Scream (2022) – How meta is too meta?

Ghostface Killer is back from the dead, reviving the tradition of murder sprees in the town of Woodsboro. 

Despite being the fifth entry in the saga, the latest film, simply titled Scream, feels distinctly different from the rest. 

Released eleven years after Scream 4 and 26 years after the original, it has a crisp video quality and innovative camera angles, the likes of which have not been seen in the film series before.

More than this though, Scream attempts to modernise the 90s slasher sub-genre of horror, trying to make it fit in amongst what it calls the “elevated horror” commonly seen today.

The result is an odd film which mostly relies on nostalgia to keep audiences interested, though still feeling distinctly like a product of the modern day.

As with all Scream films, there is a blatant self-awareness displayed by all characters, who talk about horror films as if they know they are starring in one.

Unfortunately, this trick does not feel half as witty as when it was done originally in 1996.

Where the first Scream film had Randy, a movie-obsessed nerd who talked through the rules of horror films, all characters in the latest instalment play this role and feel far too synthetic. Often sounding like their speech was written with the intention of giving audiences an all-too-obvious nudge and wink.

David Arquette and Jamie Kennedy in Scream 2
Film buff Randy, whose legacy lives on in 2022’s Scream, alongside David Arquette’s Officer Dewey who appears in the new film. Photo by Dimension Films/Kobal/Shutterstock

Unlike its predecessors, 2022’s Scream is far too precious with its characters for the most part, removing the exhilarating feeling that anyone could become a victim at any moment. 

Revolving around two sisters, Tara and Sam, and their group of friends, the storyline gives you the sense that the main characters are untouchable, with Ghostface not quite being up to scratch on his fighting techniques, whenever he comes up against them.

Main character holding a knife
Jenna Ortega stars as Tara Carpenter in the traditional intro scene. Photo by Paramount Pictures/Moviestore/Shutterstock

There are obviously some gruesome deaths, which seem much more graphic thanks to modern special effects. However when many characters evade death over and over, the stakes feel a lot lower.

Despite its downfalls, Scream is a lot of fun at its core. There is the classic whodunit element which keeps you on your toes, making it easy to be constantly suspicious of anyone and everyone.

This is something Scream has always managed to get right, never revealing anyone too ridiculous as the killer, but constantly having you second guess yourself to the point where you can never be quite sure you’ve figured it out.

The characters do a good job at keeping their cards close to their chest and making you believe what they say, a telltale sign of a solid cast.

This is not surprising given that many of them are well established already; you may recognise Jenna Ortega from Netflix series You, or Dylan Minnette from the hit show 13 Reasons Why.

Dylan Minnette in Scream
13 Reasons Why star and Wallows frontman Dylan Minnette makes an appearance. Photo: Paramount Pictures/Moviestore/Shutterstock

As you’d expect with any franchise revival, or “requel” as they call it in the film (falling somewhere between a reboot and sequel), Scream is packed full of references to the original.

From familiar faces and locations, to famous phrases, Scream never forgets its roots, and it wants you to know that.

Whilst it’s nice to see so many nods to the original, they are not inserted subtly or cleverly so much as shoved in your face.

Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox in Scream
Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox reprise roles as Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers. Photo: Paramount Pictures/Moviestore/Shutterstock

Scream often uses the guise of “Stab”, the fictional film series, which mimics Scream within its own universe, as a means to speak about itself directly.

Since the beginning this has been an effective way to allow self-referential plot points, but it reaches a new level of absurdity in the fifth instalment.

Without spoiling too much, a character is watching “Stab”, which is an exact replica of the original Scream movie with a different cast, and ends up meeting the same fate as the character she is watching on TV as it happens on screen.

If that sounds ridiculous, it is because it completely and utterly is.

As silly as it may be, the modern day Scream can be forgiven for sensationalising the pastiche approach, which made the original so popular.

Though blatantly capitalising on nostalgia, it has a somewhat thoughtful approach that adds substance to the franchise, more than can be said for a lot of the recreations of cinema classics.

Whilst it is no masterpiece, Scream (2022) is essential viewing for any huge fan of the franchise, much like myself.

Just like any modern reboot, it would be silly to expect anything better than the original, but what you can expect is to be thoroughly entertained.

At the very least, Scream will help you come up with an answer to the age-old question: “What’s your favourite scary movie?”

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