Ghostface is back, baby! If you know anything about me as a horror fan, then you probably know that Wes Craven is a figure in this genre that has been a huge influence on me for nearly four decades now, and I continue to try and honor his legacy these days through the work that I do as a journalist (especially through our “Cravin’ Craven” podcast series on F This Movie!). That being said, I’ve spent a few years wondering just how I was going to feel seeing someone (or someones in this case) take the helm of the Scream franchise because it ranks right up there for me alongside the Nightmare on Elm Street series, and I didn’t know if my heart was prepared to see anyone else play around in the audacious and innovative cinematic sandbox that Craven and Kevin Williamson first introduced us to back in 1996.
Thankfully, Radio Silence proved to be more than up to the task with Scream (2022), which not only feels like a beautifully bloody love letter to Craven’s previous four films, but this latest entry also sets out to blaze its own trail with its own self-referential take on the current state of horror, genre fandom, and even the Scream series as well. In short, I think what directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have managed to create with this newest entry in the Scream franchise not only thrilled me as a fan, but I think it would have made Wes Craven extremely proud as well. The script from James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick is super clever and entertaining, and I enjoyed how it dabbled just enough in the world of nostalgia without ever feeling like it was trapped by it either.
Just a quick note before we move forward: when it comes to the Scream series (and movies as a whole), I’m never someone who divulges any kind of spoilers, but I’m going to be extra careful here so that I can help preserve the Scream experience for all my fellow Ghostface fiends out there. So if you’re worried about spoilers, fret not!
Like many of its predecessors, Scream (2022) starts off with a sinister phone call, where high schooler Tara (Jenna Ortega) finds herself contending with a new Ghostface killer on the other end of the line, and she finds herself dealing with the horrors of being caught inside her very own Stab movie, at the mercy of an unknown killer who wants nothing more than to make her the very first victim of his own twisted little meta-movie. Tara’s estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) gets word of what’s happened to her sister and heads back to Woodsboro accompanied by her reluctantly supportive boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) to dig into the mystery of just why after all these years Ghostface is back and claiming more victims.
This involves her digging into the lives of Tara’s friends and even enlisting the help of former sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) who is all-too-familiar with the antics of all the Ghostface killers that have terrorized him and those he cares most about for decades now. And as Dewey’s concerns grow over what this killer means for the likes of Gale (Courteney Cox), Sidney (Neve Campbell), and even deputy-turned-sheriff Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton), it’s evident to those who have been through this before that this iteration of Ghostface is playing by a new set of rules.
Truth be told, that’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to everything in Scream (2022), and I don’t want to say too much more about certain aspects of the film because ignorance is bliss in this instance. But suffice to say, I think the way that screenwriters Vanderbilt and Busick found new ways to dig into a lot of the constant themes of the Scream series - examining the current state of the horror genre and the concept of family ties being the two biggies - is remarkable in that regard. I also think the reverence that their script shows for the first four Scream films too made me extremely happy as a longtime fan of the series and the way they were able to utilize the legacy cast members here was incredibly smart as well, all while keeping the primary focus of this new Scream’s story on the franchise newbies to boot.
One of the things that the Scream series has been known for is having a killer opening and several tension-fueled set pieces and both Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin prove here why they are two of the most exciting filmmakers working today because they craft some real nail-biters here (including the aforementioned opening scene). It’s also worth mentioning that the death scenes in Scream (2022) are shockingly brutal too, so if you’re into slicing and dicing, that news should undoubtedly thrill you. Also, on a visual level, the work that the filmmakers do in this sequel with cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz to create an experience that falls seamlessly in with the look established in all of Craven’s Scream films is pretty damn impressive and really felt like this latest film belonged right alongside the other movies.
In terms of the performances, returning cast members Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, and Marley Shelton in Scream (2022) are all excellent as expected (side note: I was downright elated by some of the developments of these character’s stories since we last saw them in Scream 4) and the Woodsboro newbies are a welcome addition to the mix as well. Jenna Ortega is an absolute trooper in this film and I also fell in love with Jasmin Savoy Brown’s character Mindy Meeks-Martin who assumes the role of the super mega film geek who helps fill in some of the blanks for the audience, and you can tell she’s really having the time of her life with the role. Jack Quaid steals nearly every scene he’s in here and I think Melissa Barrera rises to the occasion throughout Scream (2022) as her character Sam becomes a huge driving force in this narrative.
Even though I had a sneaking suspicion about the identities of the Ghostface killer here before the third act reveal, that didn’t thwart my enjoyment of Scream (2022) in the least bit because of how much fun I was having with the story as a whole as a fan. It does feel like this sequel missing that sort of “emphatic” statement that we’ve come to expect from the Scream films (its thesis feels a little safe in comparison to Scream 4, which still blows me away by how ballsy and ahead of its time it truly was in 2011), but without a doubt, there’s still so much to love and appreciate about this new Scream that I was just happy to be back in this world after all these years more than anything else.
Movie Score: 4.5/5