The fourth iteration of the Scream franchise, “Scream 4”, was released in 2011. It was directed by horror legend Wes Craven. Sadly, this would be the last entry of the franchise Craven would work on before his unfortunate passing in 2015.
That said, if you watched Scream 2022, it became quite clear that those who worked with Craven truly absorbed his vision for the horror genre and managed to perfectly emulate this movie in a way he would’ve no doubt been proud of.
Scream 2022 released in theaters recently. Response to it nationwide has been relatively lukewarm, garnering a 76% rating from Rotten Tomatoes, 83% from Fandango and a 7.3/10 from a little more than 22,000 voters on IMDb.
However, I believe that these numbers don’t do the film justice. Scream 2022 was a masterpiece that horror aficionados will love.
Let’s talk about why. Starting with what Scream 2022 did well.
It pulls off its meta-film perfectly
Ordinarily, breaking the fourth wall is something that is best done infrequently and handled with great care. After all, as is especially the case with fictional horror movies, films are often used as a means of escapism and immersion is incredibly important to maintain. Here, however, Scream 2022 annihilates the fourth wall as it always has, and it does so in a way that’s quite charming.
In one scene, a couple of partygoing teenagers are spotted literally watching the first Scream movie on their own TV. In the first scene of the movie, Sydney Prescott is identified as being the main protagonist of the parody “Stab” despite the fact that she later makes an appearance in this very movie. A recurring theme in this movie is the obscure “rules to surviving a horror movie” which multiple characters seem to invent on the spot. This ends up turning into a code of some kind that the entire cast of characters seem to be in on and fully understand.
As always, Scream 2022 incorporated quite a lot of meta-film, and it did so in a very charming, amusing way. Horror movies in general are best suited with amusing or lighthearted breaks in between killings, as to make it more shocking when the horror scenes return to the limelight. In that sense, Scream 2022 directly took a page from the great Wes Craven’s book and nailed it.
Roger L Jackson is amazing as always
In the entire 25 year history of Scream, we have never seen Roger L Jackson on camera at any point before. However, he’s symbolic as the voice of the big bad Ghost Face himself. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Jackson stated that he tried to strike a balance with voicing Ghost Face; to paraphrase, he wanted to incorporate a bit of “sexiness” into his voice while also remaining able to quickly and abruptly get mad and tense at a moment’s notice to maintain the threat Ghost Face imposes. As always, he did a masterful job in this one. Even though Ghost Face never actually has any on-camera lines as usual, just looking at him on screen will cause the viewer to sort of hear him in a sense as he taunts his victims as he goes through his trademark blade wipe, when he appears from behind seemingly out of nowhere, or as he’s in the midst of killing someone off. Roger L Jackson sets it all up amazingly.
The “who dunnit” is good as usual
In Scream movies as a whole, figuring out who’s behind the mask has always been a recurring theme. Lost among all the fourth wall breaking is that, using these made-up horror movie survival rules to ascertain who the killer really is always results in a lot of confusion that is great for the film. At one point early on, one of Scream 2022’s main characters managed to correctly identify who one of the killers was, but if it was your first time watching the movie, you’d probably have written it off as someone going down a large rabbit hole and incompetently pointing the finger. Who the real Ghost Face and his accomplice are is never clear, making the grand reveal at the end of the movie all the more enjoyable and surprising.
Fear of the unknown is done up very well
Not terribly long ago here on InReview, I wrote a piece criticizing modern horror movies for just throwing a bunch of jump scares in your face and calling it a day for the ‘horror’ content. Much like then, I maintain that horror movies which utilize fear of the unknown to scare their audiences are vastly superior to spamming viewers with jump scares or constantly casting the main villain under the limelight all movie long.
As always, Ghost Face and Roger L Jackson’s incredible voice acting begin the hunt by issuing a phone call to a soon-to-be victim. During this time, the viewers have no idea when or where the main man himself will show up. Will he be waiting at the front door for his victim to run right into? Will he find a way in to their house and get them from behind? Will he do something entirely different to throw our expectations off? We have no way of knowing, and it’s this element which does a magnificent job of building up the tension, all for it to rapidly release once Ghost Face finally does show up. His constant teasing of his victim over the phone helps this aspect tremendously.
In general, acting is incredibly well done
In the world of psychology, Synesthesia can be simply described as empathizing with someone’s feelings on TV or in a movie and beginning to partially experience them ourselves. If you watch someone get hacked apart by a chainsaw, it’s perfectly natural to cringe even though you yourself are clearly not experiencing the same thing. In fact, quite a lot of the scariness Scream gives off doesn’t necessarily come from Ghost Face or waiting in anticipation as we wait to see him show up again. A good deal of horror is projected by how our cast of actors react to being contacted by him. In that sense, the acting does a brilliant job giving this movie a solid base. Watching characters quite literally quiver in fear, beg for Ghost Face to stop or straight up cry on screen really does a good job projecting their feelings of fear onto the audience. Considering that Ghost Face has proven to be a big threat, these feelings aren’t perceived as being overdramatic either.
The fact that this movie was able to balance constantly breaking the fourth wall in tandem with maintaining enough immersion to project actual empathy onto the audience is nothing short of genius script writing, but also impeccable acting. Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Mikey Madison and especially Jenna Ortega among others did a masterful job in this one.
Ordinarily, this is the part where I’d give off a series of cons that Scream 2022 had. However, I truly don’t have any that aren’t very extreme nitpicks at best. Sure, perhaps this movie wasn’t outright pee-your-pants terrifying, but Scream movies have never had a history of aiming to be like that. That’s like watching an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants and then complaining that you didn’t learn enough about marine biology after doing so. Thus, it’s not really fair to criticize this movie for not accomplishing what it never set out to do in the first place.
As a result, I’m going to give Scream 2022 a grade of an S. It was a rousing success that horror fans should appreciate. If Wes Craven was around today, he would have watched this and shed a tear of joy at what his former peers put together in his absence, knowing that his brand of horror will live on.