Scream (2022)

⭐⭐⭐ (3 stars out of 5)

Scream (2022) Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

With sequels justifying another new installment is laborious, if not impossible, even more so when it comes to a franchise that is self-referential and mocks its own roots. I would hate to say that this new installment is unwelcome, or that it is a failed exercise in doing the same thing over again, as I honestly enjoyed its “ultra-posmodernism” in ridiculing and reinterpreting with a pantomimic style the narrative structure of the first 1996 film. This time the meta-narrative expands with greater implausibility emphasizing what we already know narratively but now with a more blatant interest in comedy, something that I unabashedly find necessary, since redoing the straightforward horror aspects would end up being an inert and above all unjustifiable experience. Up to this point the franchise has balanced horror and satirical comedy by exploiting more of the controlled suspense characteristics, and this film leans aggressively towards dynamiting the sordidness of explicit violence to the point of formalizing hyperbole as a starting point in the narrative, thus specifying a film that is again aware of the absurdities of the genre.

”A movie within a movie within a movie,” it is evidently a total clumsiness of a movie no matter how many conscious dimensions they create; the major flaw is the replication that its framework shares with the first installment, however the collision between the two does not necessarily mean that it opens a lucid entertainment by observing the same thing. Irony ends up being this film’s worst enemy, and this time it doesn’t fully work because of the criminal effrontery of assuming that taking the burlesque tone to the extreme can be made into something fresh. Its sarcastic redundancy contradicts what Scream(1996) was first and ingeniously able to create, now it’s no longer a laugh at the farcical idiocy of the genre…now it’s a spoof of itself. Ridiculing the meta-narrative by juxtaposing it with an attempt at modernization is the most brutally bad thing about this film.

Not having Kevin Williamson on the writing does the film a tremendous disservice, the lack of frenetic acerbity in the script is what makes me miss him the most; however recapping all that was done wrong and all that was done right, at the end of it all I find the purposes quite legitimate and even indispensable. In my perspective it is a final point, and maybe not the deserved one yet it ends with the same personality and central idea of what Scream meant in the 90’s.

Seeing the whole result, it certainly feels special and diversifies many aspects that the sequels failed to achieve, but still I am left with a certain feeling of dissatisfaction. The performances of the young actors are all out of control, on the other hand the return of the original cast do not bring anything new but they do bring acting quality to the film. And although the clichés are already more than jaded, Ghostface shows us that he returns with more bloody vigor than ever, giving me the security to confirm that this is the most frivolously explicit in violence, lacerating set pieces that do not disappoint. The plot has forcefulness, even more so considering its gory pageantry, however, the vulgar masquerade of using the same storytelling as Scream (1996) makes you automatically know who “is” the killer…and the simple fact of neglecting that detail, makes it lose one of the maximum points in entertainment value that these movies have.

The plot once again confirms from the very first sequence that the nightmare has returned. Scream (2022) takes us twenty-five years after a series of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a new killer has donned the mask of Ghostface and begins hunting down a group of teenagers to resurrect the secrets of the town’s deadly past. Neve Campbell (“Sidney Prescott”), Courteney Cox (“Gale Weathers”) and David Arquette (“Dewey Riley”) reprise their iconic Scream roles alongside Melissa Barrera, Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Marley Shelton, Jasmin Savoy Brown and Sonia Ammar.

And yes, that’s the only thing from the synopses that I’ll summarize, because in itself, I have to assume that anyone reading this review is because they’ve already seen all the previous films in the franchise. So, basically the plot of this movie is exactly the same as the first one, with the only difference being ostentatiously modern. I must say that it adapts fascinatingly well to 21st century culture more than any other of the sequels. Especially because the ridiculousness is taken to heteroclite limits, it is a bizarre and common movie at the same time, that is the most expressly hilarious thing about this new film that undoubtedly fills me with an indescribable satisfaction as well as an obvious dissatisfaction. Firstly, another new Scream movie I think is more than evident that it would happen, the slasher subgenre doesn’t know the definition of when enough is enough and when a stop should be set. Secondly, the result we get is another movie that does exactly the same thing but with some oddly original details and others that just don’t quite work.

Having a script that isn’t written by Kevin Williamson, we’re already off to a bad first step, not having what is objectively the crucial element of making the central idea of Scream work is suicide by any measure. And it’s definitely what I missed most in this new installment. Williamson has a distinguished ability to write dialogue that is sympathetically juvenile, he gives it a power that develops the adolescent characters with authenticity, and of course his sharp writing for meta-commentary is something that in this film is deathly scarce; not having Williamson’s aggressive intelligence in the script is what hurts the narrative the most. Yet, to recap, the main focus of this film is not ”intelligence” as such, this is probably the most consciously burlesque of the entire franchise, it sacrifices much of the horror to consolidate an uproarious ecstasy of self-referential commentary.

Viewed in those characteristics, then, we would be looking at a Scream movie that has already reached its peak (not quality) of expansive meta-narrative. Occasionally, the narrative morphs into something so obtuse that it seems to be doing the opposite of what we usually expect in a film of this nature, and it clearly fails miserably; notwithstanding, the extensive spoofing and references to the now, more specifically modern genre, generate a singular and quite engaging chaos. The original characters return to indulge fans (myself included), something that fortuitously helps make this film an irresistible treat, Neve Campbell returns in her infallible role as Sidney alongside Courteney Cox and David Arquette. They are an unmissable trio of actors, always giving their best in their roles, distinctly by this time they are already cultural icons of Horror cinema, no matter if at times the plot settles a bit loose or if the performances falter, that’s already inconsequential, the simple act of watching them again makes it necessary. Still, I can’t say the same for the new actors, not just obnoxiously adolescent, they are obnoxiously boisterous teenagers; at times it could be seen as a premeditated exaggeration to progress the satire outrageously but it quickly loses its charm. Though to be honest, some of the performances gain confidence as the film descends into the more brutal scenes.

Ghostface this time has no patience to execute his misdeeds, this time he simply kills with a hellish aggressiveness that makes the murders look like a rhythmic symphony of blood all over the place. Whether it’s a good thing or not for the narrative, still seeing a cruel Ghostface is a truly entertaining element that any fan will applaud. On the other hand, and more on the formal side, the visuals once again establish this franchise as lackadaisical and monotonous, the dearth of style and decision to coordinate a visual grammar is shamefully patent in this film; I won’t say that the Dutch angles are tedious or that the editing insists too much on close-ups, but as a whole it lacks a visual definition of what it wants to achieve narratively. Which leads me to say that this film also sorely lacked the eye of a more avid director with a passion for visual equilibrium like Wes Craven, who sadly passed away, so it became impossible to have the maestro directing.

Scream(2022) resolves many things optimally, insists on telling us that the great allure of these films is ”being aware of the insipidity of the genre” and amusingly shows us another way to appreciate how the flaws of slasher cinema are so preposterous that they unintentionally establish it as one of the most emblematic bloodstained entertainments in the history of cinema. No sequel will ever match the monumental achievement of 1996’s Scream, yet there’s still plenty of delicious explicitness to appreciate in this new sequel.

Matteo Bedon

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When I'm not watching and studying films, I'm writing about them. Part-time essayist and full-time film critic.

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