Meta the devil you know. I wasn’t sure about the need for another Scream movie, ten years after the last one, but after a series of other legacy sequels with increasingly knowing nods to what has come before, culminating in last month’s Matrix Resurrections that was heavily referential of itself all the way through, it is perfect that the original meta series has returned to make a statement on where we are right now with this current movie trend.
It won’t be, but this feels like it should be the final word on these types of films. The tropes have been called out. It’s done in the title that copies the original classic, it’s in the dialogue, in the story, in the structure and in the casting – which includes the now obligatory surprise cameo and some CGI de-aging. After the first Scream film came out in 1996, it was hard for any movie that followed to rely on the cliches that were highlighted therein without seeming trite and hackneyed. So too will it no longer be easy for modern Hollywood to get away with its current tricks.
In this sense this fifth Scream film has something that was lacking from two, three and four. As stated, in the original movie director Wes Craven famously commented on the then state of horror cinema. The subsequent three films never really managed to add to this as the pop culture climate was unchanged. Part two made some nice points about sequels but essentially it was the same message being revisited and it never had the same impact. Twenty five years later though, the genre has moved on and there are new observations to make. For this reason this instalment is the first to have anything like the smarts of that first one and crucially, even without the involvement of Craven who passed away in 2015, they once again have some insightful things to say. It is not just limited to the one genre this time either. There are two particular hat tips to The Last Jedi for example, one in a throw away one liner that references the director Rian Johnson through his other work and one writ large in the whole denouement and motivation of the killer (for more context on this read here but only if you’ve seen the film). Star Wars is not the only series this has in its sights though so the net is thrown wider to include every film fan, not just those who have a favourite scary movie.
This though, is the one thing Scream 2022 is not. It is not a scary movie. This Scream is highly entertaining, wonderfully intertextual and tremendous fun, but it isn’t frightening and here it does not compare to its namesake. It is a little gruesome in places, I think it earns its 18 certificate especially when you consider that the certification is judged against imitable behaviour, but there are no real jumps. This isn’t to say there aren’t any surprises; the early fates of some characters do not follow the paths their predecessors have taken in the previous movies and the whodunnit aspect keeps you guessing right up to the point that the killer is revealed. (I have one question though, if you know the murderer is almost certainly an acquaintance wouldn’t you snatch that mask off as soon you get the chance? This is the one plot contrivance they don’t address.)
With Wes Craven gone they have handed the reigns on this one to Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet who made Ready or Not. That film, which is actually superior to this one, played with filmic convention itself so I can see why they got the job and they are good for it. In terms of the cast we obviously get Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox back, the last two of whom make the whole thing even more meta having married and separated in real life just has their characters did on screen (now that’s commitment to the concept of the movie). Some have said that these returning players are underused but the balance between them and the newbies works and it is nice to see the middle aged people sweeping in to help save the day. The young cast are typically high in number, although increasingly less so as the story progresses, and Melissa Barrera in the lead is strong, as good if not better than she was in In the Heights.
If you like self referential comedy horror and you are a fan of the Scream films (I’m not sure those can actually be separated) then you should really go for this. I’ve pretty much forgotten the last two but this one is going to stick with me and I really enjoyed it.
The Ripley Factor:
The Scream movies have always centred around strong female characters and have played with the trope of the ‘final girl’ before, more so than they do here. I’m fact to analyse the representation of women in these films again is a little unnecessary. Needless to say victims are both men and women in this one and it is mostly the ladies who fight back.