I wrote a freakin’ essay this week. Reviews of Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, Together Together, and The Tender Bar to drop hopefully by Friday.
Let me start this review by stating that I am an enormous fan of the Scream franchise. It holds a special place in my childhood that can never be replaced. Back in December of ’96, my sister and the neighbor girl snuck into a showing when I was at a gymnastics tournament, and I’ve been bitter ever since. I eventually saw it on a rented VHS from the Albertson’s mini video store at that same neighbor’s house, cause her mom would let us watch anything. Not that my parents are or ever were prudes, but they certainly had limits for me at age seven. The final credits rolled and there I was, terrified, enthralled, and completely blown away. I adored the characters, especially Randy (Jamie Kennedy) and Stu (Matthew Lillard), who I thought were hilarious and awesome. The real hero of the original though is Neve Campbell as Sidney, giving us arguably the best performance by a final girl in a horror film, ever. Even better than Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween or Patricia Arquette in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. We care so much about what happens to her, that it sets Scream apart as a horror franchise where we’re more invested in the potential victims rather than the killer. That’s amazing. After I watched it I knew I had to see Scream 2, which was just coming out in theaters at the time. I was ecstatic but also heartbroken because I knew my parents would NEVER take me to see it.
Fast forward to a year or so later when my sister was living in Florida. My dad and I went down to see her (can’t remember why my mom didn’t go) and we stayed at this bougie hotel in Miami. One night, my dad and I were looking for a movie to rent in the room and came across Scream 2. I begged and pleaded with Dr. Martin Margetis to just rent it and to my astonishment, he obliged. “It’s just filmed murder” I imagine he thought, “It’s not like people are having sex or anything. That would really fuck my kid up!” Well, consider me fucked because I loved it even more than the original. Bigger and better cast, more suspense (that sound studio chase scene is still, to this day, S-T-E-L-L-A-R), more self-awareness, more kills, and even an appearance by Roseanne‘s sister herself, the great Laurie Metcalf. “How could they ever top this?” I thought.
Two years later I got my answer when Scream 3 hit theaters. Even back then I knew it was a bloated, stupid mess, so glaringly inferior to the first two that it had to be written by someone else. Sure enough, it was. Dawson’s Creek creator and Scream 1 & 2 scribe Kevin Williamson dropped out for some reason and this guy, Ehren Krueger (hired probably only because of his last name), stepped in. He really blew chunks everywhere, but to be fair, Wes Craven does a terrible job directing this movie. There’s no suspense and we’re left feeling as indifferent about the proceedings as Jenny McCarthy‘s character feels towards the character she’s playing in Stab 3. I will say this though, Courtney Cox was better in this one than any of the other later sequels, and Parker Posey stole the show with a ridiculously funny character deserving of a better slasher. This seemed to end the so-called trilogy on an awkward shart, but then, eleven years later, a third sequel arose from the ashes.
I was a junior at ASU at the time. Drunk, fat, generally unhealthy, unbathed, unkempt, fueled by mediocre marijuana and sunflower seeds, I was doing college sketch comedy and improv and I was a bigger disaster than Scream 3. My buddy who also did improv, as well as some motivational speaking for high schools, somehow scored tickets to a sneak preview screening of Scream 4. It promised to make up for 3 cause hey, they even brought back the original writer. I sat in anticipation waiting for his review. Was it terrible? Could it be terrible? Could it be great? Is this going to be great? Is it going to get a couple Oscar nominations? Maybe not Best Picture, but what if it’s clever and popular enough to net a Best Original Screenplay nomination? What if Scream 4 fucking wins Best Picture?! “Mike, you’re high, shut the hell up,” I thought to myself. My buddy came back with a lukewarm but mostly negative review and I thought, “What the hell does this big dumb idiot know anyway?” Guess I’d found out. I went to see the film opening weekend with a comedy friend, also obsessed with the Scream franchise, and I was pretty disappointed. It was a significant step up from Scream 3, with some of the most outrageous and thrilling kills of the franchise, some good performances, and solid new characters. However, it was just so poorly written around every corner, with dialogue so artificial and weird it felt like Williamson was like “this is something my daughter would say!” Neve Campbell did what she could, but Courtney Cox and David Arquette were pretty terrible, and even though having the ending twist was interesting, it took forever and a day to get there.
Then comes Covid-19 and everything sucks for the most part. People are dying, people are sick, your dad is in the hospital, you can’t be around people, you’re doing Zoom movie nights that just aren’t the same and you can’t wipe your ass to save your life. Then it’s announced the two guys that did Ready or Not are rebooting Scream/doing a fourth sequel (or a “requel” as the actual film nauseatingly puts it) and it’s co-written by the guy who wrote Zodiac. You’re super pumped but the trailer drops and it looks shitty and low energy. You finally see the film expecting to either love it or absolutely hate it and are surprised you felt completely in the middle. If there was ever a movie worthy of the term “mixed bag” it’s 2022’s Scream.
First of all, the two dudes who made Ready or Not, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (or Radio Silence, as they’re sometimes credited) are very talented directors. They obviously know what they’re doing and they’re at their best when they treat the material as fun, low-stakes bloody fun. There’s a scene that’s purposely set up to fuck with the audience’s expectations of jump scares and it’s really pretty clever. I found myself laughing out loud in the theater during this, because what they’re saying is “this is Scream, not fucking Hamlet, relax, it’s supposed to be fun!” When the film is supposed to be heavy or has these dramatic moments, that’s when it flies heavily into “self-important” territory. There’s a major plot reveal (won’t reveal here) about the main character (Melissa Barrera) that’s pretty ridiculous. It’s made even more ridiculous with the use of this garbage CGI work. It doesn’t help matters the dialogue in the “dramatic” parts is so unnervingly heavy-handed, melodramatic, and exposition-dumpy without a hint of self-awareness. The dialogue for the rest of the movie is pretty self-aware and intentionally light though, only occasionally making us roll our eyes in disgust.
The cast, like the film, is a huge mixed bag, with the new series lead, Melissa Barrera being jarringly bad, and returning vet Courtney Cox being even worse. What movie did Cox even think she was in? Did she know the cameras were rolling? It’s one of the most bizarre performances from a Friends actress I’ve ever seen. David Arquette on the other hand delivers his best work of the franchise here, he’s wonderfully funny and is given more to do than the last sequel. Neve Campbell is given the least to do and makes you wish she had a bigger part, mostly because she’s probably the best actor in this franchise whose character is still alive. The Leftovers‘ Jasmin Savoy Brown is quite excellent as the Randy stand-in (she plays his niece) and Mikey Madison is great in everything, though criminally underused here. The real MVP of the cast comes from Jack Quaid who besides being the comic relief, is the new lead’s boyfriend.
Being a Scream movie it really does all come down to the reveal of who the killer(s) is/are and that’s where this movie goes South quickly. It doesn’t check out in the slightest and yes, I understand being a campy horror slasher there’s a certain level of suspension of disbelief, but it’s unsatisfying in a way that’s impossible to talk about without spoiling it. Let’s just say it devolves into a toxic level of nostalgia while commenting against a toxic level of nostalgia. So, it basically becomes what it purports to hate and that’s just bad writing. It’s also painfully predictable. This is a shame because so much of the movie before the final reveal is so wonderfully entertaining, dumb, but entertaining nonetheless. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett had a great “requel” hiding somewhere in here, but the goddamn screenplay got in the way. Grade: C+ (In Theaters)
Also Available Streaming or in Theaters:
The Power of the Dog (Netflix)
The Tragedy of Macbeth (AppleTV)
Shiva Baby (HBOMax)
The Eyes of Tammy Faye (HBOMax)
Spider-Man: No Way Home (In Theaters)
The Matrix Resurrections (HBOMax)
Parallel Mothers (In Theaters)
Boiling Point ($6.99 rental)
Novice ($6.99 rental)
Don’t Look Up (Netflix)
Being the Ricardos (Amazon Prime)
The Lost Daughter (Netflix)
Licorice Pizza (In Theaters)
Mass ($4.99 rental)
Nightmare Alley (In Theaters)
Red Rocket (In Theaters; Streaming 2/08)
West Side Story (In Theaters)
Benedetta ($6.99 rental)
Titane ($4.99 rental)
Candyman ($5.99 rental)