‘Scream’ is Still Nailing the Horror Zeitgeist

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Scream 2022 (CREDIT: Paramount Pictures)

Starring: Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Mikey Madison, Mason Gooding, Dylan Minnette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Marley Shelton, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Kyle Gallner, Sonia Ben Ammar, Roger L. Jackson

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Running Time: 114 Minutes

Rating: R for A Lot of Blood, and a Few Chats About Getting It On

Release Date: January 14, 2022 (Theaters)

The latest Scream movie is the fifth in the slasher series, but it’s not called “Scream 5.” Instead, it’s just called “Scream,” exactly like the very first entry. This is the latest example of an annoying trend in which sequels that also work as reboots to long-running franchises have the exact same title as the original, with 2018’s Halloween perhaps the most notorious example. I had convinced myself not to talk about the title in my review, figuring that it would be more interesting to focus on the content of the actual movie. But then I watched the movie, and it turned out that there’s a very good reason for that recycled title. Because this time around, the Woodsboro stabbing crew is aiming its knife at those franchise “requels” and all the other cinema that inspires a certain breed of toxic fandom.

More than 25 years after the first killing spree, you could be forgiven for wondering how there still could possibly be anyone connected to Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) with enough bloodlust to justify another sequel. The answer is that this time around, the motivation is less logical, and therefore more brutal and disturbing. You know the sorts of people who complain about how the likes of latter-day Star Wars and female-led Ghostbusters have destroyed their childhoods? What if they were so upset that they resorted to murder to set things right? That’s a premise that could conceivably stand on its own as an original horror flick, but it feels all too appropriate that instead it has commandeered one of the most beloved scary movie franchises of all time.

In some ways, this latest Scream is like an original effort, insofar as it focuses on the new faces ahead of the legacy characters much more so than any of the other adventures of Woodsboro. But of course, it’s still very much a part of the franchise insomuch as it follows the formula of a killer (or killers) lurking within a friend group of horny young people while terrorizing them with creepy phone calls. (Roger L. Jackson returns once again as the voice of Ghostface, and his deep cadence sounds a lot like the deep, steady tones of original Scream director Wes Craven, to the point that I wondered if Craven had before his 2015 passing recorded some dialogue to be used later.) Don’t worry too much about staleness, though, as there are some zigs when you expect zags, as characters either don’t know – or don’t care – about the rules that supposedly determine who dies and how in a horror movie. Co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have a knack for keeping audiences on their toes like this, which they demonstrated amply in their 2019 bloodbath Ready or Not.

At times, the acting may skew a little more melodramatic than is advisable, but overall, Scream remains as remarkably fun and fresh as it’s ever been. Where originally there were conversations about how blade-wielders patiently stalk their victims, now we have discussions about how the newest generation of horror tastemakers are enthralled by “elevated horror” like The Babadook and Hereditary, and how long-in-the-tooth franchises need to find that sweet spot of “not too different, not too repetitive” to succeed. Scream 2022 finds that sweet spot, and goes in for the kill.

Scream (2022) is Recommended If You Like: Defending all the Scream sequels, Ready or Not, You’re Next, Talking with your fellow movie -obsessed friends, Film Twitter, Listening to and/or hosting movie podcasts

Grade: 4 out of 5 Requels

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Skyscraper’ is at Its Best When It Keeps It Simple

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CREDIT: Kimberley French/Universal Studios

This review was originally posted on News Cult in July 2018.

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Richard Møller, Pablo Schreiber, Noah Taylor, Hannah Quinlivan, Matt O’Leary, Byron Mann, McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Running Time: 102 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for A Tall Building on Fire, But Mostly the Gunfire

Release Date: July 13, 2018

One of the many revolutionary joys of Die Hard was the motivation of the villains. They presented themselves as terrorists, but they were really just simple thieves. There are several reasons why Skyscraper, which is basically “Die Hard, but in the tallest building in the world,” is not as entertaining as John McClane’s original exploits. The premise is now far from unique, obviously. Plus, any character played by Dwayne Johnson, even an amputee in this case, is already too larger-than-life for any of his heroics to be surprising. But the most fundamental mistake is that the villains’ purpose is never clear. I’m pretty sure they’re not after money, but if they are terrorizing, it is never clear what point they are trying to make, if any. It is possible this was all explained at some point while I was momentarily distracted, but if it was that hard to miss, then that’s a problem.

Thus, then, just about the only reason to check out Skyscraper is to see Johnson pull off some gravity-defying stunts. If you suffer from acrophobia or vertigo, you will definitely want to stay away, whereas if your favorite action scene ever is Ethan Hunt on the Burj Khalifa, then you will find some thrills. Johnson does not quite reach Tom Cruise’s poetic heights, but he is not far off from them. It would just be nice if the whole affair were undergirded by more of a purpose.

But there is one piece of Skyscraper that I can endorse wholeheartedly, and that is its use of the old “turn it off and turn it back on again” trick. Seriously, that is the solution that solves the day, and it is actually quite satisfying. Bringing it back to Die Hard: brilliant in its simplicity.

Skyscraper is Recommended If You Like: Die Hard “on a whatever” (minus the memorable villains), Death-Defying Stunts

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Prosthetic Legs