Scream delivers fun-filled fright that riffs on revered original

Lots of payoff in latest in endless Scream franchise.

Where: Theatres
What: Movie, 120 mins.
When: Now
Genre: Horror
Why you should watch: This horror-classic “re-quel” is aiming for the hearts of the original’s die-hard fans, and with familiar starring faces, clever callbacks, meta-textual mayhem and tons of exhilarating scares, it isn’t far off. It might not have the genre-defining je ne sais quoi of the original, but who cares? It’s a scream!

I’ll be honest: As a rule, I do not watch horror movies. I don’t like blood, I don’t like knives and, in a general sense, I really just don’t enjoy being scared — my idea of a fun film experience is a 2000s indie rom-com or semi-ironic Hallmark movie. My boyfriend, on the other hand, has essentially dedicated his life to horror movies. He’s seen them all, but none are closer to his heart than Scream.

I’ve watched the original 1996 cult classic with him twice so far (I am an excellent girlfriend) and listened to him ramble off easter eggs and behind-the-scenes facts like he’s giving a guided tour both times. So, despite my minimal coping skills and overactive anxiety, I walked into the press screening of Scream (2022) confident in my ability to handle it.

This is the fifth instalment in the franchise, but as its characters meta-textually explain in the film, Scream is a “re-quel”: not a sequel, not a remake, but somewhere in between. I would describe it most faithfully as a tribute, which is apparently why the creators forwent the typical numbered title. As the film often notes, the original Scream has one of the most dedicated fanbases in the world, so the million-dollar question is: How does it measure up to the original?

Well, Scream (2022) isn’t the genre-defining masterpiece that the original was, but to be fair, pretty much nothing could be — and in classic Scream fashion, the film is well aware of its flaws. As the franchise has been doing for years, it uses the in-universe parody of the real-life Scream movies, Stab, to poke fun at its own shortcomings. In the movies, the characters in Scream make fun of the Stab franchise for, among other things, releasing an eighth movie that was simply called Stab instead of having the balls to just call it Stab 8. Get it?

The film is made for people like my boyfriend: it’s a love letter to (and sometimes a playful criticism of) its most dedicated fans. A good number of the most tense moments come from shot-by-shot callbacks to original scenes and are made scary because of the expectations set by the original. It plays with the horror formula just enough to be surprising but not so much that it feels dishonest. It tries, often successfully, to emulate the wry, tongue-in-cheek humour and anti-formulaic formula that defined Scream (1996) — and while the dialogue is sometimes stiff and the story can feel slightly forced, it’s full of enough in-jokes and genuinely exhilarating moments to make up for it.

So, will Scream (2022) strike the hearts of its original fans? Just like in the film itself, you never quite know what’s going to happen. But, new fan or old, you’re in for two hours of fun, nostalgia-filled viewing.