Made by Scream fans for Scream fans, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett conjures up a self-aware, razor-sharp, viciously bloody modern slasher that pays homage to the iconic film that started it all. Combining palpable tension with endless pop-culture analysing, 2022’s Scream succeeds in providing sufficient metatextual commentary on the current landscape of horror films, albeit at the cost of its plot and characters.
Visually, Scream benefits from its truly effective set pieces. Whether it’s a darkly lit hospital or an extended party sequence at its climax, the film constructs itself with spectacular visual imagination that accomplishes on what a new Scream film should look like. Taking advantage of Brett Jutkiewicz’s cinematography, the brutal death sequences in Scream are marvelously staged with grizzly violence.
When the original film debuted in 1996, it set itself apart from previous slasher movies in its own awareness of genre tropes, as well as its ability to utilise them in service of the plot, while passing on that knowledge to the audience. When Scream arrived, it successfully reinvented a dormant genre that had become oversaturated with straight-to-video films and recycled, uninventive and clichéd plots. Naturally, a Scream film made twenty years later would attempt to deconstruct the pop culture cycle of today.
2022’s Scream starts off strong by invoking elevated horror in its opening scene, acknowledging the wave of arthouse horror films that have defined the genre in the past decade. While the original 1996 film had novel criticisms of the cheap jump scares that plagued many of the slasher movies of its time, the latest entry in the franchise has difficulty expressing its relationship to the latest evolution in popular horror movies. Instead, the latest film in the Scream series remains oddly rooted in its comfort zone, afraid of injecting levity and self-awareness into the at-times, pretentiousness, of arthouse horror films down to the level of slasher movies.
Despite the diversity of its cast, most of the new characters are uninteresting to watch. With the exception of Melissa Berrera’s Sam and Jenna Ortega’s Tara, the characters of Scream are depicted as one-dimensional avatars that do not experience any sort of growth throughout the film. Fortunately, the legacy characters shine despite their limited screen time. Neve Campbell is terrific as Sidney Prescott, continuing her reign as the “Queen of Scream”, while David Arquette gives Dewey some engaging pathos through his relationship and reunion with Courtney Cox’s Gale Weathers.
Pushing self-referentiality to its utmost limit, Scream tediously reminds the audience of its status as a potential decades-later cash grab movie. Ultimately, a few enjoyably staged murders, accompanied by clever meta-commentary, doesn’t save Scream from falling victim of the reboot culture that it skewers. Instead of being an expression of a horror auteur grown disenchanted with genre tropes (like the original film), the latest Scream film incorporates meta-commentary, smartphones, and toxic online fan culture into a horror experience that is, in essence, derivative.