In an age of cheap cash grab “requels” that are devoid of anything new or original (we’re looking at you Halloween 2018, Force Awakens, and Jurassic World), one meta series has returned for a post post-modern look at the genre. Scream (2022) may be as un-originally titled as several other “requels” or “soft reboots”, but it is in no way like the rest.
Return to Woodsboro
In an homage to the original, the movie opens with Tara (Jenna Ortega) answering the phone and having to answer a series of questions about horror movies. The attack is both brutal and bloody, giving the movie a chance to demonstrate it means business.
Upon hearing news of the attack, Tara’s sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) and her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) travel to Woodsboro, from which Sam has been estranged for years.
Seeking out the help of Dewey, who’s now an alcoholic shell of his former self, they join forces with Tara’s friend group to discover who the killer might be. What follows is a series of kills that are creative and unique enough to set themselves apart from the original. It’s very easy to forget just how brutal the original movie could be, and this one similarly goes for the jugular, both literally and metaphorically.
Old and New Generations
Like all “requels”, Scream blends a newer younger cast with returning legacy characters. But unlike Scream 4, which seemed to struggle over which group it wanted to focus on, this movie makes it very clear that the legacy characters really are just there in the background. Sure, Dewey takes on the mentor role to Sam and Richie, but they’re very much the protagonists.
And while Sidney and Gale eventually show up, it’s not until much later in the movie. They play a large part in the finale, but this is very much Sam’s film. In an interesting way, the movie finds a way to appeal to both newer audience members who may relate more to the Gen Z teenagers, and legacy fans who are there to see where Gale, Dewey, and Sidney wound up.
It helps that Sam has her own internal conflict (which is a bit too spoilery to get into here), and it makes her a compelling character to follow. In fact, this movie’s entire theme (and title) are all about going back to the original. Which is normally cause for frustration among fans. But this being Scream, it kind of knows what’s doing.
The Most Meta That’s Ever Meta’d
One thing that all remakes face is having to justify their own existence (other than the obvious cash grab). And “requels” have an ever worse time proving they’re not just corporate products. In typical Scream fashion, this movie approaches this issue head on via conversation between the characters.
The rules of surviving the movie are updated, taking into account the new and legacy characters. Given that “requels” are meant to pass the torch to the next generation, all three legacy characters are on the chopping block in a way that they’ve never been before. But where this movie really shines is in the way it discusses its own existence.
Characters debate things like elevated horror and whether or not shoehorned social commentary is welcome in horror. Their entire discussion is exactly what horror fans on the internet are saying and they go as far as to say that they’re stuck in some sort of fan fiction, which is a very common criticism of the “requel”.
Does a movie get credit for pointing out the very mistakes that it’s making? Not necessarily. The Matrix Resurrections attempted this, and while the meta commentary certainly made it more enjoyable, it still fell into the same pitfalls. But where Scream (2022) deviates from that is in how it culminates everything together. Without getting into too many spoilers both toxic fandom and lazy writing are equally villainous themes.
At risk of sounding like a pretentious film critic who over-analyzes everything, the very same dynamic happened behind the scenes as well. With Wes Craven having directed the previous four films, he very much represents the legacy characters whose spirits live on, while new directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (of V/H/S and Ready or Not fame) represent the newer generation coming in and taking over.
However, this meta criticism while doing the exact same thing kind of only works once. And the fact that Gale decides not to write another book and allow the killer(s) to die in anonymity is enough to say that this series is done with one final send off.
Overall, Scream (2022) has all the bloody violent kills and horror fandom you’d expect from the franchise. And it does the whole remake tread way better than Scream 4 did, almost nullifying its necessity.
It successfully subverts tropes and expectations, however not just for the sake of doing (as The Last Jedi did). Rather it’s a genuine love letter to everything that came before while also being its own new thing. It’s the perfect balance that no “requel” has ever or will ever achieve again!
What did you think of Scream (2022)? Let us know in the comments!