Scream ★★★

Meta-humour has become very normal in film, maybe it's because we've had cinema around long enough, or because we consume more than ever. Content creation is so accessible and standard for audiences themselves, too. It's an easy access relationship between creator and audience, and one that audiences love!

Scream (1996) was well ahead of its time and holds up today perfectly, and it's sequels do quite alright. It's time for Scream (2022) though - the first without the late director Wes Craven, and the second without writer Kevin Williamson (he missed the third, the weakest link). Both Craven and Williamson have an incredible legacy of horror films, and it's apparent in their work - Scream is simultaneously a criticism and a love letter for horror. With all humour removed, the first film (and most of the sequels) would hold up just fine in the world of franchised horror regardless. The fact they are deadly funny is what clinches the deal.

So how does it fare without them? In an age where meta humour is a bit rote? Well, it's good, but it misses a few distinct features of the pair. Craven and Williamson have a very good attention to detail, the jokes are often very elaborate set ups based on the in film context - here, jokes are overt, they are basic set ups and punchlines. The meta act of the film is nonstop in the dialogue, and it's also often only said in immediately relevence (it's practically rhythmic). That doesn't mean it isn't funny, it is, but it's not nearly as clever.

It also fails casting - yes, the stellar casting of the originals make their return (though Cox maybe phones it in a little, she's okay, but given her commitment to the role in the past it's disappointing). The new cast feels like entirely placeholders, except the exceptional Jenna Ortega who plays a fragile yet incredibly confident Tara - her every scene is a highlight. Everyone else? Fine. Not bad. Fine. The film gets so torn between trying to flesh these out, to maybe pass the torch, but maybe overdevelops them for a bunch of ideas that never get fully explored. It leaves the returning cast feeling like bit parts for large parts of the film.

The who dunnit mystery is about as unguessable as ever, but the reveal is uncompelling. Scream 5 is written for Scream fans, but that's distinct - the rest of the Scream films are written for scary movie fans. Scream 2022 is essentially the Stab film for Scream fans, all of the context but lacking the higher craftmanship.

But hey, I'd still take a Stab film with appearances of Campbell, Cox and Arquette over most other 5th horror film any day. No other horror franchise has been 5 films in without a dud, the fact we've lost some quality is an acceptable trade for that. It's a good time.

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