With every ear to the ground (hopefully that phrase is still politically correct), keeping something secret these days on the Internet is akin to understanding what’s politically correct and what isn’t. But with recent movies like James Bond’s No Time to Die, and Spider-Man: No Way Home, it proves that embargoes, and just plain old-fashioned decency, are still rife within the movie loving community, and as such, those pesky spoilers remain, for the most part, unspoilt. That said, I have not checked every No Time to Die review posted to see if any expose the truth to why James Bond’s social calendar is so choke-full that even a heart attack isn’t in the offing. That I went into that movie knowing nothing of the ending means the moral compass is still steadily guiding many. Thank god. This leads me (using said compass) to Scream 2022.
Having loved the original, being strangely impressed with the sequel, left indifferent and nonplus to what happened in the third, and horrified more by the hairstyles in the fourth than the gore, I didn’t know where the fifth instalment (without Wes Craven behind the wheel) was heading. Fortunately, one of my favourite movies of recent years is the horror comedy (horroredy?) Ready or Not, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. The aforesaid directors got the Scream gig, but in doing so had some big boots to fill. And with a hardcore fan base thirsty for blood, and not just that issued by Ghostface, it had every chance of being a poisoned chalice. So, having cajoled by family into watching Spider-Man for the second time, I slipped into the next cinema to watch Scream, leaving my expectations, and Ghostface mask, at the door.
Going back to my original point – how do you keep a who-dun’it-spoiler-infested movie secret and still talk about what worked and what didn’t? It’s difficult, I can tell you that. I have written this paragraph five times because I keep leaning into spoilers, and though I’m champing at the bit to talk about another movie that came out a couple of years back that, had I not seen it, would have made the end of 5cream (screw it. I’m using it) a much more jaw-dropping experience because of poor “casting”, I can’t talk about that movie because it’s a fricking big spoiler! Okay, maybe I overstated the term “jaw-drop”. 5cream doesn’t reinvent the wheel. There’s a formula used in the franchise that leaves your mouth less agape and more twisted with cynicism. But that’s by the by. What I’m getting at is the first rule of spoiler free reviews is that you can’t talk about the spoilers, but when your decision to give the movie a respectful, albeit average, rating of three stars, you feel you’re doing a disservice to the franchise, the directors, and the legacy that is Wesley of Craven.
But what can you tell us, Craig?
I’d suggest re-watching the original. It’s not too dissimilar to 5cream. In fact, I recall JJ Abrams getting a lot of flack for Force Awakens because it didn’t move too far from the New Hope tree. I present this example as exhibit A in the trial of Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett versus the horror geeks. When picking up a huge franchise beloved by fans aplenty all waiting to see Ghostface again, are you really going to shake that tree to see is something fresh falls out? No, keep it simple. Borrow from the master and put a slight twist on it. Call it an homage to the original. Say you’re respecting the spirit of Wes. But what you’re seeing play out before your eyes when you watch Scream 2022 is no different from the three sequels (or dare I say it… go on, I dared myself… Scary Movie). Moving on swiftly. Direction was competent. It felt that Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett were trying to avoid horror tropes as if it was a dose of COVID. Case in point – composition. We all know if a character opens the bathroom medicine cabinet, sure enough when they close it, in the reflection will be the killer standing behind them. There is one scene in 5cream where such tropes were avoided on at least three occasions. Presumably this was done to lure us into a false sense of security and build some much needed tension, which it did, but inevitably, as with all Slashers, there has to be a confrontation. So as much as you dodge the fat stinking trope of a jump scare, it’s coming (ready or not). That said, it was noticeable enough I had to give them props for trying. Casting was a big one for me, but I can’t talk about it for at least another five years, so I’ll set a reminder on my phone and come back to amend this blog to include why it irked me so.
In short, 5scream didn’t break the mould. It just recast it. Is that bad thing? Yes and no. Ardent fans get their Ghostface fix. There’s plenty of gore to turn a butcher’s stomach, and it ensures Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett get to do another movie of their choosing, which I’m all for. Will I remember who the killer is in ten years? No. Will I care? No. But will I watch it again? Most probably.