#2 in my ranking of the Scream franchise.
This is probably the best sequel to the original Scream, and that ends up kind of sad. The 2022 entry in the franchise is a perfectly acceptable, if unimaginative, reboot/sequel thing that balances new and legacy characters to varying degrees of success. It also seems to want to have its cake and eat it too about what it actually is. It is a beat for beat remake of the first, consciously so, with only the most superficial of changes to the formula, pretty much like every sequel the franchise has had. It carries a lot of the same issues that the other sequels had, especially around the ending, and for all the series’ pretensions about being trailblazing rule breakers, none of these movies break any rules. Still frustrating like the rest, Scream manages to entertain pretty much despite itself.
Probably the biggest twist on the formula that happens in this movie happens at the beginning. We get our standard, lone girl in a house receiving threatening calls from Ghostface (complete with updated technology like remote locking of doors), but Tara (Jenna Ortega) survives! It’s a twist! I wasn’t impressed, but then the action moves to Sam (Melissa Berrera), Tara’s sister who had moved away five years before. Thing get interesting when we see that she has visions of Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), the killer from the first film, her actual father, and she’s taking antipsychotics to deal with what she believes to be dangerous tendencies in her behavior. When Sam comes back home to Woodsboro to visit Tara in the hospital, bringing her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) along, we get actual, sustained character based storytelling that we haven’t really seen since the first film. The conflict between Tara and Sam over Sam’s change of behavior and eventual abandonment after their father (Tara’s real father) left is solid stuff.
It also seems to be related to some of the self-aware dialogue from the prologue where Tara talks about the elevated horror of her favorite scary movie The Babadook (great movie, by the way). It feels like the film, for the first time in the franchise since the first film, was going to do something beyond be a slasher whodunit that no one can guess because the screenwriters spend a solid hour throwing nothing but red herrings at the screen. There’s something going on under the surface. Sure, it’s going to hit the formula, but it’s going to hit it better than the rest.
And then the red herrings start. This film is really at war with what it wants to be (it gets much worse in the extended final sequence), and I think that conflict is much more pronounced here than in any of the other movies. The other sequels were throwing anything like storytelling up as pretty much a sop to the barest of story needs and to ensure that their twists made even the remotest amount of sense. Here, there does seem to be a real desire to tell a story about a young woman with a horrid family past that she allowed to overcome her and wants to make amends for it.
However, this being a Scream movie, and Scream movies being slaves to convention, that’s not what the bulk of the film is actually about. It’s about a group of twenty-eight year old teens getting killed one by one because of one or more people wearing Ghostface masks for complicated reasons that only get explained in the final reel. And that part of the movie is…fine. Tara’s little group of friends, including Amber (Mikey Madison), Wes (Dylan Minnette), Chad (Mason Gooding), and his twin-sister Jasmin (Mindy Meeks-Martin) are all on the chopping block, some getting knocked off here and there as we march inexorably to the party scene.
Wait…where do the legacy characters come in? Well, we get a handful. Notably, Dewey (David Arquette) still lives in Woodsboro, has retired from the sheriff’s office, and watches Gale (Courteney Cox) on her morning show every day after their divorce. Sidney (Neve Campbell) lives far away with a husband and kids, and when both women receive word of the new killings in Woodsboro from Dewey, they come back. Why? Well, to protect or something. I get the integration of these legacy characters, but it honestly feels thin.
People die, other people steel their resolves and get more serious about the threat. There’s the party scene, and then we get our big series of twists and reveals that tell us who the killer is. And who’s the killer? Toxic fandom. Okay, whatever, but let’s talk about the toxic fan’s complains compared to the movie that they exist in.
So, the toxic fan wants to create the “real world” events that will fix the Stab series. There’s dialogue about how Stab 8 (obviously used to refer to Star Wars: The Last Jedi with the reference to Rian Johnson directing the eighth installment) pissed off all the fans along with brief YouTube clips of Stab 9 where Ghostface uses a flamethrower. The idea is that the in-universe version of Scream has gone so far off the rails that it needs to return to its roots. And this is the killer saying all of this. Is the movie saying that he’s wrong for wanting this? Well, I bring it up, because that’s exactly what Scream delivers. It is a carbon-copy of the original, bringing in the legacy characters for bridge reasons, and covers so much of the same mechanical ground that it’s pretty much the same thing in terms of its execution of the story unfolds. There’s even a moment where Jasmin is on a couch in the same room as Randy had been calling out to Stab Randy on a television who is calling out to Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween. This is all reference the movie type stuff. If the toxic fan is wrong, why does the film he’s actually in bend over backwards to make him happy? It’s incoherent.
In addition, the storyline around Sam becomes…odd. By the end of the film, she seems to embrace the inner psychopath to win the day for good, with Billy, her father, appearing to her and nodding in approval. Unless the sequel makes her Ghostface, this left a weird feeling in the back of my throat.
Still, the opening half-hour is probably the best the series ever got (including the original film), and the bulk of the film is typical Scream whodunit done reasonably well. It breaks no ground and follows the formula pretty closely, but it mostly entertains as it goes. It’s alright.