Scream slashes back onto big screen with gross-out gore, genre commentary, deadly nostalgia

Noah Levine, Life & Arts Film Columnist

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Jan. 18, 2022 flipbook.

This review contains minor spoilers for “Scream” (2022). 

Ghostface slashes back onto screens with the new “Scream” directed by filmmaking duo Radio Silence (“Ready or Not”). Serving as the fifth entry in the highly successful slasher franchise pioneered by the late Wes Craven, this new blood-splattered romp sees the iconic killer target a new group of teens led by Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera). Echoing tragedies from the past, the killing spree gains the attention of legacy characters Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette). 

Throughout its cinematic history, “Scream” has never shied away from commenting on the current state of the horror genre. The 2022 entry is no different, tackling the rise of so-called “elevated horror” and the reboot/sequels coined “requels” by character Mindy Meeks (Jasmin Savoy Brown). The film’s script incorporates these genre elements into several of Ghostface’s menacing games, continuing the franchise’s consistent stabbing at its own genre. Gore-wise, Ghostface has never been deadlier. Several of the film’s key slasher sequences will surely evoke expressions of disgust from audience members. 

All three returning “Scream” leads tackle their performances with the same confidence and likeability as in previous entries. Arquette’s Riley, weathered from years of violence and a falling out with his now-ex Gale Weathers, still retains the Dewey Riley quirks fans came to love. 

While Cox and Campbell’s characters receive less focus, the dynamic duo never ceases to entertain with their combined fierceness and superb line delivery. Watching veteran characters like Prescott interact with the new generation of survivors provides an emotional bracket around their endless journey to persevere in the face of repeated evils. 

While the new ensemble of teens pales in comparison to the electric casts of previous entries, some stand out more than others. Savoy Brown’s Mindy Meeks-Martin, a wonderful comedic successor to the iconic role of Randy Meeks, treats audiences with enthusiastic monologues about the inner workings of the genre. Jack Quaid’s lovable portrayal of Carpenter’s boyfriend Richie never fails to act as a comedic vessel for the audience. Jenna Ortega absolutely kills it (no pun intended) in the role of Carpenter’s younger sister, Tara. 

Unfortunately, many of the other teen characters don’t have nearly enough screen time to appropriately explore their roles or character dynamics. Barrera’s performance occasionally feels stiff in contrast with some of the supporting characters’ more dynamic approaches. While meant to serve as the successor to Prescott’s iconic “main character” role, Barrera doesn’t tap into her full potential until the final act. 

Like all great “Scream” narratives, 2022’s entry is filled with twists and misdirects at every corner. Characters frequently accuse one another of being responsible for the killings, casting even more doubt over their own innocence. Juggling three different groupings of characters, the script often struggles under the weight of its middle section. The disjointedness muddles the focus on the teenage ensemble, weakening the effectiveness of kills and character reveals in the latter half. However, the third act unravels superbly. Breakout performances emerge from unexpected places, spiraling the film into its most tonally “Scream” sequence of all. 

While it’s nearly impossible to replicate horror master Wes Craven’s whimsical, dark, comedic and magnetic approach to “Scream,” Radio Silence takes a strong slash at rekindling and evolving the iconic formula. 

3.75 stabs out of 5