Scream — Meta Commentary Falling Short

Image retrieved from TMDb

Since the release of the original in 1996, the Scream franchise has consistently done meta send-ups of horror movies, sequels, and Hollywood in general, and apart from Scream 3, it’s been to pretty solid results. So if there’s any movie franchise that’s perfectly positioned to do a legacy sequel (or “requel” as it’s called here), it’s this one. This has mostly been a phenomenon with horror franchises, with Halloween being the main example, but there are lots of other popular series that have tried their hand at the requel game, including Jumanji, Ghostbusters, The Matrix, and probably most notably, Star Wars. But unfortunately, the latest Scream entry (which is titled simply, Scream, the same as the original), while clever, can’t quite find its footing as a coherent movie.

The biggest constant between the first four Scream movies is that they were all directed by Wes Craven. Sadly, Craven passed away in 2015, which meant that Scream (2022) would be left in the hands of new directors. Due to this and the absence of Kevin Williamson, who wrote Screams 1, 2, and 4, there is simply a different overall feel to this latest entry. Even when previous installments didn’t quite hit the high of the original, and fell into similar beats and tropes, you always felt safe in the hands of Craven and his confident, assured, and specific direction. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, Scream (2022) lacks that X-factor that made the others stand out. Visually and tonally, it’s more akin to any basic, run-of-the-mill modern horror movie, and that’s a huge detractor for the overall quality and enjoyment.

Plus, the characters spend a lot of time discussing “elevated horror”, a term which has become much-maligned, but still evokes thoughts of very specific films — Hereditary, It Follows, The Babadook, and more are specifically mentioned. However, this is possibly the most basic and formulaic that the franchise has been. There isn’t much beneath the surface, and for the first time in five films, I was able to predict who the killer(s) (Killers? Killer? I won’t spoil it) was before the big reveal. Whether that says I’m bad at figuring out movie mysteries, it doesn’t really matter, because Scream (2022) is much less clever than it thinks it is.

What this film does well is, to put it lightly, poking fun at obsessive and toxic fans. If you’ve spent any time consuming movie content on the internet, then you definitely know the type of person it’s tearing down. It’s the type of person who doesn’t know how to mature and grow with their favorite movies and franchises, keeping them stuck in a state of arrested development when it comes to their media literacy. So to see a major franchise film so directly satirize them is quite satisfying.

And paradoxically, though the ending is easy to predict, for a good amount of the runtime, the movie does a good job of fostering a feeling of paranoia. Like each previous entry, the characters liken the events they’re living through to those of a horror movie, predicting the events along the way. But with four previous variations on what can happen in a horror movie, you’ll be on the edge of your seat for a while, wondering just how this one is going to wrap up. Once it’s revealed, it’s not quite satisfying, but hey, at least they tried.

Scream (2022) does and doesn’t bring something new to the genre and franchise. There are some chuckles, some gnarly deaths, and muddled meta elements that don’t quite ultimately land. The cast, both returning and new, are game, and lean into what this type of movie is supposed to be, but even they can’t keep it from ultimately flailing.

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