If you’re reading this Scream review, you most likely don’t need to be lectured on the history of the franchise. You know how it shocked audiences when Drew Barrymore was offed in the opening scene of the 1996 original. You know two quick, tonally different sequels followed soon after, and you know that Scream 4 finally greeted fans over a decade later in 2011, but didn’t perform well at the box office.
The brilliance of the fifth movie doesn’t rely on knowing any of this history. It’s successful because it replicates the campy fun of the original while offering signature metacommentary on current horror content. It’s built on the foundation of the original, and yet you actually don’t need to have seen it to appreciate this new self-christened “requel”. To do this while also pleasing old fans is every sequel’s dream. Ghostface makes it their nightmare and delivers a wickedly enjoyable film that constantly engages with its audience—whether they like it or not.
This audience member did like it, but others might not forgive some of the weirder story choices, so this spoiler-free Scream review will cover everything good and bad about Sidney’s latest return to Woodsboro.
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Scream (2022) is out now exclusively in theatres.
Story – There’s a formula to it, a very simple formula!
Scream introduces us to Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) and Ghostface in a scene heavily reminiscent of Drew Barrymore’s unforgettable opening from the original. The movie begins its modern horror references right from the start. There are moments here that had me grinning, but it’s not the best of the franchise. The scene relies on mirroring the 1996 movie a little too much, but I imagine it’s a tenser watch if this is your first experience with the franchise.
From here, we’re introduced to the rest of the new cast, consisting of Tara’s high school friends, her sister Sam (Melissa Barrera), and Sam’s boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid). Everyone is made to look suspicious almost from the start. This is kicked up a notch when Sidney, Gale, and Dewey slowly start to make their return. Everybody’s a suspect in this franchise, and Scream does a really good job of highlighting this in a playful way.
The usual spate of killings kicks off in Woodsboro, and they provide some brutal moments, and dark humor. I laughed during a lot of the action, and yet there are some truly tense scenes that left me at the edge of my seat–right before Ghostface cuts the tension with a stab or two…or three or four. It’s thrilling and funny, in a balance that none of the other sequels have managed to replicate. The fifth entry is not, however, very scary. I’ve personally never been afraid while watching any of the movies, but I doubt many people will be watching between their fingers. There are also a few story choices that don’t land as well as they were conceived to. It can detract from the otherwise quality plot, but it’s such a minimal problem in an otherwise enjoyable script from writers Guy Busick and Christopher Murphy.
What it lacks in scares, the film certainly makes up for in entertainment. The third act in particular impresses from the second it abruptly begins. Blood and horror references are mangled together to mirror the feeling of the original. The film has the late, great, Wes Craven, and Kevin Williamson to thank for the groundwork it so expertly retreads.
Characters & Performances – Everybody’s a suspect
Those hoping for significant screen time for Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette will be disappointed in the lack of focus on Sidney, Gale, and Dewey. They’re sidelined in favor of introducing new characters. Dewey still manages to be the most memorable personality throughout, however. This spoiler-free Scream review won’t get into the details of why, but Arquette does a fine job with Dewey’s new character development. It’s been so nice to see him grow and change throughout the franchise, yet remain a goofball at heart.
By giving Dewey some of the best material to work with, it does limit how much Sidney and Gale play a part in the movie. It’s understandable when this “requel” is introducing a new cast of main characters. However, this provides plenty of screen time for audiences to fall in love with new characters. Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, and Jasmin Savoy Brown are standout performances for very different reasons. Ortega’s Tara balances the tough emotional and physical material thrown her way. Jack Quad provides a wonderful Millennial everyman quality to Richie, and Mindy comes off like a mix of previous film nerds Kirby and Randy thanks to the easy coolness Savoy Brown pulls off.
Sam doesn’t really come in to her own until the very end, unfortunately. As the potential “new Sidney”, I felt the writing let her down. She had some divisive material to work with, but with such a great cast of characters, it doesn’t feel like a major flaw. Somebody else is always there for audiences to focus on instead.
Although the feel of Scream is almost a direct lift from the original, the new characters feel fresh. Their archetypes are given a Gen Z facelift for 2022. Solid writing and great acting make this group of teenagers feel so likeable, you’ll almost be sad Ghostface is targeting them.
Editing & Pacing – Cinema Club would approve
The reason so many action scenes get a laugh from me is because of their perfectly implemented cutaways. A quick stab here, a punch in the face there, and then a high-octane chase, or slow, drawn-out hunt from Ghostface will occur. The speedy transition that begins act 3 is one of the most memorable moments in the whole movie. Along with the whodunnit mystery of the killer’s identity, it’s the humor, thrills, and kills that make the franchise so beloved. The editing helps enhance the practical gags and intense and brutal moments, which helps tick all these boxes.
Without the credits, Scream has a runtime of approximately 1 hour, 45 minutes. My bladder decided to flip me the bird and demand I go to the toilet about 10 minutes into the movie. I didn’t give in to the traitor and sat for the next hour and a half. Not the most comfortable I’ve ever been, but there wasn’t a single second that I felt like it would be okay to overlook. Even the slow scenes feel important–what if I missed a clue about the killer’s identity, or a joke, or a call from Ghostface? There’s always something interesting happening. I can’t fault the structure or pacing of this movie at all.
Cinematography & Sound – Drop dead gorgeous
Woodsboro is back, and so is its kickass soundtrack. Some classic licensed music is used in a great way, but there are no spoilers in this Scream review. Longtime fans will recognize the track as soon as it starts, though. There’s also another signature spooky OST provided by composer Marco Beltrami. He has now provided the soundtrack for all five entries in the series.
There’s a great shot near the end that uses music and the camera in a memorable way. However, most of the directing talents of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett are displayed in the way they don’t show off. This is a fun movie, and they portray this concisely. For example, Ghostface scenes contain longer shots amongst the quick action, which feels different, yet welcome. It’s strange watching a Scream entry not directed by the late Wes Craven, but it’s great to see the duo get the same laughs and thrills from their work as the horror legend did. There are a lot of aspects borrowed from Craven’s original, but their unique style is not one of them.
Do you agree with this Scream review? Let me know in the comments below!