25 years after the original Woodsboro murders, yet another copycat killer in a Ghostface mask emerges. As the pattern materialises, and the new “reboot” rules the killer is following begin to develop, the original survivors are dragged back to where it all began to try and save the new targets of the latest murderer.
Scream is back, and it’s looking about as polished as the franchise ever has! Fortunately, the 5th entry in the series is the healthiest yet, most likely due to this being a high profile anniversary entry to bring the studio prestige – the franchise displaying a lasting momentum. Original actors are back, and happily not just ‘phoning it in’ with some redundant legacy story beats. The new cast all bring something special to the feature themselves, too, with a strong, independent ensemble instead of a queue of disposable kills to pad out the runtime. Furthermore, it is all visually great in the general presentation, as there’s ample talent behind the camera as well as in front of it. From overseeing overwhelmingly crowded day scenes and managing notoriously difficult night shoots, along with correctly setup and executed gore, this is peak studio horror showing off what can be done when the resources meet the filmmaker’s goals.
The story is no slouch, either, as a dull repeat or generic effort. Scream is THE meta commentary slasher movie, and leans into this effectively. Scream 5 demonstrates a strong grasp of how to best utilize its own iconography, as well as continuing to toy with the genre expectations the original Scream first deconstructed. The simple renaming to “Scream” has made some fans uneasy, but the use of this franchise naming convention is deliberate fan baiting that is also manipulated to interesting effect in the context of the movie. This meta-nostalgia effect offers another layer in the storytelling, a playful satire that makes for a perfect fit for the franchise which helps the story feel worth telling and a fitting successor to Wes Craven’s original vision.
That being said, it does also hold up purely as a slasher movie about stabbing and slashing the life out of personable (or despicable) people. The substantive horror of a Scream movie, which actually makes it scary instead of just an incisive commentary on the idea of a scary movie, is highlighted in the intimate struggle. Home invasions, coupled with the idea that someone you know has turned predatory, are deeply personal fears to leverage. Not in a jump scare sense, however, but with a deep seated unease – all ordinarily secure and homely facets of life are henceforth dangerous. Paranoia is consequently rife – all with assurances removed you didn’t realise you were taking for granted in domestic life. There’s a steady rise in tension throughout as you both start to understand the killer better, while still not quite knowing who it is, and have a vague sense of their insidious intentions. All of this culminates in an action packed finale which pays off on the atmosphere of distrust it has built across the runtime.
When it comes to impact of the kills themselves, Scream lives in the struggle to survive. Taking the realistic approach, as opposed to a focus on spectacle, it originally satirised the idea of fighting back against a killer who is just some other person in one of these films; it allows tension to build from a victim dragging out their death in a desperate bid to survive – no clean kills here as another human fights another equally frail human (underneath the mask). The newest movie, for all its dedication to being a movie commenting on rebooting a franchise, has some high fidelity to the core idea Wes Craven established. An element of this includes a focus on knives being the murder weapon. It doesn’t try to escalate or mix up the murder method, a habit of ongoing franchises it specifically lampoons with the in-universe Stab movies, but it also does an impressive job of pushing the envelope here from that containment. Especially considering the age rating it has!
The gore detail is at a wince-inducing visceral level here, likely a combination of studio clout with the censorship board on top of playing up how it’s “only” being stabbed compared to successive generations of over-the-top kills across the genre’s mainstream. However, that desperation to survive, which runs parallel to the idea of the killer being a person you can fight back against, when combined with the lingering graphic detail, becomes an uncomfortably skin crawling sensation as you can’t help but start to wonder how the knife would feel if this was you on the pointy end of it.
From the beginning, where we have a shot for cinema warning against sharing spoilers, through to the final twists unfolding with a heightened level of cinematic class, Scream (2022) feels like horror made for the big screen. It was considerably fun as a cinema trip, and while there’s some niggles regarding plot recycling and being too coy with the meta commentary, all of that is what has always made a Scream movie a Scream movie. It’s fun, it looks great, and the new modern discourse added to the story makes it feel less forced than some of the other franchise entries. It may suffer a little from moving over to the small screen because of this, which would be a little disappointing, but if you’re a horror fan able to get to the cinema right now? This is a worthwhile experience to kickstart the year.
Luke Greensmith is an Editor at the Grimoire of Horror and an active folklorist as well as working in film across a few roles. While this can cover quite a wide range of things, he’s a dedicated horror fan at heart and pretty involved with horror communities both online and local to him. You can find their folklore work on the Ghost Story Guys Podcast, their own LukeLore podcast, and accompanying the artist Wanda Fraser’s Dark Arts series as well as on the Grimoire of Horror itself.