Scream ★★★½

I’m sure like many, I entered into the new Scream with some trepidation considering it’s January release date. That’s become less of a quality death sentence than it used to be (UNDERWATER proved that only two years ago) but it’s still never clear if a studio is dumping a bad title or using the lack of competition to prop a good one. Radio Silence, the talented directors of READY OR NOT and various anthology segment highlights, helming it seemed perfect but it wouldn’t be the first time good directors met a good franchise and the whole thing still blew up.

Thankfully, this is indeed a studio knowing what they have and deploying it properly (this film caught the post-NO WAY HOME wave exactly to maximize moviegoing audiences to hit box office). God knows how many franchises have been rebooted in recent times and god knows how many genres movies have gone the meta route but this franchise has the advantage that the meta factor was always built in. This one goes beyond even SCREAM 4 in that regard but, even without the presence of Kevin Williamson, the script by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick is so well-versed in contemporary horror and debates around it and so good at tying it into pitter patter that it will impress deep genre fans and at least tie along casual ones. In many ways, the meta sequel this most reminded me of is THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS in that, if not quite as layered as that, is trying to do something more with the framework than just crack some jokes and Easter eggs. And just how RESURRECTIONS showed due respect to the polarizing sequels, this shows a much richer understanding of its material and the appeal than, say, David Gordon Green’s self-assured HALLOWEEN films. It smartly tips it hat to SCREAM 4, which has proven to be immensely influential on current slashers like this film, and even giving a lot of space to Marley Shelton’s character from it (I was maybe the only person in the audience who laughed at the lemon squares shoutout), as well as a soundtrack shoutout to SCREAM 3, and treating the dispatching of legacy character(s?) that does happen with respect. 

But also like RESURRECTIONS, it sometimes participates in what it’s critiquing. Sometimes the film gets too preoccupied with mocking going-ons that it gets creaky. It has too many characters, runs slightly too long, and has perhaps the weakest killer motivation in the franchise which is directly connected to desire to out-meta itself. But Radio Silence have fully brought their dynamic sharpness to the kill scenes so the film always stay on the rails. Not only do they handle the most violent parts perfectly but they also execute a hilarious sequence involving making fun of fakeouts. The cast is great as always with Jenna Ortega, who’s seemingly being set up as a new Scream Queen between this and the upcoming X, really impressing and fun turns from Mikey Madison, Jack Quaid, Jasmin Savoy Brown (especially if you’ve been watching Yellowjackets) and, of course, Campbell (my heart skipped a beat when I found out possibly my first cinematic crush Sydney Prescott was married to a man named Mark 🥰), Arquette, and Cox (and one more iconic actor from the franchise who I’m a big fan of but won’t spoil here.)

All in all, one of the more impressive recent slashers and a great way to kick off 2022 movies. A lot of the time this hefty reboots can leave us ready to close up shop again but I’m actually interested in where this goes next and certainly whatever Radio Silence follow it up with in general. 

Also HUGE SPOILER but I actually loved what this film did with Mikey Madison. She is probably most famous for being the Manson cult member who is on the receiving end of Rick Dalton’s flamethrower in the climax of ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. Her pale, big face and long dark hair make shadows cascade off her perfectly so naturally she fits in here. But not only does the film make her one of the killers, it has her deliver almost the same monologue she gives before the Manson attack in Tarantino’s film, then literally had her get set on fire, then literally have her do the screaming stabbing thing! None of this will upset someone who hasn’t seen OUATIH but it’s impossible to ignore if you have. It’s the most meta turn in the movie and it goes uncommented on! Brilliant little twist imo.

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