Don’t pick up the call for ‘Scream’
Jenna Ortega in Scream

“What is even more baffling than allowing a franchise to run on too long is not allowing one to reach its full potential.” – Justin Bruce

Before watching this film, I made a pact with myself that if they killed off a certain character, I’d be giving the movie a thumbs down. Sure enough, that happened, but so did a number of other things to make me feel more comfortable in rendering an unfavorable ruling.

Scream 2022 (we’ll get back to this title) is what happens when you don’t learn from the mistakes of the films you’re trying to skewer. The new teams of writers and directors that have taken over are not nearly as clever or subversive as they think they are.

Yet again, a Woodsboro teen (Jenna Ortega) is taunted by phone and attacked by an assailant donning a Ghostfasce costume. However, she survives the encounter and word gets out to her estranged sister (Melissa Barrera), who soon arrives back in town with her boyfriend (Jack Quaid). Of course, the victim’s friends are a new collection of teen stereotypes to point the finger at, and before long Gale (Courteney Cox), Dewey (David Arquette), and Sidney (Neve Campbell) get roped in.

Let’s not delay this any further: the trend of titling a sequel the exact same thing as the first needs to die (hell, it never should have started in the first place), and no, (kind of, sort of) referencing this in the movie does not excuse it. In fact, the whole aim is off-target. A “requel” is not a thing (and the majority of the examples listed by the characters do not qualify as such) nor is this film that, as it maintains full continuity with the previous four installments. Also, I find it dubious that your average teen watches things like The Babadook, It Follows, or The Witch

The new young cast is probably the weakest yet. At best, they’re inferior versions of past characters or leave no real impression. Then we have the unsub(s?), who is(are?) definitely the worst in the franchise. The big problem comes down to motive. In the past movies and in the show, for all the in-joking at “making a scary movie,” the killers had genuine resentment and hatred simmering over that culminated in a desire for revenge. Here, it’s essentially because they’ve got nothing better to do. Pathetic.

As mentioned at the outset, the choice of victims is frustrating. These are characters that would not have acted in that manner and did not deserve to be so disrespected. But beyond insulting the fans, these deaths add nothing to the story: they don’t whittle down the list of viable suspects because there’s no real chance any of them are Ghostface and they don’t “raise the stakes” because Sam is now the main character. All they are is cheap shock value. One’s scene was made all the worse by the possibility of the plot doing the opposite and going in an interesting direction that the films never had before being teased, but then discarded.  

Speaking of interesting new roads not taken, let’s discuss the sisters, whose identity as Latinas is never explored. Unlike with, say, African-Americans, there really isn’t a stereotype for other minority groups about always dying in movies. What place do Latinos have in American horror movies? What does it mean for one to be the final girl? Questions like these are worth examining, but the script doesn’t make the effort.

Look, it’s great that they wanted to feature more nonwhite characters (though that was done much better on the small screen), but a “self-aware” and “meta” film is supposed to be, well, aware of that fact. This just reeks of laziness, as though the script was written with white actors in mind and no one bothered to change anything once the film was cast. For crying out loud, their last name is Carpenter. What, Romero or Rodriguez aren’t worth giving a nod to?

Is there anything of value? It is competent on a technical level with some pretty grisly kills. Roger L. Jackson is still the voice, and though the rest of the returning actors are rather wasted, they are very good. Plus, yes, the big bombshell reveal at the end of the first act is a rather good one.

Scream 2022 doesn’t satirize or deconstruct crappy horror sequels, it just plain is a crappy horror sequel. The TV show may have turned out okay, but as theatrical films go, this property should have died with Wes Craven.

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