Tuesday, March 8, 2022

A Ghostfaced Legacy: Scream (2022)

Scream (2022)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette

A sequel with elements of a reboot. A "Requel", if you may. To see a Scream film made with this treatment in this day and age without the late Wes Craven can be a bit of a stretch, frankly, but rest assured it does work. Mostly.

Taking place where it all began, Woodsboro, California, the scene starts with practically a tradition with these Scream movies as we follow a girl, Tara Carpenter, alone at home and answering a phone call. The further the conversation goes, the more it becomes clear that whoever is on the other line has a sick game in mind, one involving horror movie trivias and deadly consequences. One wrong answer later and Tara gets attacked by someone dressed up as Ghostface but, a first in the franchise, she survives.

The following morning comes, Tara is recovering at a local hospital and her estranged older sister Sam, driving all the way from another state while towing along her geeky boyfriend Richie, comes to comfort her. It appears this is the first time Sam is stepping back in Woodsboro after years of avoiding it and this all may have something to do with a dark family secret she's trying to keep to herself. (I'll throw you all a hint: she hallucinates a ghostly vision of Billy Loomis, one of the two killers from the first Scream movie)  

Another attack soon happens one night, this time finally claiming a life, and Sam finds herself also targeted by the Ghostface killer when she got real close to being the next murder victim during another hospital visit. It isn't long before she and, too, Tara's little circle of friends figure out that whoever is behind the mask is targeting people linked to the original 96' Woodsboro Massacre, comparing the recent killing spree to a real life horror legacy sequel that forces survivors retired sheriff Dewey Riley, news anchor Gale Weathers and long time "final girl" Sidney Prescott to come out and aid these kids in stopping a madman on the loose. But with the killer seemingly one step ahead of them all, do they even stand a chance against a maniac who knows the rules and breaks them?

Much like the rest of the movies before it, Scream (2022) takes a stab on horror film conventions as both a gimmick and a plot point, tackling this time the tropes of legacy sequels and how it's basically a mixed bag of rehashed plotlines that somehow still exist within the continuity of the original work, taking place further along the timeline and focusing on new characters all the while the original ones are still present in the plot. In turn, the film opted to play the legacy part here with a near literal sense as the main set of teen characters all have ties to the ones from Scream (1996) and, curiously enough, they only talk about the events of the first film while mostly completely ignoring the sequels that came after. (I say mostly coz we do find out the fate of fan favorite movie geek Kirby Reed. It's a blink or miss moment but, spoiler alert, she's okay, folks!) 

Plot-wise, Scream (2022) basically runs the typical standardized murder mystery slasher plot the franchise is known for, with characters trying to survive a mad slasher while pondering about the identity of their attacker in order to stop them. What sets this film apart from the rest, though, is that its execution is notably darker; the humor is more bleak, the atmosphere is dreary and the fact that some of the rules are being broken here and there meant that anybody can bite the big one. The kills here are also a lot more gruesome compared to the previous titles, simply savage with a few of them hitting a bit harder in the gut seeing who ended up in the knife. 

This said, I am a little disappointed by the lack of creative scenarios for the movie's share of scares and flair; we do got one intense moment of a mother getting a call from the killer who taunts her of what they'll do to her kid at home but apart from that, most of the stalk-and-stab scenes are played with a stronger emphasis on gore factor rather than striking premises. It also doesn't help that the new generation of characters are a little limp in substance and depth despite the near two-hour running time and all the steady pacing given to properly develop them, making the film lacking of strong, interesting casts to completely root for outside the franchise's recurring lead trio of Sidney, Gale and Dewey. 

Still, these are minor huddles for a workable plot that does manage to pull some good tributes to the franchise within its bundle of twists, turns and shock value, elements that help simple slasher flicks go a long way, or at least far enough to be an acceptable one. Throw in some satire on toxic horror fans and their gatekeeping ways and, too, a little discussion about the line of "elevated horror films" of today and I find Scream (2022) a stable enough sequel/remake hybrid albeit its shortcomings, one that I openly welcome warmly as a new chapter to Woodsboro's long running history with bloody horror and murderous mayhem. 

1 male jabbed in the neck with a hunting knife, bled to death
1 female stabbed to death with a hunting knife
1 male gets a hunting knife through his throat
1 male found dying from a throat cut
1 male eviscerated with hunting knives
1 female shot on the head
1 male slaughtered with a hunting knife and repeatedly shot
1 female burned on an open stove, shot on the head
Total: 8

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