By David Dent
It’s been 26 years since Wes Craven’s original movie graced our screens (this one is dedicated to the director, who died in 2015), and lest we forget that the film was a much-needed shot in the arm for horror at the time and a whip-smart post-modern take on the deconstruction of the scary movie genre. So, four sequels in and three TV show seasons later, is there still life in the franchise? You bet.
Co-directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, whose action choreography skills evidenced in their 2019 movie ’Ready or Not’ are again to the fore here, on the surface ‘Scream’ behaves no differently to its antecedents.
As the movie opens, we’re back in the kitchen, with the phone ringing. The person answering this time is Tara (19-year-old Jenna Marie Ortega, who wasn’t even born when the franchise began) and when answering the caller’s question about her favourite scary movie, offers up ‘The Babadook’ and gives the caller a mini-lecture on the pitfalls of elevated horror. It doesn’t help her when the killer (once again with Ghostface mask) comes a calling though.
So self-referentially things have certainly moved on since 2011’s ‘Scream 4’. We meet another new generation of kids, all seemingly horror literate, now coming to terms with the attack on Tara and the impact on Tara’s best friend Sam (Melissa Berera). Hitting any number of brick walls in the search for Ghostface, the now retired Dewey Riley (David Arquette) is consulted about the crimes, and it isn’t long before Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox again, and she’s dropped the Riley from her name this time) and Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott are back in play to help the kids stay alive.
There’s a lot more to ‘Scream’ than this spoiler free summary suggests, and the various intertwining elements of family intrigue help keep the thing fresh. But it’s the juxtaposition between old and young that make this really interesting (the more seasoned cast are all terrific): and the co-directors’ gradual build-up of tension, punctuated by the now familiar jump scares (nobody can open a fridge without it being threatening), keeps it lively and tense. It’s got an 18 cert too; no cutaways from the kills here.
I sat watching this thinking two things: firstly, how can a franchise that’s 26 years old and which pretty much sticks to the same formula remain this watchable? And also, exactly how does a movie about a masked killer graphically bumping off a cast of generally likeable characters feel like comfort blanket viewing? Well sometimes it’s best not to overthink things. Excellent.
Scream (2022) is in cinemas from 14th January 2022.