The last time I wrote reviews, around 2015, the first season of MTV’s Scream was set to debut that year, and I was eager to watch it. To this day, I feel like it was an underrated gem of a television show. Now, in 2022, Scream has been revitalized on the big screen due to Radio Silence Pictures (by way of Paramount, mind you), and promptly skewered the modern generation of horror with gusto and glee. Despite all of the issues that surround the upcoming sequel (I keep holding out that Neve Campbell will make some appearance alongside Courtney Cox), I am eagerly looking forward to seeing that one, too. But this review is about Scream 2022, and all that came with it.
In what has become a tradition for the Scream franchise, there is always a big-name actor in the opening scene who is going to die, the third victim of the spree (not necessarily on screen, mind you) will be blonde, and one person will invariably be killed in a manner other than by being stabbed, and there will be a list of rules explained somewhere throughout the film by the resident media buff. These are the typical details surrounding a Scream film. Yet, when the film finally rolled around and Jenna Ortega, cast to play Tara Carpenter, survived her opening scene, things took a drastic change. It was clear from the beginning that this would not be your typical Scream film. And it was all the better for it.
Scream 2022 managed to figure out precisely what Scream was all about, something that people regrettably miss. This is not a slasher film first, it is a who-dun-it murder mystery first with all of the elements of a slasher film, played out in the real world. There are no supernatural killers who can come back from the dead with inhuman strength on their side, and a virginal heroine is not going to be the last one standing. No, this is a series with a deeply rooted story, centered on Sidney Prescott and the trauma that has entangled itself in her life. The reason that Scream feels scarier, at least in my opinion, is unlike so many other slasher films – this one could happen. This film could play out in real life, and we would be in much the same position as the characters. We know the rules of the genre, but they will not save you.
Scream 2022 begins with Tara Carpenter (played by Jenna Ortega), who is home alone when she receives a phone call from somebody who claims to know her mother from their “group.” Much like Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) in the first film, the call starts out innocently enough before turning threatening. Unlike in the first film, Tara ignores the initial calls while she is texting with her closest friend, Amber Freeman (played by Mikey Madison) until it becomes clear that the person that she is talking to isn’t Amber. Drawn into a game not dissimilar from Casey and Kirby’s phone calls in Scream and Scream 4, Tara makes a valiant effort to rescue her friend, only to find out that Amber was never really in danger. It was all just a ploy to lure back the real target of this new spree.
It is here where we are introduced to Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera, who made a splash in In The Heights last year), the illegitimate daughter of Billy Loomis (I wonder if one of the two ladies from the bathroom scene is her mother), and Richie Kirsch (Jack Quaid of The Boys’ fame), her boyfriend who works with her at a bowling alley in Modesto. Upon receiving a call from Wes Hicks (Dylan Minette) about her sister’s attack and subsequent hospitalization, Sam resolves to return to her hometown of Woodsboro and get her sister the hell out of dodge. The only problem is, that Ghostface has no intention of allowing her to escape so easily. The killer has a plan, after all, and it centers on those who are tied to the original massacre – lightly, I consider this element to be much like Scream 2 wherein the first three victims shared names with the original victims, only to be dropped faster than Cici Cooper (Sarah Michelle Gellar). It certainly threads through the film, but a few additional scenes for Kyle Gallner’s character (Vince Schneider) would have granted it more weight, in my humble opinion. The revelation that he is related to Stu Macher is there and gone in the blink of an eye.
Because, while most of the characters have some connection to previous murder sprees – Wes Hicks is the son of (then Deputy now Sherriff) Judy Hicks, once more played by Marley Shelton, and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding) are the niece and nephew of Randy Martin (Jaime Kennedy), Liv McKenzie (Sonia Ammar) has yet to be confirmed to be of the same family that lived next door to the Becker’s from the very first film. Keep in mind, that this is not a bad thing. The strength of the ties to the previous installments is quite good, with references to previous characters and situations and callbacks to certain elements sprinkled throughout, you’ll have a fun time picking them apart like the characters do their particular fates.
Scream 2022 is not afraid to stray from convention when it needs to and play straight to its genre roots when you least expect it. There is an extended sequence surrounding Wes Hicks where behind each and every door that obscures our view the killer could be lurking. Mindy is more than happy to break down the various issues surrounding the new fare of horror, the re-quel, and its place in the hierarchy of media. But the Scream franchise has always been known to pull what other slashers have failed to do – characterize their characters as people. None of the characters are static, any more than the audience would be. Their reactions can be expected, even anticipated, but if you watch enough movies that can practically become a passive skill.
The relationships between the characters, primarily the main group consisting of Amber, Mindy, Chad, Wes, Liv, and Tara are incredible. The dynamics between them are clearly defined, you can tell that they are friends, but you can also clearly understand how they are friends. The animosity between most of the group and Liv, who is implied to be a new addition to their friend group, colors their interactions with her – though Chad is quick to defend his girlfriend, even as other issues come into question. Almost as a group, they are wary of Sam’s return and how it will impact Tara’s emotional stability after surviving her encounter with Ghostface. At the same time, Wes, Chad, and Mindy are incredibly closer to Sam than Amber or Liv, as she would babysit the trio. This also gives a detail that retcons the constant disappearances of Judy Hicks during Scream 4, wouldn’t you want to continually check in on your child when a serial killer was on the loose targeting teens?
On that same subject, how families are conveyed is another high point. The relationship between Sam and Tara has its ups and downs, but you can see that they are fighting to get back what they once had – which had been destroyed by Sam’s insecurities and Tara’s anger at being abandoned. Wes and Judy have a handful of scenes together, letting us know that she cares deeply for her son. At the same time, we get a return of Martha, Randy’s younger sister, once again played by Heather Matarazzo in one scene. But damn if it wasn’t a good scene.
David Arquette, Courtney Cox, and Neve Campbell are the undisputed icons of the series, Ghostface aside, and while the latter two are not introduced until partway into the story, it is clear that they are intricately connected to it. Despite not being the target of this most recent spree, all three cannot help but join in on the fight – and while this installment marks a massive departure from previous entries, it was the correct move. Sometimes, the reaper will catch up to you. Gale and Sidney, having had what could generously be called a tumultuous relationship, have come so far. From downright hostility to grudging respect to undying friendship, it has been a journey that has played out phenomenally on screen. Getting to see the on-screen return of Billy Loomis was, quite simply, a plus. At least in my book.
Scream 2022 was a smashing success, taking home a respectable box office gross that led to the near-instantaneous announcement of a follow-up. This will mark the first time since Scream and Scream 2 that a sequel was released within around a year after the previous installment (8 days separate those two entries – 8 days less than a year, that is). As production goes on, only time will tell if they can capture lighting in a bottle for a second time.