The fifth installment of the Scream franchise had a pretty big order to fill: after Scream 4‘s mixed reviews and the death of Wes Craven, the franchise seemed as dead as Ghostface’s many, many victims, and only an exceptional film would do to save it.
Luckily, right off the bat, Scream 2022 pays homage to the original – and to the slasher genre in general – without feeling derivative. Opening with a lengthy scene in which Ghostface attacks a teenage girl home alone,the sequel is as tense as it is subtly funny, with small jokes at the expense of the horror genre (and some of its more obnoxious fans) sprinkled in amongst the many scares and vicious murders.
With a large ensemble cast comprised of new characters and “legacy” characters, Scream is able to breathe new life into the franchise in an organic and decidedly self-aware manner. In keeping with the rest of the franchise, Scream addresses the most common audience critiques of horror movie sequels, and manages to be just subversive enough to keep it fresh without breaking the formula.
One of Scream 2022’s biggest strengths is the way in which it sets up its big moments. It’s filled with small musical builds to fake-out moments, keeping its audience on their toes as they anticipate what way or may not be the next death/jump scare/shocking twist.
In spite of this, Scream lacked any genuine scares. What it replaced them with was a peculiar blend of meta commentary on the horror genre and tongue-in-cheek fan service, essentially making it the perfect Scream sequel. By following up on (and poking fun at) the meta elements of the franchise’s previous films, Scream 2022 was able to feel light-hearted even while it was killing off a considerable portion of its ensemble cast.
Despite appearances, Scream 2022 is actually less a horror and more a mystery – and by gently addressing this in brief reprises from the relentless bloodbath that is the film’s narrative, it secures itself a place among the latter genre far more convincingly than if it had aimed to be pure horror.
One of the most refreshing concepts behind the film is the clear intention of moving forward with the franchise. There’s references to critically lauded horror films of recent years (such as Hereditary and The Babadook) which make the film far more accessible to a newer audience, and there’s also scathing condemnation of toxic fandoms who refuse to accept any attempted change in their chosen franchises.
Somehow, in its meta satire, Scream is able to appease fans of the original while still making it clear that the franchise has grown. Adapting to co-exist with modern horror by doubling down on its non-horror elements is what makes Scream so enjoyable, particularly as it’s all underpinned by some genuinely uncomfortable and callous scenes of violence that maintain the essence of the real-life inspiration behind the original Scream.
With its cast (both new and returning) delivering sound performances as characters who begin to deeply mistrust one another, Scream 2022 is a brilliantly realized idea for what the franchise needs to be moving forward. It’s not particularly scary, but that’s essentially the point – it’s a film that acts as a commentary on itself, and it has a lot of fun while doing so.
Summary: By making its killing spree as fun as it is gripping, Scream ups the mystery and the meta jokes and transcends its horror genre trappings.
Highlight: Numerous small moments stand out for the excellent direction and editing – particularly the use of music to further the meta humor and mess with audiences’ expectations – but the true highlight is the film’s ensemble cast working to bring it all together so well.