Premise: Twenty-five years after the original series of murders in Woodsboro, a new Ghostface emerges, and Sidney Prescott must return to uncover the truth.
It’s been two and a half decades since Scream (1996) revitalized the slasher genre and changed the game for mainstream horror with a clever, meta script from Kevin Williamson brought to life by Wes Craven’s masterful direction. Scream ’96 was as much a twisted love letter to the horror genre as it was a slasher in its own right. And it garnered three sequels of varying (though all solid) quality. Now, the directing team behind 2019’s Ready or Not, Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett), have brought the Scream franchise back with Scream (2022), an endlessly clever and violent “re-quel” that honors Wes Craven’s legacy and shows reverence for the franchise he created with writer Kevin Williamson.
Scream ’22 introduces us to estranged sisters Tara (Jenna Ortega) and Sam (Melissa Barrera). Following an attack by a new Ghostface in Woodsboro, Sam rushes back to the hometown she left behind five years before and is forced to confront a dark secret from her past. As the body count rises, franchise survivors Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courteney Cox), and Dewey (David Arquette) return to assist the new crop of knife fodder and learn the new rules needed to survive the blood bath.
Radio Silence has not only made an entry in the franchise that is a worthy tribute to the legacy of Wes Craven, they have created the franchise’s best sequel. Scream ’22 isn’t the type of legacy sequel that is contingent on nostalgia and fan service. Small homages like a character absent-mindedly sliding a knife out of a block the way Drew Barrymore did in the opening of Scream ’96 are scattered throughout the film and go a long way to show reverence for the franchise. But Radio Silence never feels like they are taking over the reigns of something that doesn’t belong to them. They feel right at home in the franchise and do the series great justice.
By this point, the Stab franchise within the Scream movies has become its own unwieldy beast in the Scream sequels. Scream 3 brought the Stab franchise to the forefront of the plot in a misguided attempt at something different from the meta aspect that gave Scream ’96 and Scream 2 their appeal. Scream 4 brought meta elements back to fan-based basics, yet was still beholden to the Stab franchise within the franchise.
The way Scream ’22 handles the Stab mythos is to recognize that the franchise within the franchise is merely set dressing for the Ghostface killings that have played out over four films. Scream ’22 wisely brings it all back to the community of Woodsboro and the Ghostface killings by making the Stab franchise the entry point for exposition of the Scream story. More importantly, Scream ’22 uses the long-running Stab franchise as a cheeky indictment of the toxic fandom and fan entitlement that plagues social media instead of using it solely to poke fun at the horror genre.
Scream ’22 also delivers some of the most entertaining and graphic kills of the franchise. This movie’s Ghostface is aggressive and horrifying in the way he uses the knife. And the camera rarely cuts away from the violence. In fact, in one particularly gruesome scene, we watch Ghostface slowly stab a victim’s neck until the end of the knife exits the skin. It’s an intense moment in a movie that knows what it’s doing and wants to make you simultaneously cringe and grin at the horror onscreen.
Unsurprisingly, the film’s legacy characters of Sid, Dewey, and Gale take somewhat of a backseat in favor of Sam, Sam’s boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid), and Tara’s close-knit high school friend group. Dewey has the largest role of the legacy characters, as he is the film’s resident Ghostface killings expert. This is David Arquette’s best performance as Dewey Riley, who is now retired and somewhat reclusive in a gruff and slightly troubled existence. One scene in which he notifies the other survivors of the new killings has all the signature charm of the character while also solidifying him as a protector of his friends and the kind soul we’ve known through the four previous movies.
Tara’s friend group isn’t quite the focus it should be in the movie, unfortunately. There’s a long stretch of time in the middle where the friend group (comprised of a couple noteworthy franchise character relatives, in a fun surprise) are absent. It’s not until the third act that they come back and the film refocuses on them. Despite that long absence, the third act is a delight and filled with wit, blood, and a multitude of love of the franchise..
Where the Scream franchise goes from here, if anywhere, is anyone’s guess. We can all rest assured, though, that the franchise is in wonderfully capable hands, should Radio Silence add another entry. Scream ’22 is an impressive installment in one of the horror genre’s more unique and entertaining franchises. Wes Craven would be proud.
You can also read my essay about Randy Meeks at Midwest Film Journal: Requiem for Randy: Deconstructing Scream 2’s Most Shocking Scene
Scream is currently in theaters.
About the Writer: Matt Hurt is the creator of ObsessiveViewer.com. He also created, hosts, and produces The Obsessive Viewer, Anthology, and Tower Junkies podcasts. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and lives in Indianapolis with his cat Pizza Roll.
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