SCREAM (2022) – Review
So, for the last four weekends, one film has dominated, really ruled the box office. I’m talking about the latest installment of a near twenty-year-old franchise. So, what could possibly challenge this “rock-solid” tentpole and knock the “webhead’ off his perch? Perhaps the “de-throner” will be the latest installment of a franchise that’s over twenty-five-years-old. Oh, and it’s far less “family-friendly”, so maybe it’s not for the same audience. So, leave the kiddos home, when this masked knife-wielding maniac starts stalking the teens once again. “Ghostface” returns, hoping to make movie audiences (and studio coffers) SCREAM.
Alright, who’s “dying’ to revisit Woodsboro? Well your wish is granted with this flick’s opening sequence, which harkens back to a familiar night in 1996. Phone “tech” is a lot different now (texts, video chat, etc.), but it finishes with a brutal attack on young Tara (Jenna Ortega). Several miles away a frantic call sends her sister “Sam” (Melissa Barrera) sharing a ride home with boyfriend/co-worker Richie (Jack Quaid). When they arrive, a mini-reunion begins with Tara’s over-protective BFF Amber (Mikey Madison), twins Mindy (Jasmine Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding) who’s never far from his “bae” Liv (Sonia Ammar), and Wes (Dylan Minnette), the son of Sheriff Hicks (Marley Shelton). She and Sam clash immediately, so the still-stunned big sister decides to consult with the “vets”. But the bitter reclusive former lawman Dewey Riley (David Arquette) is at first hesitant, but he sends a message to ex Gale (Courtney Cox), now a network tv news “morning anchor” in the Big Apple. The chain begins when she in turn calls Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell), now a busy big city mom. So will the trio reunite in their old “stomping grounds” before Ghostface slices and dices the “new kids”? And what about the “ghost of movies past’ who pops up to haunt Sam?
Oh, but she’s also haunted by memories as Barrera makes Sam a more complex screen “scream queen”, a young woman who wants to escape her hometown. But she’s pulled back by that burg’s history forcing her into action. Barrera has us investing in the heroine who’s not sure of herself. Plus Ortega as Tara truly tests that sisterly bond, resenting Sam but still needing her nurturing nature, Ortega turns Tara from “fodder’ into a fiesty spitfire, almost matched by Madison’s snarky, acid-spewing Amber. Quaid is quite entertaining as the beau who feels out of place, wanting to be there for Sam, but fearful of being “fresh meat’ for the deadly village. Ably filling the role of pop culture savant is the engaging Brown who seems more than a bit giddy to be part of the “re-qual”. But the movie’s “heavy lifting” is done by the tired but still standing original trio. Arquette’s Dewey has a world-weary affability, knowing of the threats but ready to put a stop to the “legacy”. As with previous incarnations, Cox’s Gale seems to be using the tragedies as a “self-promotion” until her inner-defender is awakened. It’s Campbell as Sydney that sounds that alarm, making her one of the genre’s greatest survivors, always thinking ahead and never backing down. Perhaps she can be spun off for a horror/road trip series, bashing creeps all over the globe.
The producers faced a big challenge as the series original scribe, Kevin Williamson, stepped down and the director of the previous entries, Wes Craven, sadly passed away in 2015. Stepping up are the directing team of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet (READY OR NOT) who recreate the pacing and action dynamic of the first entry. Though it feels familiar they’re able to give each scene an air of dread and doom. Ultimately they’re tripped up by the sneering script from James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick that feels the need to drag down the midsection in a “meta mess”, skewering online trolls, while poking holes in the “fake Stab” movie series, which echoes the previous entries of this one, while also name-dropping other horror franchises. It all becomes tiresome very quickly giving the last act a “not as clever as they think they are” vibe. This leads to a final sequence denouncement that’s just plain silly and sophomoric (that’s the force, or farce, behind the body count). And though most thriller fans don’t find it a problem, the aggressive, extreme violence just seems to be a celebration of vicious cruelty. But I did like Tara’s admiration for “art-house horror” and Campbell is always a welcome movie presence. The fervent fanbase of the franchise will no doubt revel in this, but if I had to endure another “inside joke”, I was afraid that I’d clear out the theatre with a loud SCREAM.
2 Out of 4
SCREAM opens in theatres everywhere on Thursday evening, January 13, 2022