In an age of sequels, reboots and remakes, it’s always a little concerning when a beloved franchise lurches back to life like a slasher villain getting in one last scare.
So long-time fans of Scream were understandably worried when Paramount Pictures announced that they were reviving the series.
The franchise holds a special place in the pop culture world because it subverted all the typical tropes that go hand-in-hand with slasher movies.
That self-aware approach sets it aside from other classics because its characters know the rules of being in a horror movie, with the storylines playing up to this.
But after four films that all play on that structure, how do a new team of writers and directors go in a fresh direction without diluting what makes Scream great in the first place?
Well, we took a little trip to Woodsboro to see what the fuss is all about, with the film taking a delightfully twisted stab at Hollywood’s obsession with legacy sequels.
Yes, beloved original trio Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) are back, but they’re joined by a new class of victims who are being hunted by Ghostface.
In any other franchise they’d just be the old guard, written solely to pass the torch over to a younger set of survivors. But rather than sidelining them, 2022’s Scream makes a point of keeping the trio front and centre – they’re in as much danger as the rest of the cast.
The new killer (or killers?!?) targets anyone associated with the original events with the team figuring out that they’re trying to make a reboot/sequel, a.k.a. a ‘requel’ version of Billy Loomis (Skeeth Ulrich) and Stu Macher’s (Matthew Lillard) killing spree.
This is where the imaginative meta-commentary from writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick really starts to shine. They’re taking aim at Hollywood’s recent trend of relying on fan-service and nostalgia in movies like Star Wars, The Matrix, and even Spider-Man.
But they’re doing this with a cheeky nod to the camera because the original cast are here, and it also leans into the most iconic moments from the first film.
We even get a brand new set of rules delivered by resident film nerds Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) – who take over as the horror experts from their uncle Randy (Jamie Kennedy) who died in Scream 2.
Of course, one of the core concepts of the franchise is the movie-in-the-movie, Stab, which is based on the original killing spree from the first film – and it’s clear the Stab fandom is viciously defensive over the series.
In this world, the series is iconic as the likes of Halloween or Saw, and the internet has a lot of thoughts about how the Stab franchise has faltered over the years.
2022’s Scream reveals that the convoluted nature of the in-world Stab films has created a questionable fanbase who feverishly defend the movies they love online.
YouTube podcast hosts blast Stab 8 for bastardising everything they like about those movies, while also harassing its director and generally acting with an extreme sense of entitlement.
Hang on, that sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? Yes, Vanderbilt and Busick have used Ghostface to comment on toxic fandom in the real world.
Cast your mind back to when Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrived in 2017. There was a huge backlash against the highly anticipated sequel from a portion of fans for being too progressive and not giving them the versions of certain characters that they wanted/expected.
There was so much hostility pointed towards one character, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), that the actress quit social media altogether.
So the sense of entitlement from a couple of Stab fans in the movie is clearly inspired by The Last Jedi controversy (as well as a sprinkling of the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut campaign for good measure).
One of them even defends their actions by erratically shouting “the fans are gonna be the ones who are gonna win.” Yikes.
This is the logical next step for a franchise which has been completely self-aware from the first moment we heard Roger L. Jackson whisper “what’s your favourite scary movie?”
It started out by criticising the horror genre and how predictable it is, while also noting how the capitalist film industry gets in the way of storytelling.
So it’s only fair that the audience’s own failings go under Ghostface’s microscope too. Don’t get us wrong, the legendary villain isn’t hunting the fans who hate the Stab movies, but the spoilerific motive all stems back to that toxic fanbase.
It’s an ingenious way of approaching the franchise from writers Vanderbilt and Busick, as well as directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin.
However, it might be a good idea to draw the line here. Yes, Paramount has only just revived the franchise but that doesn’t mean the studio should churn out more sequels just for the sake of it. We’ve all seen what happens when a horror series runs out of ideas and it isn’t pretty.
2022’s Scream has a clear direction and a specific story to tell, whereas future sequels could just muddy the water if the angle isn’t right.
Yes, there’s now a new generation of survivors, but a fresh cast means nothing if the franchise dies as a self-parody of itself.
Obviously, a new director or writer could come aboard with a stunning idea to take Sidney Prescott to new heights, but if this is Ghostface’s last outing, then it’s been a Scream, baby.
Scream is out in UK cinemas now.