Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett
Cast: Melissa Barrera, Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Marley Shelton, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sonia Ammar, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Neve Campbell
Runtime: 1 hr 54 mins
Rating: M18 (Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 13 January 2022
Synopsis: Twenty-five years after a streak of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town's deadly past.
11 years after the late Wes Craven’s fourth instalment of the franchise, ‘Scream’ returns in the form of a ‘re-quel’. As the movie itself dubs them, 're-quels' are sequel-reboot hybrids that aim to reinvent legacy for a new generation of audiences, while remaining faithful to the original fanbase; those familiar with David Gordon Green’s ‘Halloween’ or Nia DaCosta’s ‘Candyman’ will know the rules of such movies, including the return of familiar faces (like Courteney Cox, Neve Campbell and David Arquette, in this case) and reverent call-backs to the original.
So it is that ‘Scream’ begins with its infamous pre-credit scene of a teen alone at home, who receives an anonymous phone call from a killer wearing a Ghostface mask that asks her the signature question: “What’s your favourite scary movie?” Tara (Jenna Ortega) cites ‘The Babadook’, explaining how she likes her thrills with a side of social commentary, layers of meaning and art direction. Unfortunately for her, the killer isn’t interested in that or Tara’s other favourites like ‘It Follows’, ‘Hereditary’ or ‘The Witch’, choosing instead to base his three movie trivia questions on the fictional-movie-within-this-movie known as ‘Stab’.
Whilst playing homage to the original’s Drew Barrymore sequence, this redo reveals its own cheeky wit critiquing the state of the horror genre today, in particular the subgenre of what it calls ‘elevated horror’. Indeed, though the original’s author Kevin Williamson serves only as executive producer here, the screenwriting duo James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick serve up just as brilliant a piece of meta-horror that nods to the conventions of the genre while being an excellent mystery whodunnit (hint: like the original, it will eventually be revealed that there are two killers here).
Without giving much more away, let’s just say that the killers are among Tara’s high-school friends, including the nostalgically-named Wes (Dylan Minnette), best friend Amber (Mikey Madison), twins Chad (Mason Meeks) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), and Chad’s girlfriend Liv (Sonia Ammar). Tara’s attack also prompts the return of her estranged older sister Sam (Melissa Barrera), who is accompanied by her boyfriend Randy (Jack Quaid). It is Sam who decides to look up Dewey (Arquette), who has since given up the job of sheriff to Wes’ mother Judy (Marley Shelton).
Incidentally, it is Dewey who reminds us of the rules of the game: never trust the love interest, and always suspect the first victim’s friend group. Not surprisingly too, it is Dewey who draws the return of Sidney (Campbell) and Gale (Cox) to their former hometown of Woodsboro to confront the return of Ghostface. Those who have grown up with the series will be glad to know that these legacy heroes do not just play second fiddle to the newbies; instead, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett justify their return with dignity and purpose, not least with a shocking mid-way twist that may gut the hearts of some fans.
To their credit, as much as they recognise how important the fans are to the success of the franchise, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett (collectively known as Radio Silence, or as the directors of ‘Ready or Not’) make clear they aren’t beholden to them by sending up toxic fandom in the third act. It takes nerve to lampoon the very sort of people who would be making a beeline for this 're-quel', who regrettably sometimes take pop culture to its extreme by turning it into religion, so we must say we were impressed not just by how sharply it taps into the zeitgeist but also by how elegantly it does so, weaving it nicely into the finale that keeps you guessing till the very end.
As audacious as it may have seemed for this new chapter to reclaim the original title, ‘Scream’ lives up thoroughly to the playful, irreverent and inventive spirit of the original. Skillfully interweaving the old and the new, it manages to be self-aware and self-mocking while reinventing the rules of the genre. We dare say this is easily our favourite ‘re-quel’, and as long as you’re prepared to embrace its meta-playfulness, you’ll find this tightrope of a movie that balances in-jokes with thrills, chills and adrenaline rushes genuinely scary, funny and most importantly, fun.
(As scary, funny and fun as the very first movie, 'Scream' lives up to the legacy of the Wes Craven original with its blend of new and old and an utterly infectious dose of meta-playfulness)
Review by Gabriel Chong