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Review: Scream (2022)

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

[The following review contains MINOR SPOILERS; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]

The most recent chapter in the Scream saga opens with a simple establishing shot of a house, captured from an angle that flattens the frame into an almost perfectly two-dimensional image reminiscent of a child’s crayon drawing—an appropriate visual metaphor for the movie’s overarching themes, which revolve entirely around archetypes and iconography.

Like its predecessors, this belated addition to the franchise is unabashedly self-aware, gleefully eviscerating not only the usual tropes and conventions of the horror genre, but also the very concept of the “legacy sequel”—an increasingly prevalent trend in popular culture (the past nine months alone have seen the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Jurassic World: Dominion, and Top Gun: Maverick). From the derivative plot to the recycled conflicts, this “soft reboot” is built on a foundation of nostalgia—it even resurrects the first film’s killer for an obligatory (albeit narratively significant) cameo appearance. Furthermore, all of the new characters—victims and villains alike—are intimately familiar with the accepted “rules” of slasher stories, violently rejecting any deviation from the traditional formula—a clear commentary on the “toxic fandom” phenomenon.

This postmodern tone works best when it lurks in the background, leaving the fourth wall intact and allowing the clichés to speak for themselves. In one particularly memorable sequence, for example, the cinematography and soundtrack gradually build up to a predictable jump scare… only to repeatedly withhold the expected payoff, blue balling the audience to a ludicrous degree.

Such efficiently structured scenes—which convey the film’s central thesis through action rather than long-winded, on-the-nose dialogue—are far more effective than snappy one-liners and pithy quips. Like Airplane! and The Naked Gun, Scream earns its biggest laughs when it plays its absurd premise completely straight, straddling the razor thin line between suspense and comedy—while also delivering the bloody thrills that gore hounds demand.

Miraculously, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (collectively credited as Radio Silence) make this delicate balancing act seem totally effortless.

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