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Film Review: “Scream” Works As a Suspenseful Slasher, But Not Quite As Part of the Franchise

Written by: Matt Patti | January 13th, 2022

Film poster: “Scream”

Scream (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin/Tyler Gillett, 2022) 2½ out of 4 stars.

I have been a fan of the Scream franchise for quite some time now. My path to fandom was likely different than others, as the first film in the franchise I saw was 2011’s Scream 4. After that I was hooked and went back and rewatched the other three. I enjoy them all for their horror references and self-awareness and find them to be a fun mix of suspense and comedy, and a perfect satire of horror films, even if the third one, in my opinion, falls quite short of the others. The first four films were helmed by the late legendary horror director, Wes Craven. After his passing in 2015, I thought the chances of another Scream film would only grow slimmer. But here we are, 11 years after Scream 4, with another one.

My initial worry upon learning about this film was two-fold: not only was Wes Craven gone, but the film was also not written by Kevin Williamson, writer of the first two films and the fourth. I believe the biggest reason why Scream 3 is my least favorite film in the franchise is due to Williamson’s absence, as he is a fantastic writer and especially masterful at crafting memorable dialogue. With neither Craven nor Williamson in their roles, my fear was that this film would feel different. My instinct was correct, unfortunately, as directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Ready or Not) aren’t able to recapture the magic of Craven and Williamson. Nevertheless, the resulting product is still a tense, quality slasher flick.

Neve Campbell in SCREAM ©Paramount Pictures/Spyglass Media Group

In the new, 2022, Scream, a new Ghostface killer emerges in the town of Woodsboro, mainly targeting the friends of Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega, Netflix’s You series) and her sister Sam (Melissa Barrera, In the Heights). Sam holds a dark secret that Tara doesn’t know and believes that this is the reason she and her family and friends are being attacked. Soon, word gets out about the new killing spree and franchise stalwarts Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) return to help the group and try to put an end to these killings once again. Campbell and Cox give great performances, as always, but it is David Arquette who steals the show, putting in perhaps his best performance of the entire franchise. Of the new faces, Ortega and Barrera shine as the Carpenter sisters, but sadly the rest of the newcomers give very mediocre performances. The friend group of Tara Carpenter, specifically, is made up of very generic and forgettable characters that fit the modern-day teenager stereotypes and are not very intriguing at all.

Jenna Ortega in SCREAM ©Paramount Pictures/Spyglass Media Group

Scream showcases some of the best kills of the franchise and plays out well as a pure horror film. The attacks are brutal and there is real, sustained suspense built up for each sequence. The film accomplishes a steady level of tension, throughout. Another great aspect of this film is the fact that the majority of its characters actually make logical, intelligent decisions, which is very refreshing to see in a slasher flick. When viewed through that lens (of a slasher flick), the film succeeds. Sadly, though, the film disappoints as a Scream sequel, or “requel” (i.e., reboot sequel), as it purports to be. Ghostface does not get enough screen time and has lackluster dialogue. The phone-call sequences are quite underwhelming, as the killer’s taunting remarks are simply not on the same level as the iconic, memorable quips from the other movies. The balance of comedy and horror is not present either, as the film takes a very serious tone and severely lacks the quirkiness of the past entries. Also, the finale, and the reveal, which are typically the most intriguing parts of a Scream film, are lackluster here.

David Arquette in SCREAM ©Paramount Pictures/Spyglass Media Group

Scream still has a few moments where it feels like it belongs in the franchise, as the typical discussions of horror-movie rules and popular horror films do take place. It is satisfying to see references to modern horror films and elevated horror as well as how some of the rules change, but these scenes feel a bit forced, as if the filmmakers suddenly remembered they were making a film in the Scream franchise and had to find a place to fit those bits in. The new film offers some differences from the other films that are welcome, fresh changes. Overall, though, Scream is not quite as fun as the others in the franchise and strays a bit too far from them. Nevertheless, it functions as a quality slasher flick with impressive performances from the main cast and well-executed horror elements, thus the quasi-positive rating I provide. However, I think that some hardcore fans will likely leave a tad disappointed and with mixed feelings on the film overall, just as I have.

Ghostface in SCREAM ©Paramount Pictures/Spyglass Media Group

Matt Patti has enjoyed voicing his opinions on films from a young age. He has lived in the Baltimore, Maryland, area since 2015 and is a graduate of Stevenson University’s Film & Moving Image program. Matt is currently back at Stevenson University, working as the School of Design, Arts, and Communication's Studio Manager.

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