“Scream” is the fifth and latest entry in the popular slasher horror genre, which first began in 1996 with the release of the original film. In many ways, this new film is almost like a reboot to the franchise, and in some senses, it is not, as the film itself keeps mentioning in its narrative. Presenting events that are similar to incidents in the first film but not identical to them, “Scream (2022)” does its best to rekindle the memories of the original and yet seem different enough to make it a fairly enjoyable watch.
One night, as high-school student Tara Carpenter is alone at home, she receives a call on her landline phone. Although the caller seems to be an acquaintance of Tara’s mother initially, soon the voice turns into the iconic sinister hoarse voice who quizzes Tara on her horror film choices. Threatening to kill Tara, the caller forces her to play a trivia game about the Stab films, which were based on the Woodsboro killings. Tara is quick to lock all the doors in the house with her mobile phone since they are all smart-locks now, but she finds out that her phone has been hacked into and is being controlled by someone else.
Ghostface soon emerges on the scene and brutally stabs Tara seven times, but is unable to finish her off as the police arrive. The next morning, Tara’s elder sister, Sam, gets word of the incident from Wes, one of Tara’s close friends at school. It is revealed that Sam had run away from her home in Woodsboro, had settled down in Modesto, California, and had not kept any contact with her sister or mother in the recent past. Unable to stay unaffected, Sam decides to go down to Woodsboro to help her sister out, and is accompanied by her boyfriend, Richie.
As Tara’s friends Wes, Amber, Chad, Mindy, and Liv are in their school courtyard, they spot Liv’s ex-boyfriend Vince trying to make contact with Liv. That night, while out in a bar, Vince tries to get close once again, and he has an altercation with Chad, who is now dating Liv. As Vince relieves himself in the parking lot, he is stabbed to death by Ghostface. Sam, who was spending the night with Tara at the hospital, is also attacked by Ghostface that very night in the hospital break room, but escapes unharmed. She reveals to her sister that during her teenage years, Sam had found out that she was the illegitimate child of Billy Loomis, one of the original murderers, twenty-five years ago, and that she was still haunted by hallucinations of her father. Sam and Richie visit Dewey Riley the next morning.
The once-sheriff of Woodsboro is now retired and living a lonely life. Although Dewey declines to help them in any way at first, he informs Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers (two of the other major characters in the franchise) and then decides to join Sam in her efforts. As Sam, Richie, and Dewey gather with Tara’s friends, it is revealed that Vince was related to Stu Macher, the other killer who had helped Billy Loomis. Understanding that the present attacks are related to the older incidents, Sam and her accomplices try to figure out who the killer is and who the next victim might be.
“Scream” does not try to hide the existence of the previous films in the franchise, but rather embraces them in more than one way. One of the continuing themes of the franchise, an indirect addressal of horror movies as a film genre, is heavily present in this latest film, perhaps more than ever before. Here, the plot itself, through the characters, makes it a point to talk about fandom and film appreciation in the age of the internet, and how serious people can get about their reception of films. Plus, there are also mentions of other films as well, from Carpenter’s “Halloween” to Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (which are, incidentally, films also mentioned in the original film), among some other recent ones. “Scream” gives the viewer the satisfaction of remembering the past, as Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette all return with their characters. This remembering is present visually as well, as the film shows some of the iconic shots of the original film with the exact same (or very close) camera movement as in the original, most notably the last scene.
This is the first time that a “Scream” film has not been directed by Wes Craven. Wes Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, the co-directors of the film, dedicate it to Wes’ memory, who passed away in 2015. For those who have seen the 1996 film, “Scream” does not provide the same thrilling experience; the new film falls short in aspects of the script as well as the scare, but primarily because we know what is coming this time. Nonetheless, in this day and age of “elevated horror,” “Scream” makes a concerted effort to be a slasher film in the purest sense, and the gory display of blood and commendable makeup adds to the experience. Of course, “Scream” never stops being conveniently foolish and mindless, but by now that has become a characteristic of the franchise rather than a point of criticism.