Combustible Celluloid
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With: Melissa Barrera, Mason Gooding, Jenna Ortega, Dylan Minnette, Jack Quaid, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Marley Shelton, Skeet Ulrich, Heather Matarazzo, Roger L. Jackson
Written by: James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick
Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, language throughout and some sexual references
Running Time: 114
Date: 01/14/2022

Scream (2022)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Stake Five

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Passing the torch to fresh blood, this fifth entry of the meta-horror series shows, surprisingly, that there are still layers of meta-ness to uncover, fresh scares to experience, and wicked fun to be had.

Twenty-five years after the Ghostface Killer first struck, teen Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) receives a call from a stranger asking her about her favorite scary movie. Not long after, she's attacked and stabbed. Her estranged older sister, Samantha (Melissa Barrera) and Sam's boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) return to Woodsboro to be with her. When the killer attacks again, Sam and Richie seek out the retired Dewey Riley (David Arquette), who reluctantly agrees to help, describing the rules of survival to a group of Tara's friends, adding that the killer is likely one of them.

Horror movie buff Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) explains her theory that this is all a "re-quel." Meanwhile, Sam makes the decision to reveal her dark secret, and the likely reason for the new rash of killings. And before long, Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) arrive in town to hopefully put an end to the killings for good.

Co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (of the collective "Radio Silence") and co-writer Guy Busick previously gave us the similarly whip-smart, gory Ready or Not, and they continue this Scream in that same fashion. They also seem to have been inspired by the late Wes Craven's singular style of filmmaking, with his masterful use of interior spaces as the source of nightmares. One sequence, which has a character puttering around in a kitchen, is filled with squeal-inducing traps and false alarms, and when the punch finally comes, it's well-earned.

The movie has lots of fun with the theory of the "re-quel," a movie not unlike Halloween, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, or Jurassic World, a franchise re-launched with fresh characters as well as "legacy" characters in smaller roles. It's also steeped in the fictional movie-within-a-movie Stab franchise, with one superb scene featuring film buff Mindy enjoying watching it on TV.

But it also understands and references "high-minded" horrors like The Babadook and Hereditary. On the other hand, Campbell, Cox, and Arquette provide a measure of emotional connection, and new character Samantha is interesting enough to go out on her own. In the final act, the filmmakers fumble their juggling act in a few small ways, but for the most part, this Scream is worth shouting about.

Paramount's Blu-ray release includes a fun commentary track by co-writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick and co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, plus executive producer Chad Villella. There are also deleted scenes, three short featurettes (less than 10 minute each), one of them on the legacy of Wes Craven, and a trailer for the original 1996 film (for some reason). Video and audio are both very fine. Recommended.

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