It’s the middle of the night. A teenage girl is home alone. Her landline won’t stop ringing. She answers it and is led to believe she is speaking with her mother’s new boyfriend. The conversation starts off awkward, but innocent enough; then takes a turn for the worst when she discovers that the man on the other end is not her mother’s boyfriend, but a stranger who wants to kill her. She locks all the doors in her house, but it's too late. He's been in there with her all along. This is a story that sounds familiar to any horror fan, but even more so to fans of the Scream franchise.
Scream 2022 treds over a lot of familiar territory. A killer is on the loose, all the characters are suspects, the body count is on the rise, and the practice of not answering unknown numbers is as foreign of a concept as theoretical mathematics. However, it would be wrong to call the movie a complete retread. Focus is shifted from the original scream characters to a new cast of fresh faces and, though the actors clearly have talent to bring to the table, the characters themselves leave a lot to be desired. They are either carbon copies of other characters in the series or just disposable stereotypes. Perhaps that's part of the joke, but if it is, I don’t find it amusing. The 1996 classic separated itself from other slashers not just by poking fun at the genre, but by being a better movie than most of the films within that genre. The characters in that movie are so unique and memorable. Their personalities help elevate the comedy because they make jokes and references that are specific to them, rather than just being quips you could put into the mouths of any of the characters and achieve the same effect. I was particularly let down by the new main character, Sam Carpenter, who lacks the strength and competence that Sidney Prescott always displayed. However, her younger sister Tara ( played by Jannea Marie Ortega) was very interesting and enjoyable to watch. She possesses both the vulnerability and resourcefulness that one wishes to see in a “final girl” archetype, and the way she was used in the narrative was delightfully different from how I predicted she would be used; but, going into that would involve spoilers, so I'll steer clear of that.
The previous Scream films, excluding the lackluster third, were scripted by lifelong horror fan Kevin Williamson. He wrote the first entry of the series when he was a broke “wannabe” script writer with just one unproduced black comedy called Killing Mrs. Tingle to his name. The script would go on to be purchased by Dimension films for four hundred thousand dollars, Wes Craven would - after many refusals - eventually agree to direct, and the rest is history. This new movie was written by two individuals, James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick. Vanderbilt penned the script for David Fincher's Zodiac, an excellent crime thriller that's so well written it makes me forgive the man for also having his fingerprints on films like Independence Day: Resurgence and The Amazing Spiderman 2. Those movies had multiple writers throwing things into the pot, and he just happened to be one of them. Busick on the other hand doesn’t have a lot of credits. The only other feature he’s worked on is the 2019 horror comedy Ready or Not, which was directed by the same director duo, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. I don’t know which writer had more input, but I do note that neither of them have the same gift for writing witty and self-referential dialogue that Williamson poses, nor do they even come close to matching the intensity and creativity of the more horrific scenes. They do a fine job with the whodunnit aspect of the film, and the commentary they offer on fan culture and obsession hits all the marks that it has too, but the writing lacks a unique voice. I’m not asking for Sorkin levels of distinction, I just want something that distinguishes itself from other modern day horror films that focus on teens. That wasn’t brought to the table. Meta humor and self awareness is common in the horror genre now, it’s not as fresh as it was in the 90s.
Matt Bettinelli Olpon and Tyler Gillet do bring a new cinematic look to the series. The first three films look very polished and over lit (which this movie itself references) and Olpin and Gillet have a much more handheld and realistic approach to cinematography. This is another element of the film that is both good and bad. On the good side of things, this way of shooting makes the violence in the movie a lot more visceral and true to life. On the bad side, we miss out on the more interesting camera movements and setups that horror legend Wes Craven put together for his intense horror sequences. Craven was known for giving one direction repeatedly to his crew, and that direction was, “more blood!” Olpon and Gillet made this movie as if they would’ve told the makeup and effects department to real it in if they got to unrealistically gory. As a result blood does spill, but not in the over the top way it did in the original movie climax, which required over fifty five gallons of fake blood to be created!
Many have deemed this new Scream film to be the best sequel in the series so far. I’d have to
re-watch it to decide whether I agree with that sentiment or not. What I know now is that Scream 2022 was an enjoyable and nostalgic experience for me, but it has some glaring issues that I just couldn’t ignore. The filmmakers really tried with this movie, and they managed to do some good work, but none of it was enough to distract me from the more problematic elements of the film's overall execution. If your love of the series calls you to the theater to see it, then you’re probably someone who will get enjoyment out of the experience; but, if you're not someone who really enjoys these films, be more intelligent than the characters in it, by not answering the call.