Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘Scream’ (2022)

by Ben Martin

Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)

Twenty-fiver years ago, the horror genre was on life support. In turn, the slasher subgenre was as dead as a doornail. But, that all changed with Scream (1996) — a movie that brought together fresh new talents & a master of horror to deconstruct the genre in a darkly comedic fashion. Of course, one Scream always leads to another. As such, this franchise has found new life in a legacy sequel/reboot under the same title: Scream (2022)!

The legacy sequel is all the rage these days, for better or worse. Such is undoubtedly the case in the horror genre following Halloween (2018) being a massive hit at the box office a few years back. Of course, that 2018 sequel also kicked off this annoying trend of simply utilizing the title of the original classic for your sequel while cherry-picking from the mythology of a given franchise. Surprisingly, though, not every classic horror series has jumped on this latest trend … yet. I firmly believe they all will before the treads wear thin on this current trend, though. In fact, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has already technically done this once before (beating Michael Myers to the punch) with Texas Chainsaw 3-D (2013) and will soon be doing it again on Netflix with Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022). The fact is, though, mainstream audiences ultimately overlooked Texas Chainsaw. It would take Halloween ’18 to make that sort of impact.

Now, the point of those brief histrionics is to bring us to the current franchise following the current path of the lega-sequel — Scream. When I first heard that this franchise was being resuscitated for this current era, I was a bit timid. After all, Scream is one of the only genre franchises where the creative team remained largely intact with the late Wes Craven (1939-2015) directing every film. But to be fair, the original cast was initially reluctant to make another entry without Craven, most notably Neve Campbell (of the upcoming TV series adaptation of The Lincoln Lawyer), who said as much in interviews. No matter how anyone felt, though, a legacy installment was inevitable. After the dissolution of Dimension Films, production companies SpyGlass Media Group and Lantern Entertainment, which have a distribution deal through Paramount Pictures, acquired the rights to the franchise.

Thankfully, however, I was immediately given more hope, (not to mention intrigue) when the studio announced that filmmakers from the horror movie-making collective known as Radio Silence would be helming what at the time was rumored to be titled ‘5cream’ — a title I wish they’d stuck with if only for the silliness of it. As a directing duo, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett impressed me with their 2019 effort, Ready or Not, so I was very interested to see what they would do with a Scream flick. Furthermore, the directors endeared themselves to the fanbase by approaching the franchise’s creator, Kevin Williamson, before proceeding with the project. Although, it’s worth noting that the directors did not pull double-duty as writers. No , that job went to veteran screenwriter at Paramount, James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, The Losers, The Amazing Spider-Man duology), Radio Silence alum, and Ready or Not writer Guy Busick

Despite its title, Scream (2022) is very much a true sequel and thereby the fifth installment in the series instead of a remake or reboot. The film picks up twenty-five years after the original, making only vague references to the sequels. At this point, the in-universe franchise, Stab, has eight entries under its belt and has developed a hardcore fanbase of its own. But, real-life horror strikes again when the Ghostface killer attacks teen Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) in Woodsboro. Upon hearing about the violent incident, Tara’s estranged sister, Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), and her boyfriend, Richie Kirsch (Jack Quaid), return to town to help Tara recover. Soon enough, though, murders begin to occur in Tara’s friend’s group, and the sisters seek the help of former Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette). Who, in turn, implores Sidney Prescott (Campbell) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) to join them so that they can end the nightmare once and for all!

I know my review of Scream ’22 is a little late; my apologies. Frankly, though, January was a helluva month. At this point, the film has garnered a largely positive response from the horror community. Moreover, the film grossed over $128 million worldwide, and it looks like it will shortly outgross Halloween Kills (2020) at the box office. I wish that I could say I was among the portion of the fanbase who loved this new Scream. But ultimately, I think the film is one step forward and two steps back.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s plenty that works about this film. The fifth installment is, without a doubt, the best one from a technical standpoint, a credit to Bettinelli-Olpin, Gillett, and cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz. Unlike its predecessors, Scream (2022) has a warm look that helps create an atmosphere. The visual tone of the movie is undoubtedly an infinite improvement to that of Scre4m (2011). The look of the film intensifies all the kills, which are soaked in more blood, gore, and brutality than before in this franchise. The sum total is a largely entertaining Scream entry in that regard.

Then there’s the legacy cast, who, for the first time in the franchise, deliver performances that have been aged in a history of pain. It’s good to see Sidney back, but Dewey is the true standout here. Arquette gives us a character who could have almost been in a western. The former lawman’s years have been filled with painfully down endings that have exhausted him. Thankfully, he still has his charm and sense of humor about him, particularly when interacting with the new cast members. The only member of the OG group who gets short-changed is Gale, who isn’t given much to do here, except one big scene.

If only these new cast members were half as likable as the legacy cast. Unfortunately, though, the new crew doesn’t even feel like friends. Heck, they don’t even really seem like each other. For the most part, they make movie references and accuse each other of being the killer instead of having real conversations. Moreover, most of the acting of this young cast is weak and annoying. Or, worse yet, obvious in all the wrong ways. Frankly, the only strong suit of this cast is that they’re ethnically diverse, unlike the cast of the previous films.

Perhaps worse than the new cast’s acting chops, though, is that this film doesn’t tread much new ground at all. Sure, this legacy sequel claims to be exploring the rules of being one (or, as they refer to it in the movie, a “requel.”) Alas, this movie does nothing new, aside from having the most obvious killer(s) yet. If anything, it feels like a better-made, but a poorly-written version of Scream 4. I had to weigh it out, but Scream (2022) is barely a Franchise Expansion at the end of the day. Hell, the only reason the movie is an Expansion at all is because of what it does with the legacy cast and that it is a legitimate sequel.

This franchise will undoubtedly continue as the tentatively titled Scream 6 was recently greenlit. Despite my criticisms of the movie in review, I hope this next sequel will be given to these same directors. What the sixth entry will need, though, are new screenwriters. More specifically, writers who are not afraid to break a formula that has become stale. Then we could see a proper Expansion if this franchise is taken in a new direction.

Scream (2022), now playing exclusively in theaters!

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