Reviewed by: Antoni Konieczny

"Beyond acting as a name-dropping, tongue-in-cheek gateway drug to the genre, this entry targets toxic fandoms." | Photo: Paramount Pictures

The Scream series is something of a golden child of (meta)horror. Even if neither of the sequels could equal the first entry’s playfulness and wit, they were still largely accomplished follow-ups, be it due to their introduction of exciting set pieces or their updated self-referential commentary. In the capable hands of Radio Silence’s Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, this Scream is grisly, confident, and, incidentally, delivers some of the most compelling stabs since the original.

Ghostface is back. And so is a teenager alone at her house, an escalating landline call, and a life-or-death horror trivia game. Only now, the girl, Tara (Jenna Ortega), googles her answers and would much rather chat about “elevated horror” than the fictional Stab franchise. Naturally, she gets an answer wrong and a brutal attack follows.

Hearing of the incident, Tara’s estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) arrives in Woodsboro along with her boyfriend Ritchie (Jack Quaid). Their paths cross with Tara’s friend group: Wes (Dylan Minnette), Amber (Mikey Madison), twins Chad and Mindy (Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown), and Liv (Sonia Ammar) - each with ties to legacy characters. Not long after, the franchise’s old-timers - Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), and the former sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) - become involved in the bloody affair, too.

Beyond acting as a name-dropping, tongue-in-cheek gateway drug to the genre, this entry targets toxic fandoms. In an adequately Williamson-esque fashion, the young characters are quick to agree that the new killer(s?) is up to making a real-life requel and may thus be an obsessive Stab (a Scream stand-in series within this universe) fan, who does not much appreciate the fictional franchise’s trajectory. The film cleverly works this idea into its mythology by having a Stab entry directed by that “Knives Out guy”.

With its meta edge on-point, the effectiveness of the film’s kill sequences is next for scrutiny. These are big shoes to fill with the series having introduced audiences to some of the most iconic kills out there. In Scream, the visual essentials of a slasher do the trick: the directing duo shuffles broad daylight sceneries, eerie hospital corridors, and moonlit backyards. This more low-key approach acts as a reminder that amid all the black comedy nods, what makes a Ghostface film effective is its willingness to shift gears toward genuine horror - a stunt that a couple of this entry’s predecessors arguably lost touch with in favour of overly elaborate set pieces.

Aside from getting the atmosphere right, the challenge any requel must face is balancing the legacy elements and those newly introduced. Fortunately, Scream manages to avoid imbalance - the returning cast does not overshadow the new characters and, most importantly, functions as more than mere fan service. Among the seasoned trio, Dewey at his most vulnerable and moving is the standout. On the younger side, Yellowjackets’ Jasmin Savoy Brown delivers a magnetic performance that echoes Randy Meeks’ legacy character.

If to point the knife at anything, it’s the unconvincing melodramatic segments that tend to rely on generic dialogue and struggle to tonally complement the rest of the spectacle. Likewise, the mise-en-scène accompanying the narrative’s quieter moments doesn't always keeps pace with the more dynamic sequences rich in visual red herrings.

Before the credits roll, a card that reads “For Wes” appears on the screen. The film’s homage to Wes Craven is apparent throughout. At the same time, the filmmakers here give the impression of being well-aware of the later entries’ missteps. It would not be a fandom-inflaming blasphemy to call this one the second-best Scream film.

Reviewed on: 15 Jan 2022
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Scream packshot
A quarter of a century after the first spate of murders, Sidney Prescott returns to Woodsboro to take on a new Ghostface.
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Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Writer: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, based on characters created by Kevin Williamson

Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Melissa Barrera, Marley Shelton, Jenna Ortega, Dylan Minnette, Jack Quaid, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sonia Ammar, Mikey Madison, Mason Gooding, Kyle Gallner, Reggie Conquest

Year: 2022

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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