The fifth Scream film has been a very long time coming. 2011’s Scream 4 was greeted with a lukewarm reception and disappointing box office (neither of which it deserved), and any further plans were put on hold after Wes Craven’s tragic death in 2015. But now, nearly 26 years after the inception of the franchise, Scream is back – and it’s better than ever. For a myriad of reasons, 2022’s Scream is the best in the series since the original and, in this writer's view, is one of the best slashers of the century so far.
A self-titled “requel,” the new Scream returns us to the town of Woodsboro as another slate of killings begins, with characters both new and old in play. No one is safe, but the question remains: who is under the Ghostface mask, and what do they want?
Let’s get the basics out of the way first. The bones of the slasher movie: the kills, the characters, the score. All are exceptional. The kills on display here are some of the best in the series – after so long away, it’s a pleasure to revisit a Woodsboro where Ghostface is still a threat. There’s a brutality about him that feels like it’s been missing since 1996: he’s still a bit of a goose (fans of his various slips and falls in previous entries won’t be disappointed), but he’s mean and menacing, almost sadistic in his slaughter, helped along by yet another stunning voice performance from Roger L Jackson. Taking full advantage of the film’s 18 certificate, Ghostface feels vicious and angry in a way that he hasn’t before, and when combined with the behind-the-scenes team of Radio Silence (the folks behind the excellent Ready or Not), it’s no wonder why.
As for characters, both the old guard and the new are on top form. The original trio of Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette are back, and it’s spectacular to see them again. The film’s screenplay (from James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick) does all three massive favours, giving each character a moment to shine and allowing the actors to show off their strengths. One advantage that Scream has over its contemporaries is its long-running, single continuity – no reboots, no do-overs, just one series of films, allowing for consistent character development across its main cast that isn’t undone by later sequels. No spoilers here, but that attachment pays off hugely over the course of the film.
Leading the newbies is In the Heights’ Melissa Barrera, who puts in an excellent shift as Sam Carpenter, the young woman who seems to be the ultimate target in Ghostface’s grand plan. She’s called back to Woodsboro after her younger sister Tara (a scene-stealing Jenna Ortega) is attacked, and is quickly roped into unmasking the killer. The excellent pair are backed up by Jack Quaid, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minette, Sonia Ben Ammar, and Jasmin Savoy Brown, and there isn’t a weak link among the bunch. Every Scream since the original has introduced a new cast, but none have been as good as they are here.
This Scream is also the first to introduce a completely new team behind the camera following series creator Wes Craven’s death a few years after the release of Scream 4. But what’s on display here from Radio Silence and co. would undoubtedly make Wes proud. Composed of producer Chad Villella and directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, Radio Silence’s creative hand in the film is plain to see. The Scream movies have always been about balancing the horror of the slasher movie with the meta-comedy that defines the series, and rarely has that balance been so finely tuned than it is here. For those of us familiar with Radio Silence’s previous work, what’s on show here will be no surprise. A ton of credit, too, must go to Carter Burwell for his stellar score: it booms and jumps like nobody’s business, really tugs at the heartstrings when it needs to, and it’s yet another stellar work from the composer. And really, what more do you want from this series?
Well, some commentary on the state of Hollywood is always a plus in a Scream, and don’t worry: this one has you covered. This time around it’s toxic fandoms in the film’s sights, and it pulls absolutely zero punches in its views. As we’ve seen over the past few years with more and more legacy sequels/requels being released, some fans feel like they’re entitled to see on-screen what they envisioned in their heads, and if they don’t see that then they can get really angry. Scream has no time for such babyish behaviour. With particular reference to a certain final space wizard, the movie dismantles toxic fandom with a precision not seen in this series since the original film. It’s beautiful to behold, and surprisingly funny, too, and lends the final act a much-needed sense of urgency.
That final act is quite possibly the best in any horror in the last few years. Just as the entire film feels like it might go careening off the rails going into the finale … well, it does. But it’s a controlled, meticulous descent into madness that feels incredibly deliberate and purposeful, leaning fully into the film’s meta-commentary to further its argument, not distract from it. The killer reveal is a standout moment purely for its shock value, and even though it might be a little easier to see coming than previous reveals, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it’s executed so well. The brutality of Ghostface’s kills carries over into the finale as the filmmakers twist the knife, quite literally, into the guts of both the characters and the audience. It’s mean and nasty, and completely emotionally fulfilling – much like the film as a whole.
If anyone thought franchise horror was dead, Scream is here to prove you wrong. The latest entry in the franchise is the best outside the original, thanks to a stellar script, savage kills, and some surprisingly emotional moments. It’s a love letter to the genre we love, while also being a firm middle finger to entitled fanboys – by turns thought-provoking and tear-jerking, hilarious and horrific, brutal and brilliant, Scream is the first truly great horror of 2022.