1996’s Scream brought a pulse back to the soulless era of 90s slashers, while also introducing self-awareness to teen horror. The premise worked thanks to director Wes Craven, who — after crafting some of cinema’s most iconic monsters — helmed a meta-playground in Scream and channeling decades of experience into a world that challenged expectations of the fans and the characters alike. Then, in Scream 2, the in-universe film series Stab was born, cementing an important truth about the franchise: it critiques other horror films as much as it critiques itself. To their credit, Craven and writer Kevin Williamson created a horror universe that never set out to take down any kind of horror film so much as give their characters and horror fans a place to joyfully discuss scary movies. In this light, especially, 2022’s Scream would make the late Wes Craven incredibly proud.
Directed by Radio Silence’s Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, 2022’s Scream is as much a love letter to Wes Craven as it is to Scream‘s legacy. In their hands, Scream simultaneously honors the franchise’s outlook while crafting an emotionally driven story that is as thrilling as it is moving. Of course, there are plenty of horror critiques within its story, but it never feels snarky or mean-spirited. At its heart, Scream is about Sam’s (Melissa Barrera) severed connection to her family and her ill-fated return to Woodsboro. Everything else that follows works best without knowing much more than the fact it embraces a whodunit plot with feverous joy.
Similar to Craven’s New Nightmare, this film can stand on its own, but due to the volume of callbacks, Easter eggs and reveals, it works best if you watch all four films before viewing — or at least Scream and Scream 4. If you don’t, expect Scream‘s killer opening sequence to be targeted at you for not respecting all that Sid, Dewey and Gale have endured and sacrificed.
Although 2022’s Scream is more focused on ushering in a new generation into its world, co-writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick fittingly bring a sense of closure to the Woodsboro Three in a way that feels realistic in the context of their 30-years of surviving Ghostface killers. Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courteney Cox) and Dewey (David Arquette) seamlessly fall back into their beloved roles, but with an added and genuine weariness. The trio is (rightfully) tired of this, which only makes their performances all the more memorable.
Out of all the Scream newbies, Melissa Barrera (In the Heights) steals the show with a steely confidence that’s only outmatched by her riveting chemistry with Jenna Ortega (You). Much of Scream‘s success is due to this pair’s ability to effortlessly, and on a dime, bring palpable love, fear and rage to the big screen. Yellowjackets‘ Jasmin Savoy Brown and The Boys‘ Jack Quaid bring their unique brand of comedy to the film, gifting us with plenty of self-consciously quippy moments that balance well against the film’s heartbreaking storylines. Unlike Scream 4, these teens feel rooted less in the desire to be taken seriously and more in the struggle to be authentic — which is a clever way to encapsulate the difference between Millennials and Gen Z. Sure, there are quintessential and appropriately-written teenage cringe dialogue moments, but you’ll still find yourself hoping everyone survives the bloodbath.
Unlike previous Scream films, this entry foregoes cinematic/horror set pieces in its kills, and instead use up-close and intimate slashing. That choice, too, is fitting, as this film cares more about who is being killed and why than necessarily how. Ready or Not‘s killer DNA is certainly weaved into Ghostface’s knife — with all the squishiness, hand gouging and sleek sound effects that diehard franchise fans have come to expect.
Scream uses its meta-commentary on horror pitch perfectly to critique the current divisions within the horror community. Expect plenty of thoughts on horror’s current reboot/sequel trend– or “requel,” as the film calls it — which is pointed at franchise reboots like David Gordon Greene’s Halloween trilogy. However, Scream doesn’t direct its punches only at big blockbuster horror. Scream offers a refreshing commentary about the term “elevated horror,” often used in arthouse style horror or when describing independent horror films, and how using a term like this can rob slashers of the respect their layered characters and intricately plotted action sequences deserve.
As the best of Scream films have always done, this entry points the critical lens as much at the fans of horror as the movies themselves. Harkening back to Craven’s original film, this Scream also deftly represents the language of the horror community — what we honor, what we argue about and what and who we choose to keep alive in the genre. More than anything, this is what the film means when it says it’s #ForWes.
Following in the footsteps of recent hits like Ready or Not and Freaky, 2022’s Scream promises slashers aren’t dead. By its end, Scream sets up plenty of exciting directions for where the franchise could go next, should it continue its witty and blood-soaked legacy. With Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett at the helm, Woodsboro’s teens are in good hands.
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