MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Slasher Horror/Stars: Melissa Barrera, Mason Gooding, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Marley Shelton, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Dylan Minnette, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Kyle Gallner, Sonia Ben Ammar, Mikey Madison, Heather Matarazzo; Voice of Roger L. Jackson/ Runtime: 114 minutes
I think it can rightfully be said that when iconic horror cinema maestro Wes Craven’s original Scream completely made its knife mark on the world of horror let alone movie theaters close to three solid decades ago, I do not honestly think that there were many who took a look at the property and thought this slice and dice entry would one day be seen as a pinnacle of horror cinema for the 90s let alone a pop culture phenomenon. Of course, as we all know Lady Fate can be quite funny when she is allowed to be and this was most assuredly going to be proof of that as we saw that, much in the same vein as John Carpenter’s Halloween from 1978, the run of the mill take of a vicious and bloodthirsty maniac running amok whilst wearing a truly spooky mask and utilizing a sharp knife as their favorite way to butcher anyone unlucky enough to cross paths with them managed to find an incredible degree of success due in large part to terrific work at the helm by horror vet Craven, a wonderful cast of 90s teen stars, and a wonderful wink and nod demolition of the horror genre of movie magic which in the 90s was starting to sputter a little bit. Flash forward now to our present day of 2022 and this franchise itself is now in a state of limbo due to not only the tragic passing of Craven in 2015, but also diminishing returns on investment from three sequels made in 1997, 2000, and 2011 respectively (despite two of those being positively received) and an MTV show that was decent at best and My Soul to Take at worst (and if you’ve seen THAT movie you know that’s pretty low). Thankfully, this slice and dice horror franchise has now been given a new lease on life courtesy of a pair of rising star helmers in the world of horror cinema by the names of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Indeed these two brilliant directors of 2019’s delightful Ready or Not, and by their own admission die hard fanatics of the Scream franchise have, with the wonderful aid of OG series scribe turned executive producer for this go-around Kevin Williamson, new scribes James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, and a terrific cast of both returning veterans of the series and new kids on the block have all managed to come together to conjure up for the fans an entry that is not only a loving tribute to the enduring popularity that this series has managed to sustain, but also its legacy in the world of horror cinema as well as giving the fans exactly what they want in the form of delightfully meta-analysis on the current state of horror cinema and buckets upon buckets of blood. Suffice it to say then that whilst yes the slice and dice of horror cinema that is the 5th Scream film does have its issues, but a bad movie that most certainly does not make it. In fact I would say this is a screaming good time to be had (pun intended of course).
The plot is as follows: Now, maybe or maybe not due to Ghostface wielding his knife in front of me and threatening to stab me, I am going to tread as carefully as I can into this section and I give you my word that I will NOT spoil this movie for you. With that being said, the story of the latest installment in the Scream franchise gets underway as we see that it opens in a way that should be very familiar to those of you who know the franchise. From there, we are quickly introduced to our heroine, a young woman by the name of Sam Carpenter as she makes her way home to (where else?) Woodsboro in an attempt to investigate a tragic situation despite being away from home for the past 5 years for…..reasons with her loving though suspicious (due more to what we’ve come to expect from this franchise than anything else) boyfriend Richie. Of course, it should also come as no surprise to learn that as soon as Sam arrives back in town she immediately starts forming and investigating a potential list of suspects comprised of….someone’s friend group. A list that includes a dweeby yet slightly in the know young man named Wes, a member of the emo clique named Amber Freeman, a ditzy young woman by the name of Liv McKenzie, and finally a pair of twins who have their own special ties to Woodsboro’s bloody legacy named Chad and Mindy. Yet whilst Sam is in the middle of her investigation, with the aid of some very familiar characters, it isn’t long before everyone involved sees a blood-red target being put on their back by a very familiar looking killer who is wielding a very familiar-looking knife and before this mystery is solved lives will be lost, chaos will be unleashed upon the town of Woodsboro, secrets will be revealed, and oh yes….there will be blood. Lots and lots of blood.
Now much in the same vein as the other films in the franchise, this entry is quite devoted to being as self-referential as possible right down to declaring itself to be a “requel” aka a sequel and reboot blended together. With that in mind, this film’s narrative by and large focuses on the new kids on the block with Sam as the main hero of sorts. Thus in order to make the various bonds the characters have understandable, a lot of this film’s first act is devoted to not only introducing us to them, but also showing us their ties to what happened in prior installments. A creative choice that not only gives us the chance to see the newbies as genuine human beings, but also provide the film with a few outstanding performances from the new kids on the block like Jack Quaid, Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and Dylan Minnette to name but a few. Of course, with that in mind you are probably wondering about the original trinity of Dewey, Gale, and…..*pause for dramatic effect* Sydney. Well I am here to tell you that whilst yes the original trinity does have their own distinct roles to play in the proceedings, this slice and dice of horror cinema is prepared to make you patiently wait in order for you to be permitted to reconnect with them, but trust me when I say that when the movie finally allows you to do so it is most assuredly worth it since not only do they fall back into their respective characters fairly well, but it is also fun to just see them interact and work with the new kids on the block to try and kick some serious Ghostface butt.
Now despite the fact that the exposition will often hinder the comedy and terror in this film at the start, I can safely say that doesn’t stay a dilemma for long enough to be a true hindrance. That is because once the ball on this film starts in motion, it doesn’t once choose to take things slow. The same could also be said for this entry’s take on Ghostface who I am going to be honest with you (much like Michael Myers in Halloween Kills) literally pulls zero punches in this and as a result the kills in this are not only significantly more brutal, but also bloody and visceral as well. I also really liked how very much unlike the first entry from 1996 that utilized the less is more approach when it came to Ghostface, this slice and dice of horror cinema unleashes the famed masked killer on you right from the start and actually makes its assaults on the poor townspeople of Woodsboro happen quite consistently throughout the entirety of the film. Plus each time Ghostface shows up in this, the film does a wonderful job of not only raising the stakes each time, but also is willing to show us that this time NO ONE truly is safe from the proverbial chopping block. Of course, it should also be stated that the unease and suspense present in this film is constantly rocked throughout due to the film helmers consistently choosing to toy with you and what you expect to happen and as a result make what happens in this film as terrifying as the franchise’s infamous masked killer. A component that can best be represented by the fact that while NO ONE is safe, there are moments where people you think have been viciously slaughtered aren’t. Yet through all the blood and gore, this film does still manage to triumph in being just as funny even through all the chaos that starts to escalate as the film goes on thus not only proving these film helmers are immensely skilled at going back and forth between the two genres of ease, but also showing that this film is able to operate with the concepts that have made this franchise a success from the start.
Finally, this slice and dice of horror cinema also works as phenomenally as well as it does due to how much of a tribute it is to not only original helmer Wes Craven, but also everything that went down in the first four films as well. Indeed there are so many winks and nods to the original in this that I honestly think you might need to see this film more than once in order to find them all. Yet whilst some of the winks and nods are more low-key than others, there are some that will truly stun you and leave franchise veterans like myself out there smiling from ear to ear. Indeed in case you hadn’t figured it out yet, this is one slice of cinema that is deeply tied to what came before it even though there are new helmers behind the camera this go-around. Yet despite fans of this franchise always having their own predictions about how things will play out, I must confess there were things about this narrative that even I could never have predicted. It is this aspect that this film’s helmers not only put their mark on this iconic series, but they also have said that they would love to make future entries as well, but as for if this film makes that a possibility or not I can safely say that you will just have to see for yourself because my lips are sealed…..and not because Ghostface duct-taped them shut….that would be weird.
All in all I am not gonna lie to you dear reader: as much as I hate to admit it, not every single component to this slice and dice of horror cinema works as well as it should. Indeed not only are there some moments in this that are going to be quite divisive, but I can also tell you that the social analysis on reviving a long-dormant franchise and follow-ups was a bit more on the nose than I thought was necessary (case in point: a moment where a character mentions how a popular series can really go off the rails once it makes it to entry number….5 *sigh*). Yet when you look past these flaws, I think it can be said that the cast and crew for this entry can be quite pleased with themselves since I feel that they have managed to conjure up a terrific continuation of an iconic franchise that I honestly feel it not only would make OG series creator Wes Craven smile with a wonderful mix of twisted glee and pride, but also will see a new generation of fans come back to Woodsboro looking for a bloody good time and not only will they get it here, but maybe if they’re lucky they might just get one more trip back as well. Suffice it to say that in the eyes of this critic if it’s made on the level of quality that this one is, I would definitely be game….even if I had to brush up on my horror trivia first because you never know……On a scale of 1-5 I give Scream “2022” a solid 4 out of 5.