After serving as the background for three repeated serial killing murder sprees and one that took place in Hollywood mimicking the first killings, it begs the question: Why is anything or anyone still in Woodsboro, and why hasn’t the city been shot into space? Some 25 years after the original Woodsboro murders committed by a pair of teenagers bringing legendary survivor Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and co-survivors Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) to the forefront of culture, it’s starting again.

Teenager Tara (Jenna Ortega) gets brutally attacked by Ghostface, in a very similar fashion to the first murder of Casey Becker. Hearing of the attack brings older sister Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) back to Woodsboro alongside her new boyfriend, Richie (Jack Quaid). Sam left Woodsboro behind for reasons only known to her. These reasons are precisely why Ghostface has reemerged to kill once more, and all connected to Tara and Sam in friends Wes (Dylan Minnette), Liv (Sonia Ammar), Meeks twins Chad and Mindy (Mason Gooding, Jasmin Savoy-Brown), and Amber (Mikey Madison) are in danger. Or are they? As time has shown, one of them and perhaps more is likely to be the killer. Sidney/Gale/Dewey, welcome to the 5th act.

When it comes to film franchises, it may sound crazy, but Scream has been one of the most consistent ones of all time, regardless of genre. 1 is an absolute classic, 2 is a very worthy sequel, and 4 is a firmly solid entry. Hell, 3, oft-regarded as the worst as it suffered from poor timing and the missing writing of Kevin Williamson, even feels a bit prescient with its dark side of Hollywood theme essentially referencing its executive producer, the maligned Harvey Weinstein. The late great Wes Craven conceived Scream as a meta-commentary on the horror genre, and each follow-up through his last directorial credit in Scream 4 mocked and satirized not just the current state of horror, but film franchises as a whole. So in that respect, albeit with a few twists and slightly different flourishes, Scream (not “Scream 5”, just Scream) is a satisfactory, sometimes clunky, sometimes smart, but ultimately enjoyable addition to the franchise.

If there were two killers…err, directors, who would be tagged as the best or at least in the conversation to continue Craven’s last gift to horror, it would be Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, responsible for the irreverent Ready or Not and a popular short in the V/H/S franchise. They deliver on the goods…mostly, beginning with a series staple of an opening attack and bringing Ghostface back into the fray immediately. The kills are brutal, a few creative.

Is it scary? Not really; as I’ve mentioned before it’s hard for a modern slasher to be frightening. I believe Scream is as “scary” as it can be in this day and age, and to its credit unlike, say, the direction the rebooted Halloween seems to be going with making Michael Myers otherworldly, there remains an element of groundedness that works on a psychological level. The duo’s best scene uses composer Brian Tyler to play around and tease with our expectations. Stylistically—and I wanted this out of 4, the tint is way too bright and everything too pristine. The original Scream trilogy was never going for a grindhouse aesthetic, but it was tinged with a bit more gray/contrast and grain than what the films now use, giving it a rougher edge.

Craven and main series scriptwriter Williamson (executive producer now) made the franchise what it is by making its characters self aware of their surroundings and how to survive in a horror movie taking place in their real time. That fun is found here for long standing fans, but being meta can only really be fresh once, maybe twice before diminishing returns are had. Co-writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick are good in placing Scream and the events that unfold within it in today’s horror landscape. Witty and acute references are made to elevated horror, though the movie is as interested in analyzing the recent practice of rebooting classics across all genres and the consequences (obviously exaggerated) when a franchise strays too far away from what made it famous. This aspect of the script works the strongest and attempting to solve the whodunit core mystery still is a delight albeit with stop-start pacing.

In the Screams, it is not only common practice but mandatory to have someone or some people remind us of what the rules are; it wouldn’t be Scream without it. That said, the movies are at their best when they give their characters smart, in-the-know dialogue while letting the characters be characters in their movie. On that end, the latest Scream underwhelms. In a predominately new cast, there are a few standouts, such as Ortega, Minnette, and Gooding. But much of the new cast is underdeveloped, and/or written to espouse why this exists and what the new rules are without giving the audience snippets on who they are outside of the commentary. Weaker characters tamps down the impact of the killer’s motive, which does subvert past trends and is a perfectly “good” one for this day and age.

As the filmmakers mentioned ahead of release in their first trailer with false direction and scenes/footage, what we saw there was not quite what we as an audience and fans have been accustomed to in this franchise. So in that sense, Scream 2022 is somewhat original, as it does try something different in pushing its legacy characters to the background for most of the film. This takes some getting used to, especially when of the legacy big 3 (throw in a big 4 if you count the menace voice of Roger Jackson), Arquette gets the most to do and his Dewey is probably the best balance of goofy but competent/emotionally weighty he’s ever been.

No joke, Arquette is legitimately good, and steals scenes with his more heralded co-stars in Campbell and Cox, always steady as Sid and Gale yet firmly in pass-the-torch mode. Logistically, not every decision holds up to functional light. Outside of the first one, however, these films have had ahead-of-its-time voice cloners as well as an older average woman overpowering a younger male in broad daylight. Nothing is too out of the realm of believability here.

The beauty of the Scream movies is even after viewing, the series has so many ardent fans who return and return again to pick up more clues, dissect this and that, etc. This is much of the same sentiment. Definitely not razor sharp but not knife-edge dull, either, 2022’s Scream offers some finality for series stalwarts and leaves the phone lines open for multiple paths in the future.

B-

Photo credits go to bloody-digusting.com, cinemablend.com, and screenrant.com.

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