There are no spoilers in the review here, which is why it’s going to be a bit shorter than I normally would go (some of you are sighing with relief, I hear).
Are we in a horror renaissance? A horror resurgence? Because the second film in the modern Halloween trilogy came out last October, Candyman before that, Chucky was getting rave reviews on USA Network and we’re due for a new Texas Chainsaw Massacre on Netflix next month (seriously weird that Netflix hasn’t promoted that more). Oh, and freaking Ghostface is back in Scream (2022) after 11 years. Now, we just need the legal nonsense to wrap-up with Mr. Voorhees, so we can return to Camp Crystal Lake, okay, thanks.
What makes Scream (why don’t they call it five? Or something else? The film even pokes fun at that nonsense, so maybe it’s intentionally nonsensical) a great addition to this resurgence is that I think, even better than Halloween I have to admit, Scream balances well the legacy characters, who all come back here (Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott; Courtney Cox as Gale Weathers; and David Arquette as Dewey Riley), with the new characters in the series, Sam Carpenter (played by Melissa Barrera, and that name surely is a nice nod to John Carpenter, right?), her sister Tara (played by Jenna Ortega) and the twins, whose uncle was Randy Martin from the first film, Chad (played by Mason Gooding) and Mindy (played by Jasmin Savoy Brown).
In other words, to use a professional wrestling analogy, the only way you’re going to get the next generation over (and often above) the nostalgia we have for the past is to rub some legacy dust onto them. To add stakes. To make the new generation matter and seem as important, if not more, than the prior generation. Because you can only ride nostalgia for so long; it’s a shorter ride than lightning.
The other thing that makes Scream great and has always been a great part of the franchise is the meta commentary on horror films, particularly what’s salient at the time in horror films. Much like her uncle, Mindy plays the role of providing that meta commentary, talking about how the thing nowadays is the “requel,” where horror movies are a mix of being a sequel and a reboot, like the film she’s in!
Tara also provides some of that, talking about prestige horror, or as she calls it “elevated horror,” arguing that 2014’s The Babadook is her favorite horror film. That’s the thing, too, that’s interesting about our horror renaissance and resurgence to classic icons of the genre: It comes at a time when the upswing in horror is among these prestige flicks, like Jordan Peel’s Get Out and Us, and Hereditary and many more.
But at the end of the day, let’s get serious: We love our stabby stabby Ghostface, baby. We love the mystery and black comedy of who is the person or persons behind the Ghostface mask and voice? And why? What’s the motive this time? Whodunnit? Can we figure it out before the reveal(s)?
And the thing is, you can’t have meta commentary on the state of play in horror films without it also being a commentary on horror fans and horror culture, which Scream provides plenty of commentary on that front as well. I enjoyed it immensely.
My favorite character in this film, which goes back to my point of the legacy characters putting over the new characters, was actually Tara because Ortega played her so great and bucked some expectations. She was a character in a horror film you were actually rooting for against the killer, and the iconic killer at that, so I count it as a victory in the film achieving what it set out to do.
But of course, Barrera was also great as the older sister. I loved her as Vanessa in 2021’s In the Heights. It seems like she’s having something of a “moment” right now and I look forward to seeing more from her.
Overall, for fans of the franchise, I don’t know how you couldn’t love this film and return to form. For those who aren’t as familiar with the franchise or weren’t as into it, you’re probably not going to like it given that whole “return to form,” but if you’re new to Ghostface because you’re a Tara and you’ve been only watching “elevated horror,” consider giving this a shot! I don’t think you’ll “slash out,” as it were.
For further guidance, I would argue that this Scream is the second best film in the franchise behind only the original 1996 film, of course. That makes for a fun list for the unaware: 1. Scream and 2. Scream.