Scream (2022) ☆☆☆(3/4): A slashing legacy sequel its franchise deserves

During last several years, we are served with a bunch of reboots and legacy sequels ranging from the recent Star Wars trilogy to “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (2021) and “Candyman” (2021), so it is rather fateful that now we come to get “Scream”, which is a legacy sequel to the 1996 film of the same name directed by late Wes Craven. While it surely plays another self-conscious (and bloody) genre game just like its four predecessors, the movie is an improvement compared to the disappointment of “Scream 4” (2011) as gleefully and thrillingly slashing at plenty of genre clichés and conventions, and it is probably the most enjoyable sequel in the franchise since “Scream 2” (1997).

After the clever opening scene which is basically a variation of that shocking opening scene of the 1996 film, the movie introduces us to its new heroine, who is surely bound to be the final girl who will have to endure and struggle a lot during the rest of the movie. For a hidden personal reason to be revealed later in the story, Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) has been separated from her mother and younger sister for several years, but, after hearing the news on what happened to her younger sister, she immediately returns to her hometown, which has been rather notorious thanks to not only what happened in the 1996 film and the following three sequels but also a well-known popular horror film franchise inspired by that. As a matter of fact, that franchise has been continued more with the recent eighth flick, which will make you chuckle a lot at one point if you remember that toxic and unproductive hoopla surrounding a certain recent Star Wars movie.

Anyway, those golden rules of that franchise (and the Scream franchise, of course) make Sam quite watchful of a number of other characters around her. First, there is her boyfriend who volunteers to come to her hometown along with her, but Sam cannot trust him totally because, well, she is well aware of what happened in the first film and that incident behind it. In case of several high schooler characters who are incidentally her younger sister’s close friends, any of them can be a suspect, and they are all conscious of that as being quite familiar with that franchise.

Meanwhile, a bunch of horror films are constantly mentioned throughout the story, and that reminds me of how horror films has been more mainstream during last two decades. I will not deny that I smiled a bit when “The Babadook” (2014) and “It Follows” (2014) were mentioned at the beginning of the film, and there is even a humorous nod to a notorious classic horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Of course, the movie is surely ready for blood and violence whenever it suddenly shifts itself onto horror thriller mode, and we accordingly get several intense scenes including the one unfolded inside a curiously understaffed local hospital. Again, that scary figure in that familiar attire and mask comes and goes as terrorizing Sam or anyone who unfortunately happens to be a target to be taunted and then killed, and directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who previously made “Ready or Not” (2019), skillfully plays with our expectation on whatever will happen next. As they gradually build up tension and narrative momentum on the screen, there comes one nice surprise after another, and then the movie surprises and delights us more as everything in the story eventually culminates to the climax part incidentally unfolded at a spot looking familiar to anyone who has watched the 1996 film.

The main characters of the movie are mostly broad archetypes as expected, but the screenplay by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick depicts them with enough wit and gravitas. While the strained relationship between Sam and her younger sister functions as the emotional anchor of the story, those high schooler characters around them are not just bland cardboard figures, and several familiar characters associated with the Scream franchise turn out to be much more than a perfunctory addition to the story.

As the center of the film, Melissa Barrera, who has been more notable thanks to her vibrant supporting turn in “In the Heights” (2021), gives a solid performance which diligently carries the film to the end, and she and Jenna Ortega are convincing as their characters struggle to deal with their old family issue along the story. Jack Quaid, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, and Jasmin Savoy Brown have some fun with their respective supporting roles, and Brown is especially hilarious as a character not so different from Jamie Kennedy’s character in the 1996 film.

In case of several familiar performers associated with the Scream franchise, I will not go into details here, but I can tell you instead that they do a lot more than merely evoking nostalgia. While Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette will instantly draw your attention as usual, I also enjoyed the brief appearance of Heather Matarazzo and Skeet Ulrich, who provide some extra connection between the movie and its four predecessors.

Overall, “Scream”, which only got limited theatrical release while also being available on local streaming services in South Korea in last week, is a fairly entertaining reboot/legacy sequel, and I was not so surprised to learn later that they are already planning to make another sequel. I have no idea on what we will get, but, considering how successful “Scream” is in many aspects, I guess I can have some expectation on that while also dreading the possibility of another Scary Movie flick.

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