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"Scream" (2022) Review: Movies Make Psychos More Imitative

Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.

One of several theatrical one-sheet posters for the new, "Scream."

One of several theatrical one-sheet posters for the new, "Scream."

I Don’t Really Believe In Motives. Here Are The Motives From Every Other Scream Movie Instead.

The Scream franchise has always been this love letter to the horror genre while simultaneously embracing this self-deprecating demeanor that was meta long before it was the trendy thing for movies to do. All of the films would lay out the rules of a slasher or horror sequel while sometimes following a familiar formula, but it often broke the boundaries of the stabby, blood-soaked mold it was proud to pretend to stay within the lines of.

Now, 11 years after Scream 4, Scream (2022) not only references its roots, it drowns itself in the accomplishments of the previous films. The film is a huge nostalgic throwback to the first films, especially the original and Scream 4. But nearly every new character introduced in the new film is related to someone in a previous Scream film.

The film opens with Ghostface calling and playing a horror trivia game over the phone with some unsuspecting high school girl, the killer is narrowed down to once again be one of a close-knit group of friends, and the finale literally takes place in the house of one of the characters from the first film.

A Senseless Bloodbath With Too Much Sense

It’s established within Scream’s dialogue that the film isn’t a reboot or a sequel, but a requel. It brings back legacy characters to make way for new blood while staying within a formula that is almost a carbon copy of the original film. The kills are a little different, the technology is modern, and Sidney, Gale, and Dewey are all older, but this all feels too familiar to feel like a refreshing entry in the franchise. Screenwriters James Vanderbilt (The Amazing Spider-Man films) and Guy Busick (Ready or Not) have found a creative way of rehashing everything from the original film.

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The highlight of the film is obviously Ghostface. Roger L. Jackson, the voice of Ghostface, is the unsung and unseen hero (or villain) of the franchise. He has not only been the voice of Ghostface for all five films, but he was also the voice of Ghostface in season three of the television series. We’ll ignore the fact that who the killer turns out to be has a serious height difference in comparison to whoever is running around the rest of the film, but there are some pretty brutal moments here; his leg stomp to Tara in the film’s opening, the knife through the neck scene where we see the blade go through the victim’s throat and out the side to surprisingly satisfactory results, and even a kill on the sidewalk in front of someone’s house in broad daylight.

Ghostface has his most memorable kill while using two knives in the hall of a private floor of a hospital and it’s fantastic. The original film is a personal favorite, but there are several scenes where you can see another and seemingly cheaper and less detailed mask is used (the opening scene where Drew Barrymore gets stabbed on the front lawn comes to mind). There’s none of that in the new film as Ghostface shines in absolutely every sequence until he’s unmasked.

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Dewey Riley (David Arquette) in the new, "Scream."

Dewey Riley (David Arquette) in the new, "Scream."

You Look Like You’ve Seen a Ghost of a Ghost of a Ghost of a Ghost of a Ghost.

Characters from previous films that were stabbed or shot or both, but were never shown dying on screen, were rumored to appear in this film. The most notable being Hayden Penettiere’s Kirby Reed from Scream 4 and Matthew Lillard’s Stu Macher from the original. Unfortunately, the return of either character would have been more interesting than what we ended up with. Although, Scream (2022) confirms that Kirby Reed did in fact survive.

Sisters Sam and Tara Carpenter (played by Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega) have an interesting character connection that results in a repeating Tell-Tale Heart kind of motivation that could finally trigger Sam losing her sanity. The twins, Mindy and Chad (played by Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding) are arguably the most useful. Next to Jack Quaid’s performance as Richie, Jasmin Savoy Brown may deliver the best performance from the new cast members.

Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) getting in on the action in the new, "Scream."

Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) getting in on the action in the new, "Scream."

The aspects that make the Scream franchise scary and suspenseful is the fact that Ghostface is just a horror obsessed human, much like the people watching the film from the other side of the screen. Before the killer or killers are revealed, everyone is a suspect, and Ghostface can be anyone behind the mask. That sense of dread that lies within never feeling safe even around your family and best friends while simultaneously watching them get slaughtered one by one while you helplessly sit on the sidelines are terrifying concepts that would drive anyone crazy in real life.

This is Starting to Sound Like a Wes Carpenter Flick or Something

The killer(s) in Scream (2022) are trying to claim the same kind of legacy Billy Loomis and Stu Macher received; the movie franchise based on their killings, the fame, and the notoriety. Scream (2022) is a movie formulated around another movie (the 1996 Scream) that has a movie franchise within the movie franchise (Stab) that is constantly referencing itself and other films in the genre all while trying to erase its ugliest moments. The results are exhausting and disappointing at the same time.

Ghostface terrorizing Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) in the new, "Scream."

Ghostface terrorizing Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) in the new, "Scream."

Ghostface is my favorite cinematic serial killer, and I love the first four films (yes, even Scream 3 and Gale’s terrible bangs) despite their flaws and fluctuating factors of entertainment. I’ll see and support any new Scream film or TV series that comes along because of it. I know this new installment was successful ($88.4 million worldwide box office gross as of this writing) and some enjoyed it, but it is honestly my least favorite in the franchise.

This new film feels like it’s trying too hard to be one of the original Scream films when it should have just been more of its own thing. This is something the film addresses, but originality should always triumph over retreading familiar territory; especially when it seems like its kills are being plunged into the same stab wounds.

Ghostface stalks one of his victims in the new, "Scream."

Ghostface stalks one of his victims in the new, "Scream."

© 2022 Chris Sawin

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