – particularly a Stab movie. New to the franchise are Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Mason Gooding, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and Dylan Minnette. Additionally, James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick provide the film’s screenplay.
Now, this is going to be a short review because, like all Scream films, this one is best left unspoiled, and to do that, I don’t think there are any plot points I can discuss. What I can say is that the return to Woodsboro uses nostalgia but does so without using it as a crutch. The directing and writing duo manage to capture the past including locations, lines, and of course the cast. But most importantly, all of those elements are used to set a foundation for the film’s story. That foundation is firm, informed, and built by fans who respect a legacy. Yet, no elements from the past overpower the new characters of the franchise. Scream (2022) strikes a balance between honoring a legacy and completely shattering it to build a new one and hand the torch over to new characters.
This balance is where the charm of Scream (2022) is solidified as it calls to fans of the original who have been with the franchise since the beginning. That said, Scream 5 is meaner in its violence, and damn it’s great. There is more blood, more wounds, and our final girls are put through the wringer multiple times. While camp was the only name of the game in the franchise before (and it still is to the point), Bettinelli-Olpin & Gillett bring the style of injury and violence they brought in Ready or Not that adds an edge to moments that could have just brought a chuckle and a “damn.” With Scream, you get the campy play between victim and killer but you also get the squishing of an open wound, the gushing of a nicked femoral artery, and the guttural screams that come with the pain that feel closer to realism than anything else.
It’s for that reason that Jenna Ortega is such a striking addition to the cast. She’s capable of switching from pure camp with the delivery of meta lines and Gen Z teen apathy to pure terror and pain. From the expression on her face to the projection in her voice, she holds your eye and solidifies herself as a great addition to the franchise. And that acting strength extends from the rest of the young would-be victims. Beyond that though, while Michelle Barrera brings some great elements to the film, there is a certain spark she misses in the film’s most self-aware moments. Additionally, one other slight miss is how many breadcrumbs the film leaves for the viewers but it’s not enough to break the film.
I give Scream the highest of praises from the bottom of my horror heart, one that was built by Wes Craven’s 1996 film. That said, like all the Scream movies that came before it, it’s a communal experience. It’s one to yell at the screen, let out giant screams, and have collective theories with your friends. And that, that community isn’t in a theater. It’s in the comfort of your home or watching with a group of friends in a watch part, it’s one where you can just get into it in a way that would get you kicked out of the Alamo Drafthouse. So as we hospitalizations continue to break records, despite its greatness, Scream will maintain its charisma and edge in your home with a big bowl of popcorn where we can honor Randy by yelling “turn around.”
Scream (2022) is in theaters January 14, 2022.
- Rating - 9/109/10
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.