Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Writer: James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick (script), Kevin Williamson (characters created by)
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Marley Shelton, Mikey Madison, Jasmin Savoy Brown
Producers: Paul Neinstein, William Sherak, James Vanderbilt
Music: Brian Tyler
Cinematographer: Brett Jutkiewicz
Editor: Michel Aller
Running time: 114mins
What’s the story: When her estranged sister Tara (Ortega) is attacked by a Ghostfaced killer, Sam (Barrera) must return to the town of Woodsboro to protect her, while confronting her own past. As the bodies mount, previous Ghostface survivors Dewey Riley (Arquette), Gail Weathers (Cox), and Sidney Prescott (Campbell) are also pulled back to the scene of past crimes.
What’s the verdict: On three occasions in this Scream “requel,” characters driving to the rescue of someone unknowingly imperilled do not think to call the cops, who presumably could send a nearby unit there pronto. Once is excusable, twice and they should really take the danger more seriously. Three times? That’s just asking to be gutted.
Moreover, hot on the heels of that meta-Matrix last month, this is another archly self-aware go-round for a ‘90s favourite. The pre-credit scene riffs on Scream’s famous opening. A character bemoans that the “Stab” franchise, that slasher-within-a-slasher, went off the rails with part 5, and guess what, we’re watching the fifth instalment. Later, a franchise regular will taunt the killer about sorely needing new material. Elsewhere, a new character dismisses jump scare slashers, declaring a preference for “elevated horror, like The Babadook.”
Just another soulless retread of a beloved movie then, wearing its derivativeness on its bloody, ripped sleeve? Not quite, but it does walk that knife edge. Despite massive contrivances (prepare to see the most deserted hospital in all horror cinema) James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick’s script understands what makes a Scream flick tick. Particularly the whodunnit element; as the posters say, “It’s always someone you know”…
Directors Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett’s previous outing was the lively frightener Ready or Not, so they know how to deliver effective popcorn scares. Despite the many spoofs, the Ghostface mask has always chilled in the Scream movies, and this latest is no exception. Notably in a striking daytime murder scene, just one of many moments that earns this outing its cert.18.
Nothing here replicates how smart Wes Craven’s Scream felt back in 1996, but fun is had with the self-referential smart-arsery. Particularly when this movie’s clued up geek, Mindy (Savoy Brown), outlines the rules of a “requel” – part reboot, part sequel – while also taking amusing swipes against toxic fandom. Returning “legacy characters” are de rigueur we are told, so Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette are all back, plus Marley Shelton’s Deputy Sheriff from the underrated Scream 4. While there is nothing here we’ve not seen in 2018’s Halloween “requel,” or Scream 4 for that matter, it is nice seeing the gang back together. Especially in a killer “passing on the torch” gag to the younger players.
Of said players, In the Heights’ Melissa Barrera impresses in the lead as Sam, a character loaded with a fiendish backstory, and bemoaning her situation with one of the film’s best lines: “Can you tell me how I got caught up in the middle of someone’s fan-fucking-fiction?” Jenna Ortega, Savoy Brown and Mikey Madison (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s “swimming pool” Manson member), are amongst the solid new support. As is The Boy’s Jack Quaid as Sam’s beau, indignant at (ex) Sheriff Dewey’s declaration that the killer is “always the love interest.”
A dark character beat suggests that if this “requel” wanted to start something new the franchise could at least go off in other directions. But as Mindy reminds us, franchises should do something new, but not too new as to enrage fans. Scream (2022) does that just fine.