Scream (1996)

MATT BETTINELLI-OLPIN, TYLER GILLETT

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5

USA, 2022. , , , , , . Screenplay by , , based on characters created by . Cinematography by . Produced by , , James Vanderbilt. Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

With every other franchise from the end of the twentieth century being resurrected by the power audience nostalgia, there’s no way that that the Hollywood remake machine wouldn’t call on the Wes Craven hit that spawned three sequels and a television series to also revive itself. The 1996 Scream‘s critically-acclaimed popularity was based in its humorously self-referential nature, its characters bemoaning all the tired cliches of murder-by-numbers slashers before enacting them on their fellow cast mates, followed by sequels that called attention to themselves as such, and we are given just as generous a serving of wry meta-narrative in this reboot that never stops talking about the way that increasingly frail franchise entries treat the true diehard fans of the original.

Plotwise we’re not in new territory, a number of dead bodies begin to pile up in the town of Woodsboro and a group of friends believe that someone out there is copycatting the original Stab (the book and film written by journalist Gale Weathers, played by ). Tara () get things going with a fun retread of the groundbreaking Drew Barrymore scene that started us off on this journey in 1995, after which her long estranged sister Sam () returns home with a secret: she’s the daughter of someone significant from the past and her connection to the real murders that Stab was based on might be the cause of all this mayhem. As the characters do logic puzzles to figure out which among them might be the killer who keeps showing up in the Edvard Munch-inspired Ghostface mask, veteran cast members Weathers, Dewey () and, of course, queen of the nineties ingenues Sidney Prescott () are brought back to the place that nearly killed them so many years ago: it’s a reboot, after all, and everyone knows that they can only be explained by going back to the original.

A fun concept is watered down by a cast of young actors in cookie-cutter roles that, perhaps intentionally, call attention to themselves as stock character types but are not lifted beyond them by any particularly good performances. Simplistic direction by filmmakers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (of the highly overrated and soulless Ready Or Not), is clearly trying to serve champagne on a beer budget, for as things progress it’s obvious that we’re using as few locations as possible. At least there is effort put into the violence, which is effectively disturbing and, as is required for this cutting-edge modern day, impressively graphic, but where the logic falters is the script constantly referring to a showdown with the killer that will put an end to things for good: if every Scream sequel is the result of a copycat killer, how do we know there won’t be another if the box office receipts are robust enough?

These movies are made on the cheap but they rarely look this cheap, though this one at least serves up a terrific ending that gives the villainy the nasty ending it deserves: leaving behind our current obsession with finding the sympathetic motivation behind what makes bad people that way (horror movies today have more in common with Depression-era movies like Boys Town than Texas Chainsaw Massacre), here we get an unpredictable unmasking of the killer that, overly wordy exposition to explain itself aside, leads to a deliciously nasty comeuppance for them.

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