Scream 1996 & 2022 Review

Milo Shenn, Staff Writer

The original Scream is a mainstay in the pantheon of slasher films. Its unique twist on the genre and obvious appreciation for the movies that came before it allowed it to stick with audiences and continue to garner new fans over the years. Of course, as with any other successful property, several sequels were produced, leading up to the most recent release, this January’s confusingly named Scream, which will be referred to as Scream 2022, or simply 2022 for clarity going onwards. Both of these films, while being typical slasher experiences, have more complexity beneath the surface.

Throughout Scream, a specific event from the main character, Sydney Prescott’s, past was referenced to several times. Her mother was murdered a year prior to the events of the story, and due to her testimony, the man responsible was convicted. She was still affected by the events, feeling like it was holding her back still. This is the core of the movie’s introspection on trauma. People, especially her boyfriend, pressure her to move forward in a way she simply isn’t ready for yet. Sydney’s mental health quickly worsens after the film’s killer, Ghostface, attempts to attack her. Luckily, she manages to get away, but the story quickly becomes widespread news in the small town. At her school, the reaction is a massively disrespectful sensation, with people donning the same costume as Ghostface, mocking Sydney and his two prior victims. However, the film’s portrayal of trauma and the response to it eventually weakens. Near the end of the movie, Sydney apologizes to her boyfriend about the way she’s acted and gives in to his pressure. While this feels like her making the wrong choice and falling to manipulation, the action is never treated as such in the movie. No point where Sydney realizes the fact that this was wrong and abusive is directly shown, which weakens the commentary of the film overall.

The Scream movies have always had a loose relationship with the fourth wall. The first movie contains outright explanations of slasher movie tropes of the time, and the killer being obsessed with other, real life horror movies. The second film, Scream 2, introduces the Stab franchise, an adaptation of the actual events involving Ghostface, a parallel to the actual series in the movie’s universe. Scream 2022, despite the confusing title, is a continuation of the other films, and uses its place in both the series and the universe to have relevant commentary on the groups of people who unite to enjoy a film, fandoms.

2022 takes place in a town that has long moved past the Ghostface incidents, they only exist as faint events from over 20 years ago, which changes when a girl survives an attack by someone in a Ghostface costume in a sequence mirroring the opening of the original movie. In the wake of this, the Stab franchise has become a topic of discussion for the characters, until they reach the realization that all of them are in some way connected to characters from the original Scream. Together, they reach the conclusion that whoever is responsible must be attempting to create their own Stab film, as the last one was poorly received by fans. In doing so, they gain the support of Sydney Prescott, who is initially reluctant to return until realizing she has to finally put an end to all the Ghostface killings, along with Dewey Riley and Gale Weathers, returning characters from the original. Eventually, the main characters end up alone at a house after a party, the same house from the climax of the first movie. Scenarios such as this, with several returning aspects from the originals, are common in current movies from existing franchises, for example Palpatine coming back with a Star Destroyer fleet in The Rise of Skywalker. Where this differs is that, instead of studios wanting to cash in on easy nostalgia, this was a deliberate choice on the part of the villain. Their plan was to lure people associated with the original Ghostface killings back to one place. Their motive, however, is where the film’s theme is strongest displayed.

One unintended parallel that can be found in the Scream franchise is to that of the phenomenon of “true crime.” Even in the original Scream, the murder of Sydney’s mother is sensationalized. A book was written about it, doubting Sydney’s testimony and proclaiming the man she implicated was innocent. This elaborates on the themes of the way the world responds to trauma already present. True crime can be a good thing; putting people’s stories out in the world, making it reach further people, helping people learn how to stay safe. However, often it ends up going another direction entirely; disrespecting the people involved and their trauma, sometimes even believing in a murderers innocence or, in the worst case, defending them. The sensationalization of tragedy continues with the Stab franchise, the murders of real people being written into scripts for the general public to eat up. Eventually, there are going to be consequences for the desentization of these tragedies to the public 

In the final confrontation between the killer, in a scene mirroring that of the original, the killer explains their motivations. Having been disappointed by the most recent Stab movie, seeing it as messing with the established formula, they chose to instead make their own. Their plan was made to be cinematic and flashy, so there’d be no choice but to notice them and make another Stab movie. Where the narrative they plan on presenting differs, however, is the culprit. Instead of them being caught for their crimes, they plan to pin it on the protagonist, who they will fake barely being able to defeat. The villain is the perfect character to show the mentality of an entitled fan who thinks they can do anything better than actual filmmakers taken to the extreme. These people are hard to please and hate anything being changed, but hate things that are too similar. These sort of fans are the type that have been especially prominent as of late, and Scream 2022 isn’t afraid to criticize them.

Scream as a series has always stood out around many other horror movies through the way it’s actually had things to say. It has a high amount of respect for its contemporaries in the genre, but doesn’t choose to replicate them with a different theme. Instead, it goes out of its way to make something both unique and innovative. Both movies I discussed I would recommend, and the other Scream films as well, to a lesser extent.