Scream 2022 Review: Old Mask, New Tricks
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
This article was a submission from Jake Breidenbach. Find Jake on Instagram at @j_brdnbch. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial Zine, send us an email at email@example.com or reach out to us on Instagram or Twitter.
In 1996, Scream was released to theaters and revitalized the teen slasher genre that had fallen out of favor for much of the decade. It led to a slew of similar off-shoots (I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Faculty to name a few) as well as several sequels of its own. By the early 2000s the subgenre it originated had also grown stale, with the likes of Saw and Hostel becoming the new horror du jour in a paranoid, post-9/11 world.
In 2011, Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson returned with Scream 4, the first soft reboot in the franchise, this time aimed at Millennial teens (and one of my favorite entries in the series). Whereas the previous installments tackled themes such as violence in cinema and the threat of anonymity in the Digital Age, Scream 4 focused its ire on the moral failings of the iPhone generation, with its dependence on technology and obsession with viral fame. What’s the point of dying if there’s no one around to film it?
Now, 11 years later, we are greeted by the arrival of Scream 5, or as it is officially titled, just Scream, keeping in lieu with the current trend of contemporary sequel-reboots such as 2018’s Halloween (and which the movie points fun of in its typically meta fashion, even coining the clunky but functional portmanteau “requel”.) It’s been 25 years since the original, and once again, a killer is back at large in Woodsboro, slicing and dicing their way through the local high school population. At the center of this mayhem are sisters Tara and Sam Carpenter (Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera, respectively), who harbor their own mysterious connection to the original players. There is also the matter of bringing the original trio back into the fold. Former Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) is now retired and living in a tucked-away trailer, content to forget his days of solving serial murder. He is estranged from his wife, America’s favorite reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), who now hosts a broadcast news show a la Good Morning America. Meanwhile, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is happily married with children, with no plans to return to Woodsboro and play the hero.
This is the first outing without horror maestro Wes Craven at the helm, and the second without original screenwriter Kevin Williamson on script duty. As such it can be a daunting task waiting for the film to take a wrong step, and surprisingly, it really doesn’t. It’s also interesting how the script plays its cards, constantly finding new ways to expand its meta-universe while acknowledging that it’s objectively ridiculous to be going for Round 5. This franchise has always relied on not only audience satisfaction but audience participation, and nobody really cares about the ludicrous existence of a Scream 5 when the act of watching it is this fun. It’s an interactive experience, and we’re all invited along for the ride.
Obviously the Ghostface mask is a popular Halloween costume. But what in-universe company manufactures these masks? And why haven’t they stopped? I can’t imagine they haven’t had a class-action lawsuit hurled their way by now.
Not only has Gale Weather’s best-selling true crime novel been adapted into a teen slasher franchise, but they’ve continued to pump out endless sequels in real time. Even by 90s standards it came across crass and exploitative, let alone in our current era of cultural sensitivity. Another long-running meta joke on society’s thirst for violent entertainment?
According to internet lore, sales of Caller ID skyrocketed following the release of Scream in 1996. This ties in with the theme of anonymity as a threat in the modern age, as depicted in other popular media of the time period (ie. Internet chat rooms serving as harbingers of doom). In contrast, its sequels explored the threat of losing anonymity, with Sidney Prescott becoming an unwitting celebrity victim with a target on her back for all future copycat killers (and also a victim-by-proxy of the then-emergent 24-hour news cycle). Scream 4 turns this on its head, with lack of anonymity transitioning from social hindrance to social vice – on brand for the YouTube era. In the latest update, set against the backdrop of a post-internet, pro-surveillance world, the inability to “go offline” has shifted once again to social plague, with its new protagonist unable to escape her ties to an unsavory past.
Sidney Prescott is the greatest Final Girl of all time. Nancy Thompson is a close second.
“For Wes” hits different in retrospect. Viewers will get it.
Have you seen Scream 2022 yet? Let us know what you thought about it in the comment section!