'Scream' 2022: A New Horror Genre Is Born?!
On January 14th, the newest Scream movie dropped. But unlike its past installments, the newest addition to the Scream franchise was not labeled Scream 5 -- instead, it was simply entitled Scream, signaling a significant shift for Scream fans. The main characters of the horror were new to viewers, with actress Melissa Barrera playing Sam Carpenter, the current female heroine being plagued by the severely homicidal Ghostface.
You may be thinking to yourself, "Oh, new characters -- so is this a reboot?" Not quite. While the majority of cast members are new to the Scream universe, they all happen to be related to previous characters that have gone through the horrors of Ghostface in the past Screams. Old favorites like Dewey (David Arquette), Gale (Courtney Cox), and OG Final Girl Sidney (Neve Campbell) have all come back to Westboro to take on the new killer.
Scream isn’t a reboot OR a sequel; instead, it’s an amalgamation of both, something that a supporting character, Mindy (played by the iconic Jasmin Savoy Brown) dubs as a “requel”. A “requel” brings back fan-favorite elements of a series to fresh new characters, staying in the universe without calling for a complete reboot. A little meta? Definitely. But Scream has always been a metaseries, and for the Gen-Z audience, it works wonders as viewers watch relatable jokes unravel on screen.
[**WARNING: Spoilers beyond this point!**]
Take, for instance, the original “opening scene”. In the older Scream movies, Ghostface immediately kills the first female victim in her house. In the "requel", Sam’s little sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) doesn’t even pick up the phone until the third call. Which is very relatable -- who even has a landline anymore?! When she finally answers the call, Tara immediately disses the slasher film genre, instead calling “high-brow” horror films her favorite horror niche. Ghostface is not very happy with that statement. But who can blame her? In an age where Jordan Peele movies are the face of horror, Tara arguing that The Babadook is her favorite movie is on-brand for this generation’s audience.
Other murderesque scenes that follow evoke similar reactions from the audience. When the cautious, frosted-tipped West Hicks (Dylan Minnette) enters his house, we KNOW Ghostface is there waiting for him. But with every heightened movie score, every opportunity for a jump-scare… Ghostface does not appear. The subversion of jump-scare expectations may initially have audiences rolling their eyes, but it makes the coming attack feel all the more unexpected. Scream allowing viewers to “unexpect the expected” is totally up Gen-Z’s alley.
And, of course, I can’t forget the character that represents all of us when watching horror movies: Jasmine Savoy’s Mindy, the character that coins the word "requel. Mindy, channeling her uncle Randy from past Scream movies, is the audience’s guide to making fun of horror tropes. Mindy is the one who brings up the rules of surviving horror movies, telling her friends not to say red flag phrases like “I’m going back home” or go anywhere dark and solitary without someone accompanying them. Mindy is completely detached from her current state, even when it’s highly likely that Ghostface will come after her. If that doesn’t remind you of Gen-Z’s detachment from the hellscape reality we are living in, then I don’t know what will.
Although Scream’s newest plot twists and turns in directions that have turned off some critics, it’s definitely up to the viewer to decide whether or not the newest movie is too meta, or just meta enough to be a whole new genre in the horror universe. It’s up to you to decide: Are more "intellectual" horror films like The Babadook the new normal, or is the slasher genre back here to stay for good?