Written by on January 24, 2022

“Do you like scary movies?” It’s been a pop culture catchphrase for the last 25 years making people afraid to answer the phone while home alone. As much as Freddy, Jason, and Michael have been the pinnacle of horror movie royalty few have pierced that level of popularity as much as Ghostface. The masked killer known only for his costume with the visage of Van Gogh’s famous painting as it’s mask giving the title of “Scream” a double meaning for both the mask and the genre in which it exists. What makes the character even more appealing is that he is someone yet no one as the killer behind the mask changes with every movie with only a six degrees of separation connecting the victims to the murderer. Also, the “Scream” movies aren’t your typical slasher film. They have always winked at the horror movie genre with inside jokes that let the viewer in on what’s happening along with moments of levity within the most stressful moments that kind of have you laughing while jumping back in your seat. You also have the movie-within-a-movie angle with “Stab” being the movies about the last set of murders that we saw in the previous film. When I went to see the latest “Scream” movie (no numbers or added words to separate it from the 1996 original) I was excited to see it back in a theater as my wife and we originally did back in 96, and we saw it at The Rivoli which added to the nostalgia factor. I was ready for the gore that comes with it, but also the intricacies that the series is known for and guessing who the killer(s) really are.

What I loved about this movie – as what seems to be the theme this past year is its “love letter to the fans” moments in it. You get familiar cast members from the original films that you love and relate to. Because of the style of the movie you feel what they went through because they make you feel like you’re in on it. You can’t have a “Scream” movie without Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), or Dewey (David Arquette) involved in some way. They all make their return as the characters that you sometimes loved, sometimes hated, and sometimes loved to hate. You also have to have the ever looming side character in the franchise: the rules. They change slightly from sequel to sequel, but are necessary for the plot. With horror movies you also have to have new blood brought in to restock the shelves so to speak and get you reinvested in the film. Sam (Sara Barrera) is the new heroine with her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) as the initial victim in the movie. What they do right in this version is hearken back to the original in endearing ways, or again with that subtle wink. Those that loved the original or grew up on them will be pleased with that aspect. The fact that they eviscerate Hollywood at the same time by taking shots at sequels and “requels” – the retelling of the story with the original characters but with changes to the narrative, and at the same time take a shot at their own sequel that came out in 2011 in this film is hilarious. This film also pays tribute to the creator of the series and other horror luminaries through certain names of characters. Horror and slashing is the name of the game here and you will not be wanting in that category either as they definitely upped the blood quotient and painful death scenes. The moments of tension are also amped up with music on purpose and again with a wink that works on both levels. To brag a bit I had the killer figured out early as many fans might, but their motivation is always the kicker.

What I didn’t like about this movie was some of the new cast members and their performances. Sara Barrera came off wooden at times and didn’t get you emotionally invested like Campbell did with Sydney. Granted her backstory is different and interesting, but in the end you were only kind of cheering for her. Ortega is just a constant victim throughout which is part of the plot, but even when we need her to be emotionally attached she comes off as just whiny and Barrera gives nothing back to the scene. The surrounding cast are probably the better parts of the whole ensemble whether they are new comers like Jasmin Savoy Brown as Mindy or Cox revitalizing her role. I’m always open to new directions for franchises and new main characters and new bold story lines, but even kids that see the original cast as “old” might feel more connected to them then the new cast. While some will see this as rehashed from the original there is a way to do it and watch it that makes it feel completely different and I think they got to that level pretty well. I have to admit when we left the theater I was looking over my shoulder a bit and checked the backseat before we drove off. This movie is great to see in the theater, and will be a great to watch at home alone or with a group of friends. If you’ve never seen the first set of movies I would highly suggest you do that before watching this because you won’t get the inside jokes and references. You don’t want to be the person that can’t laugh along and is constantly asking what you’re missing out on. Nobody likes that person. If you’re an aficionado of the franchise you will not be disappointed with most of this film, but will obviously see some cracks in it’s previous luster. It will keep your answer “Yes” when asked if you like scary movies, but you might say that it’s time to stop with this current run. If you’re a casual watcher then you will just chalk this up as a decent slasher flick with a bit of thought put into it. You’ll both want a bit more out of it, but hope they don’t tap this well for a few years if ever again.

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