Scream (2022), directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (V/H/S) and Tyler Gillett (Devil’s Due) and written by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac) and Guy Busick (Ready or Not), is tasked with many jobs in this film but most importantly two: to carry on the legacy of one of the most prolific directors and to produce a “sequel” that distances itself from the original. With unentertaining characters, creative kills, and a heartbreaking goodbye, it’s hard to untangle just how beautiful the mess was.
Scream’s popularity is no surprise. The franchise has been crowned with enhancing the slasher genre since 1996. The series has been going strong for almost three decades, with four movies under its belt. By combining parody and mystery with gore, the series creates one Hell of a ride for its viewers. The movies are a keepsake for horror fans and non-horror fans alike; this is where we begin our journey into Scream (2022) fandom.
Scream (2022) is branded as a sequel but billed as a relaunch of the films with all new characters played by Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, and Jack Quaid and the main characters of Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega. There are also the limited appearances of Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette. When an unnamed masked killer donning a Ghostface mask starts carving up the bodies of bodies in Woodsboro, it brings our trio (Sidney, Dewey, and Gail) back together again for another showdown.
Most critics would agree that the heart of the Scream movies is the character of Sidney Prescott. She’s THE final girl. We love to see her attacked over and over again because she always puts up a great fight. I agree for the most part, but I only think Sidney is as important as the people who attempt to kill her. The true heart of the Scream films is motive.
Motive drives the entire movie; it drives the murders, the plot, even how we empathize with the characters. Throughout every Scream film, we spend our time asking ourselves, “Who done it?” but that’s not what brings about catharsis for viewers.
It’s the why.
Why would someone attempt to kill our beloved final girl? Why would someone kill dozens of teenagers to get to her? What made them tick? What is their motive? The first four films (except Scream 3) always featured a pair of killers. One killer has a motive directly against Sidney, and another killer wants to be famous. In all of the Scream movies, the motives have been the show’s stars because there’s always some merit to why the killer is targeting Sidney.
In Scream, Billy Loomis decides to kill Sidney and frame her for the murders as revenge for her mother sleeping with his father and ruining his home; In Scream 2, Mrs. Nancy Loomis decides to kill Sidney because she killed her son; Roman Bridges (half-brother to Sidney) chooses to kill her because he is jealous of the relationship she had with their mother in Scream 3, and Jill Roberts decides to kill Sidney because she is obsessed with her and wants her life in Scream 4.
Every killer besides Roman Bridges had a partner whose only motive was to be famous, a true psychopath. But the characters mentioned above reasons were not that unthinkable. Billy was a sick kid who was fed hate by his mother and was left with no father; Mrs. Loomis was consumed with guilt because of her son’s death; Roman finding out that he was a product of rape and being turned away from his mother, and poor Jill Roberts living in the shadow of her unkillable cousin.
Now, does this excuse any of the characters for committing murders? Not, but it does complicate things. The most exciting part is when the killers give their monologue, this is where they tell their story. It’s their confession time. It’s the time set aside for them to talk to the jury and convince them that, in some way, it’s Sidney’s fault for what is happening to her. With Scream (2022), we are not as fortunate as the other four movies to experience this.
Scream’s (2022) killers were Amber, a friend of the first victim (Tara), and Richie Kirsch, a boyfriend of our new final girl Samantha Carpenter. They met on a subreddit for Stab, and they devised a plan to create a “requel” of the movies after being disappointed with Stab 8. We spend so little time with Amber that we do not get to see much of her character outside of her dislike for Samantha and the protectiveness of Tara. We see how manipulative she is, even though she is not good at it.
There are two sections in the film where she tries to manipulate the narrative but cracks and shoots her way out of the situation. Richie is the one killer with whom we get to spend a reasonable amount of time. Outside of him being a cliche, Richie being one of the killers is not the worst choice that Vanderbilt and Busick could’ve made, but their rationale for the killings is where they lose the film’s heart.
Richie and Amber’s decision to get all stabby is because of the movies. This is a bit of commentary that has been present in each of the films. The movie is a movie within a movie, the characters who seem to know an awful lot about horror movies, and the one killer who always seems to be inspired by other slashers. Fandom and film criticism commentary is explored more rigorously.
In most of the films in this series, the first on-screen character always says that their favorite horror movie is some sort of slasher movie. Instead, our first girl states that her favorite movie is The Babadook, written and directed by Jennifer Kent. Tara instead lists other movies, but none that are slashers. Tara’s views on the “elevated” horror genres are the same push the film needed to set up the motive. The slasher genre is all but dead in the general public’s eyes, which is why the opening scene sends a message. The message of this movie is not like the rest. The first attack is brutal, probably the most horrific in all of the Scream films, showcasing exactly why Dewey says that this time it “feels different.”However, the film is at its strongest while the rest of the scenes bounce between being brilliantly convincing and painfully dull.
The kills are perfect; The loss of Dewey is excruciating; But the heart of the movie, the motive is weak. Nothing is tying us to loving Samantha the way we loved Sidney. In the first movie, we witnessed Sidney lose her best friend, realize she fingered the wrong man for he mother’s murder, and lose her virginity to the man who killed her mother and attempted to kill her and her father.
The only thing that draws us to Samantha is nostalgia. She is Billy Loomis’s daughter. That’s why we care about her. Scream (2022) gets why we love the series wrong. It’s not all about the film commentary, gore, or mystery. It’s about the why. It’s not the fact that the killers keep coming after Sidney; it’s their rationale. That’s what makes Scream one of the best slasher films around because the films make us care about the characters we see on our screen.
Scream (2022) is a film that does many things to distance itself from the original franchise, but in doing so, it forfeits many of the aspects that propelled the genre forward. The kills are brutal, with each one being bloodier than the previous, but outside of the knife, I am not sure if the directors can hold the camera or the screenwriters hold a pen to what Craven and Williamson created.
For more from Deareyes, check out his recap of the most recent DC Fandome event here.