Scream (2022) barely counts as a whisper
“What’s your favourite scary movie?” goes the traditional question. If you’ve got any sense, it won’t be SCREAM (2022), a woeful waste of time that likely has Wes Craven spinning in his grave.
Twenty-five years after the original Woodsboro massacre, another Ghostface killer has emerged, drawing Dewey (David Arquette), Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) back to the town to try to save a new generation of victims from the knife.
There’s very little original in SCREAM. Indeed, it’s often at pains to paint its very derivativeness as some kind of trenchant post-modern critique but in truth, it’s just a dull and dutiful paint-by-the-numbers horror sequel; the very kind that the original set out to lampoon while reviving the slasher genre for a new audience of cinemagoers back in 1996. While Wes Craven’s deft touch is conspicuously lacking behind the camera, it’s Keven Williamson’s sharp writing that’s most sorely missed here as, without his acerbic insight, we’re left with some very threadbare material indeed.
The trouble with this SCREAM is there’s just no texture to all the metatextuality, it’s all superficial. The dialogue is clumsy and painfully obvious and the script winks at the audience with such frequency and ferocity you might think the movie is having a seizure. Where SCREAM 4 too often pushed the franchise’s famed ironic self-awareness into smug self-satisfaction, this wrong-headed “requel” overshoots irony altogether to land somewhere beyond even ROBOT CHICKEN’s shamelessly heavy-handed callbacks and references.
It doesn’t help that the young cast deliver performances that run the gamut from bland to blatant (if you don’t guess who the killer is within a few minutes of meeting them, you probably shouldn’t be allowed out on your own), spearheaded by Melissa Berrera’s breathtakingly inert performance as would-be replacement final girl Sam Carpenter. It’s hard to believe this is the same actress who brought such sultry vivacity to IN THE HEIGHTS given the wooden depths she plumbs here. It’s just not a good sign when quite early on in the film you realise you’re more than sanguine with Ghostface gutting the lot of them.
It’s emblematic of a script that bafflingly sees a group of friends treats the very real and credible threat of a killer lurking in their midst as some trivial inconvenience, a minor event barely worth Instagramming as they curate their studied air of narcissistic ennui. The characters own lack of urgency translates to the audience and there’s very little tension as Ghostface carves his way through the series of interchangeably vacuous victims. The big three of the franchise bring some gravitas to proceedings but they’re not really integrated into the story, always feeling like bolt-ons there for name recognition and as a fig-leaf for how thin and uninspired everything else is.
It does, in its closing act, reach guilelessly for what it obviously thinks is its thematic and literal coup de grâce as it spins the true motivations of its killers so fast you could sue for narrative whiplash, as it delivers the supposedly blistering critique of its real target. The problem is, by the time it gets there, SCREAM has become everything the movie so condescendingly sneers at.