Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) is drawn back to Woodsboro when her estranged sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) is attacked by someone wearing the Ghostface mask. Together with her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid), Sam faces dark secrets from her past and a new terror stalking everyone connected to the Woodsboro Massacre of 1996, including Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), and Dewey Riley (David Arquette)...
It's only right that seeing as how 'Halloween' managed to reinvent itself for a new era, 'Scream' was due a similar revival of fortunes.
After all, the two are linked in a fashion. Wes Craven and John Carpenter were both savvy directors of horror, they were friends, and Craven referenced Carpenter's 'Halloween' in 'Scream' by naming Skeet Ulrich's character after Dr. Loomis, the psychologist who tried to treat Michael Myers. In fact, 2022's 'Scream' opens with Jenna Ortega taking the place of Drew Barrymore and is taunted over the phone with a horror movie trivia quiz with the same voice-box trick as the first one.
2022's 'Scream' is just as meta with its references as the 1996 original. Indeed, so much of this 'Scream' is made up of second-guessing audiences who are wise to every trick in the book. Every time someone opens a fridge door, the camera lingers in position to reveal someone behind it and lets you know what's coming next. Even the cast is aware of every trick in the book. Hell, even in the opening scene when asked the famous question about scary movies, Jenna Ortega's character replies that she prefers "elevated horrors" like 'The Babadook' or 'Hereditary', and proceeds to slag off '90s horrors for being too brightly lit and everyone having weird hair.
To the credit of writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, the heavy lifting is on the young cast and they do the work admirably. Jack Quaid easily stands out as the best of the bunch, with Jenna Ortega as the younger sister to Melissa Barrera's character being a close second. When Neve Campbell is reintroduced as Sidney Prescott, she's jogging with a buggy. Courtney Cox, meanwhile, is doing a morning show (a nod to her 'Friends' costar, no doubt) while David Arquette's Dewey Riley is living in a trailer and suffering from his wounds and heartbreak through the years. The script uses them sparingly, but when both Cox and Arquette reunite on screen, it's quite a moment. Still, you can't help but feel the weariness in the 'Scream' formula.
For a franchise that's this played out as 'Scream' is and has been for quite some time, going back to basics is the only place it can go. Bringing back Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette for one final lap, lining up fresh directors in Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett who grew up on the originals - it's smart, but this 'Scream' is never quite as smart or as fresh as 1996's 'Scream'. How could it be, after all? Anything that can be redone is being redone, and audiences are smarter than they've ever been before. Trying to out-think them doesn't work, so 'Scream' relies on subverting their expectations and making things gorier and edgier. That gets you so far, but you've got to wonder can the 'Scream' franchise roar back to life (groan) after this?
The third act is where this 'Scream' really earns itself the right to be defined as the best it's been in years. Obviously, we're not going to give anything away, but suffice to say, the way in which the script addresses some very pointed topics is pretty damn funny and smart - exactly the kind of thing Wes Craven could be proud of, were he here to see it. Clocking it just three minutes longer than the original, this 'Scream' is nevertheless sluggish in parts, particularly an extended sequence set in an implausibly empty hospital ward. Still, that's half the charm of 'Scream'. You know what's coming, but you're still watching it and enjoying it. Even if you can see what happens in this 'Scream' coming a mile off, it's still an entertaining ride.
Just remember the rules.