Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Premise: The fifth installment in the Scream series. A quarter century after the events of the original film, a new Ghostface killer goes on a murder spree in Woodsboro, drawing together a new set of teenage victims with the survivors of the earlier films.
What Works: The Scream series has been distinguished by its pop cultural savvy; the films picked up on trends and anxieties in the culture and threw them back in the audience’s face in a way that was funny but also vicious. The new Scream does the same and does it better than any of the other sequels. This film utilizes a pair of intertwined phenomena: the nostalgia sequel (referred to as “requels” in Scream) and toxic fandom. Nostalgia sequels include titles such as Creed, Jurassic World, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife – films that append onto the continuity of classic movies and pivot the story to a new set of characters. These films rely on heavy doses of nostalgia and fan service, often feeding a specific breed of online fandom that demands (among other things) that the franchise remain creatively frozen and familiar. 2022’s Scream applies those cultural phenomena to Stab, the fictional-franchise-within-the-franchise. The new Scream is an incisive bit of cultural commentary as well as a compelling slasher film. As metatextual and self-aware as this film can be, the filmmakers are never cute about it. Like its progenitor, Scream has an edge and both its violence and its cultural critique are savage. And as a belated sequel, the new film accounts for the passage of time and involves the legacy characters in ways that mostly make sense. The new teenage characters come across authentically of their generation and although they fulfill teen movie types they also have enough personality to carry the film.
What Doesn’t: 2022’s Scream positions itself as a commentary on toxic fandom and the way nostalgia and fidelity to beloved classics can become regressive. In some ways the filmmakers do that quite brilliantly but the satire is compromised. This Scream movie does exactly what it criticizes – replicating and remaking the original movie – and it ultimately plays to that toxic audience while wagging its finger at them. The moviemakers mostly get away with this because they tie the new film and the original together in ways that are very satisfying but they stop short of anything truly subversive.
Bottom Line: 2022’s Scream stands on its own as a satisfying slasher film but it’s also a worthy follow up to the original classic. The new film does for the contemporary audience what the original film did for 1990s viewers. It’s a smart and effective update.
Episode: #888 (January 23, 2022)