This article contains major spoilers to Scream (2022).
“What’s your favorite scary movie?” is perhaps one of the most famed quotes in the horror genre.
Ghostface’s question carries the threat of death, and it appears in every installment of the Scream franchise. With all four films directed by the slasher maestro Wes Craven, the fifth is dedicated to him by helmers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, aka Radio Silence.
Scream (2022) picks up twenty-five years after Billy Loomis and Stu Macher committed gruesome Woodsboro murders in the name of horror films. When Ghostface of the new generation attacks Tara (Jenna Ortega), her sister, Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrer), reluctantly returns to the small town she left all those years ago. With Sam’s arrival in Woodsboro, a series of violent incidents and murders occurs, causing the California town to shake in fear. But no one, not even Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courteney Cox), or Dewey (David Arquette), can predict the immense secret that Sam hides; a secret that forever binds her to Sidney’s story.
Guided by the original trio of survivors, the sisters, Sam’s boyfriend, Richie, and Tara’s friends—Wes (Dylan Minnette), Amber (Mikey Madison), Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), Chad (Mason Gooding), and Liv (Sonia Ammar), attempt to confront Ghostface and figure out who among them is a killer. After all, it’s always someone you know.
Scream maintains an engaging structure in which the original slasher’s cult cast takes a back seat. That’s one of the examples in which the new chapter differentiates from the other installments. The filmmakers introduce new characters who embody everything “new generation” while remaining connected to the past. Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera take the lead, and both become the focal point of the story. Like Sidney and Gale, the sisters represent a new generation of influential, empowering women in the horror genre. Furthermore, Ortega demonstrates that she is a great candidate for this generation’s scream queen.
Scream often harbors an on-the-nose, witty narrative and makes fun of elevated horror (was it Toni Collette standing in front of the flames in Hereditary that did it for them? ), but their main emphasis is elsewhere. The murders executed by Ghostface perfectly fit the description and ground rules of a “requel,” a new slasher subgenre presented by Jasmin Savoy Brown’s Mindy, an LGBTQ+ icon and a horror geek. The actress, who recently played young Taissa in Yellowjackets, brilliantly depicts this generation’s slasher specialist. When another murder ensues, the girl shares her knowledge about everything horror, especially the movies-in-a-movie Stab films. Armed with that and Dewey’s introduction to the legendary horror rules, each person tries to escape Ghostface’s sharp edge of the knife.
The new installment regularly aims at toxic fandoms and franchise fatigue where Ghostface follows the original Stab killing pattern. Mindy clarifies that “requels” are a cross between sequels and reboots. She particularly cites the most recent Halloween films or the Star Wars trilogy sequel. The positions are great examples of the “requel;” they contribute to the franchise’s narrative while staying true to the series’ authentic essence.
Mindy eventually counts out the rules—a clear-cut reference to the original scene from Scream (1996). Just as Dewey’s suggestions to always suspect a love interest, the necessity that classic characters appear in some way or another, and that the killer is always a member of a friend group that a victim is a part of, the rules of “requel” are meant to help.
While we adhere to Mindy’s rules and follow the narrative, the film itself evolves into a “requel.” Scream grows into a fantastic illustration of the introduced slasher subgenre. The original, glorified cast returns to guide the newly-introduced, younger lead characters. The older generation unites with younger members of the Woodsboro community, almost all of whom have a connection to the original murders done by Billy and Stu—specifically, Sam.
In terms of its place in the Scream franchise, the film diverges from the original trilogy and even slightly from the fourth installment. The composition changes drastically because of the film being a “requel.” The coming together of the new and older generations is the most significant difference. Even though we fell in love with the horror fanatic Kirby in Scream 4, the cooperation between the film’s characters feels different when it comes to Scream 5.
The focal point of the story is not Sidney anymore either. Instead, the directors and writers take a creative approach, telling a story from a different angle. Sam’s storyline attempts to be a new leading plot line with a twist. We don’t look through Sidney’s perspective of a victim. Instead, we focus on Sam and her struggle to accept the fact that she’s Billy’s daughter.
Scream (2022) fits perfectly amongst more established films of the franchise. It opens the discussion about the greatness of Scream for the younger audience who never had a chance to “scream” over the original film.
The killers’ motives are another characteristic that continues the legacy and adds something more. The duo of killers—Amber and Richie, portrayed by Mikey Madison and Jack Quaid, have no direct bond with Sidney, Sam, or Tara; they are simply obsessed with the Woodsboro ominous past and scary movies in general.
Just like Mickey (Timothy Olyphant) and Billy’s mother (Laurie Metcalf), their motives are more connected to Billy, a killer, not Sidney. It’s not a biological brother or a jealous cousin related to the legendary final girl. In Scream (2022), Amber and Richie take their love for horror films to another level.
With an explicit amount of blood, a high body count, and a terrific cast, the fifth part simultaneously mocks itself and its own existence. In this subject, it’s similar to Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix Resurrections. Just like Neo yet again follows the white rabbit and introduces the new audience to the world of the matrix, that’s how Scream sends Ghostface after new victims to let the original trio guide the successors. Surely, the film will become an integral part of the franchise as it evolves into a prominent example of a slasher. The film possesses the power to unite generations of horror fans, thanks to its witty jabs at the genre and elevated horror in particular.
There is no doubt that Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett create the best, most elaborate death scenes. Ghostface utilizes a knife as their weapon of choice and there are multiple scenes where the blood fills the screen and we hear the tearing of the flesh; for example, when Wes gets a sharp blade into his throat. However, nothing beats the stellar highlight of the film, a true feast for horror and film fans in general—Amber’s death. The character gets shot and it seems that she got what she deserves but it’s not enough. She soon stands shrieking, in flames, burning to death. But even the extensive burns cannot stop her from coming back for “one last scare.” The scene is not only witty and feels like an inside joke but it’s a direct reference to Mikey Madison’s performance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and her infamous death at the hands of Leonardo DiCaprio’s flamethrower as well as a callback to the Scream’s opening and the “elevated horror” of Hereditary.
As a bonus and merely as a suggestion, here’s a recommendation—a double feature of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Scream (2022). It’ll be a fantastic, truly fiery evening.
Paramount Pictures released Scream (2022) only in theaters on January 14.