Scream ★★★★

Scream has introduced me to the term requel. A word that is probably the scariest thing in this entire movie because it seems to reduce movies into this trivialized landscape of overgrown children refusing to let go of what they think something is supposed to be. We are all thinking human beings and we will more or less have an opinion on what something is or should be, but sometimes I think that audiences can be a big detriment to the quality of movies. I like that directors Matt Bettinelli-Olin and Tyler Gillett try to comment on this particular phenomenon while also not sacrificing the thrills and fun that should come with a Scream movie. This movie is a whole lot of fun, pure and simple. And this is coming from a squeamish person. I have a very moderate tolerance for watching people get stabbed, and this movie pummels you with brutal stabbings. I guess in a way, this film tries to do what J.J. Abrams tried to do with the Star Wars franchise, and yet this film wants to have its cake and eat it too. While giving us a sequel/reboot that brings back old legacy characters and introduces us to a new ensemble cast of fresh victims, the film also goes out of its way to lambast other similar endeavors like the aforementioned Star Wars. I’m sure we can all fill in the blanks of other requels that dominate the cinematic landscape in 2022. So this movie isn’t really Scream 5, it’s simply the first requel in the saga. 
     The main story follows similar parameters set by the franchise already, including opening the movie the same way the original opened up with Drew Barrymore’s doomed character. In place of Barrymore we get Jenna Ortega as Tara Carpenter. Tara has an older sister named Sam (Melissa Barrera) who skipped town after suffering some trauma with revelations about her parents. Tara is the first victim attacked by Ghostface, and it's the reason that Sam comes back to town. What I really like about this newer addition to the franchise is that it does legitimately feel like it has stakes. There’s a character in this very movie that literally screams how sequels have less and less stakes. The term elevated horror is bandied about as well, with Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook being one of the more casually mentioned films throughout this movie. When Sam comes back to town to look into her sister's attack she brings along her new California boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) along for the ride. Aside from a new boyfriend character, we get all of Tara’s friends: Wes (Dylan Minnette), siblings Mindy and Chad Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown & Mason Gooding), Amber Freeman (Mikey Madison), and Liv (Sonia Ammar). A lot of these newer characters are actually descendants of survivors or victims from the previous Scream movies. The only surviving legacy characters that return are Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers-Riley (Couteney Cox), and Dewey Riley (David Arquette). One of the minor legacy characters is also Deputy Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton), who is Wes’s mother. Dewey is presented as a character that lives in a dump and has been forced to retire as a law enforcement officer. Gale on the other hand is having great success as a news anchor in the east coast. Sidney has children and is now a family woman. I respect how this movie takes these characters and puts them in a place of well earned rest. In a way we really don’t want to see them bite the dust because they simply don’t deserve it. 
         Much can be said of all the meta commentary going on in this movie, and it goes without saying that most of the Scream franchise is founded on such a conceit. There’s a moment in the movie when we actually get a gander at Stab 8, the movie franchise that exists in the Scream universe. I thought the flamethrower weaponry that Ghostface is using in that clip is hilarious. The idea looks absolutely horrendous, and yet I found myself actually enjoying the terrible premise of this movie within a movie. It’s been a long time since I last watched a Scream movie, with Scream 4 being my previous foray into the franchise. I can’t remember too much about it unfortunately, and the same can be said for Scream 3. However, Scream & Scream 2 I can remember quite well. I watched each of those several times since their initial release and I think this new film does a fabulous job of homaging the earlier movies. I mean, Roger Jackson’s voice is so iconic now, and you have to admit that once you hear him speaking as Ghostface, the nostalgia blanket envelops you immediately.
    So, how well does the whodunit style mystery hold up? Honestly, I got so swept up in the thrills and slasher violence that I didn’t put too much thought into trying to figure out who the killer is. I was more than pleased with the overall conclusion of the matter. Act three is about as barshit crazy as a Scream third act should be. Since this is the first Scream movie without Wes Craven as the director, I think his directorial flourishes are going to be noticeably lacking in the overall final product, but that is no fault of this film’s directors. It’s just the nature of the beast, but I think fans will warm up to a lot of the ideas that Matt Bettinelli-Olin & Tyler Gillett present. I think both film-makers are in a tough spot with this movie, and the fact that they go out of their way to include elevated horror into this film’s narrative could potentially make them seem pretentious. There’s a scene when one of the characters is constantly opening doors and appliances over and over. We keep expecting the killer to be on the other side once the character closes it, but no one is there. Brian Tyler’s music sets us up for the jump scare moment as well, and then let’s us off the hook once nothing happens. Are these kinds of moments clever or too smart for their own good? I personally enjoyed these boo-movie hijinks the way I think they were intended to be enjoyed, but other viewers may grow tired of them. 
     Is Scream being kind of preachy by being about toxic fandom? I think most rational people hate toxic fans on their own and don’t need a movie to point out what is already problematic in society. With that being said, at least this film is dynamic and full of fun. The message isn’t the most groundbreaking message and yet this movie doesn’t lean on it as a crutch. There’s a lot of skill involved with the execution of the suspense sequences and the action is well done. As I said, I’m kind of squeamish, so the violent stabbings made me squirm quite a bit throughout the experience of the movie. It was great seeing the old gang back for one more movie, and part of me wonders if this is the final Scream movie. It made a killing at the box office, so I suspect that the powers that be will try to find a way to squeak out another money churning requel. Hopefully they will be as fun and entertaining as this effort. I give this film a solid recommendation.

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