Review: ‘Scream” (2022), starring Melissa Barrera, Jack Quaid, Jenna Ortega, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette and Marley Shelton

January 14, 2022

by Carla Hay

Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox in “Scream” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

“Scream” (2022)

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Culture Representation: Taking place mainly in the fictional California city of Woodsboro, the horror film “Scream” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Latinos) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: Ghostface Killer murders start again in Woodsboro, with new characters and familiar franchise characters in a race against time to find out who’s responsible for this killing spree.

Culture Audience: Aside from fans of the “Scream” horror series, “Scream” will appeal mainly to people who like horror movies that combine graphic gore with sarcastic comedy.

Dylan Minnette, Jack Quaid, Melissa Barrera and David Arquette in “Scream” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

The 2022 version of “Scream” proves that the series is running out of fresh new ideas, but the movie’s self-aware snarkiness and effective nods to “Scream” franchise nostalgia make the film mostly watchable. Viewers don’t have to see the previous “Scream” movies to understand or be entertained by 2022’s “Scream,” which is the fifth movie in the series. Because it shares the same title as 1996’s “Scream” (the first movie in the series) the 2022 “Scream” movie’s title does it a disservice because it’s more of a sequel than a reboot.

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, the 2022 version of “Scream” is the first “Scream” movie that wasn’t directed by Wes Craven, the horror filmmaking master who died of a brain tumor in 2015, at the age of 76. The 2022 version of “Scream” also has screenwriters who are new to the “Scream” franchise: James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick. Kevin Williamson—who wrote 1996’s “Scream,” 1997’s “Scream 2” and 2011’s “Scream 4” movies—is an executive producer of 2022’s “Scream.”

The 2022 version of “Scream” follows almost the exact same formula as certain parts of previous “Scream” movies. A group of people in their late teens and early 20s are targeted and gruesomely murdered, one by one, by a serial killer dressed in a black robe, wearing a creepy ghost mask, and usually killing with a large knife. This murderer is named the Ghostface Killer. The end of each “Scream” movie reveals who’s been responsible for the murders.

Unlike most other horror movie series that keep the same villain for each movie in the series, the “Scream” movie series has a different culprit dressed up as the Ghostface Killer in each “Scream” movie. The first “Scream” movie is constantly referred to in the sequels because the Ghostface Killer murder sprees in the sequels are copycat crimes of the original Ghostface Killer murder spree, which took place in the fictional city of Woodsboro, California. The 2000 movie “Scream 3” added a movie-within-a-movie storyline, by creating a fictional horror movie series called “Stab,” which was inspired by what happened in the first “Scream” movie.

Those are some of the basic things that might be helpful to people who watch 2022’s “Scream” without knowing anything about the previous “Scream” films. The people who will enjoy this movie the most are those who’ve seen all of the previous “Scream” movies, although the 1996 “Scream” movie and “Scream 3” are the two most essential previous “Scream” films to watch to understand all of the jokes in 2022’s “Scream.”

The 2022 version of “Scream” begins with the same type of scene that began 1996’s “Scream”: A teenage girl from Woodsboro High School is home alone in Woodsboro when she gets a mysterious call from the Ghostface Killer, who breaks in the home and attacks her. Drew Barrymore’s Casey Becker character famously got killed in that opening scene in the 1996 “Scream” movie.

The outcome is different for the opening scene in 2022’s “Scream.” Tara Carpenter (played by Jenna Ortega), the teenager attacked in the opening scene, survives this attempted murder. Tara, who’s about 16 or 17, lives with her single mother Christine Carpenter, who is never seen in the movie. Tara’s father abandoned the family when Tara was 8 years old. If you consider some of the family secrets that are revealed, Christine’s absence is the “Scream” filmmakers’ lazily convenient way to not have Christine around, because she would have a lot of explaining to do.

The movie gives a vague explanation that Christine has mental-health issues where she frequently goes away for long stretches of time. When the Ghostface Killer calls Tara, he asks for Christine and says that he knows her from group therapy. Tara says that Christine isn’t home and begins to question how well the caller knows Christine. And that’s when the Ghostface Killer starts to taunt Tara by doing things such has force her answer trivia questions about the “Stab” movies.

Christine’s absence still doesn’t explain why the police or hospital officials don’t seem too concerned about finding Christine when her underage child is in a hospital after an attempted murder. It’s one of the sloppy aspects of this movie, which puts a lot more emphasis on making references to previous “Scream” films than filling any plot holes in the 2022 “Scream” story. There are some other preposterous aspects of the movie, but the absence of Christine is the one that’s the least adequately explained.

More characters eventually populate the movie until most of them are killed off by the end. Tara’s circle of friends consists entirely of other Woodsboro High School students. Because so many characters are murdered, it becomes a very easy process of elimination to find out who’s responsible for this killing spree.

And there’s a part of the movie where someone literally lists all the formulaic rules for “Scream”/”Stab” movies, so major clues are purposely dropped in the film. Therefore, this “Scream” movie, although it has plenty of jump scares, isn’t as suspenseful as previous “Scream’ movies when it comes to the solving the mystery of who’s responsible for the killings.

The other characters in the movie include:

  • Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), Tara’s older sister, who lives in Modesto and goes to Woodsboro when she finds out about the attempted murder of Tara.
  • Richie Kirsch (played by Jack Quaid), Sam’s new boyfriend who works with her at a retail store. Sam and Richie, who have known each other for about six months, go to Woodsboro together during this family crisis.
  • Amber Freeman (played by Mikey Madison), Tara’s best friend who made plans to party with Tara at Tara’s house on the night that Tara was attacked.
  • Mindy Meeks-Martin (played by Jasmin Savoy Brown), a member of Tara’s social circle who’s a “Stab” trivia fanatic. Mindy is also the niece of original “Scream” character Randy Meeks (played by Jamie Kennedy), whose fate is shown in “Scream 2.”
  • Chad Meeks-Martin (played by Mason Gooding), Mindy’s twin brother, who is a popular athlete at school.
  • Liv McKenzie (played by Sonia Ammar), Chad’s girlfriend who’s a bit of a wild child. She had a fling with a creep in his 30s named Vince Schneider (played by Kyle Gallner), who later stalks her.
  • Wes Hicks (played by Dylan Minnette), a nice guy who’s often teased by his friends because his mother works in law enforcement.
  • Deputy Judy Hicks (played by Marley Shelton), Wes’ mother who is one of the lead investigators in the murder spree. Deputy Judy Hicks was also a character in “Scream 4.”

In addition to these characters, the 2022 “Scream” features the return of these original “Scream” franchise characters, who’ve been in other “Scream” movies:

  • Sidney Prescott (played by Neve Campbell), the Ghostface Killer’s original target who has appeared in every “Scream” movie leading up this one.
  • Gale Weathers-Riley (played by Courteney Cox), an extremely ambitious TV reporter/book author, whose brash and pushy attitude rubs a lot of people the wrong way.
  • Dewey Riley (played by David Arquette), the goofy and easygoing cop who originally clashed with Gale, but then they fell in love and got married.

Sidney, Gale and Dewey all live far away from Woodsboro, but they are lured back to town when they hear that Ghostface Killer murders are happening again. Sidney, who was a Woodsboro High School student in the first “Scream” movie, is now married to someone named Mark (who’s never seen in the movie) and is the mother of infant twin daughters, who are also never seen in the movie.

Gale and Dewey are now divorced. According to conversations in the movie, their marriage fell apart soon after Gale took a prominent newscasting job in New York City. Dewey didn’t like living in New York, so he left Gale. It’s art somewhat imitating life, because in real life, Cox and Arquette met because of the “Scream” movie, they fell in love, got married, and eventually divorced.

While Gale’s career has been thriving, Dewey’s life and career have been on a downward spiral. When certain characters seek out Dewey to enlist his help in catching the Ghostface Killer, they find him living as an emotionally damaged recluse in a run-down trailer. Once a police sheriff, he eventually confesses that he was asked to leave the police department under circumstance he doesn’t full explain. Dewey has become a drunk, although it’s unclear if his drinking problem began before or after he lost his job.

Dewey is also heartbroken over his divorce from Gale. Meanwhile, Gale shows she has a heart because she’s been devastated by the divorce too. Dewey has a personal reason for investigating Ghostface Killer murders: His younger sister, Tatum Riley (played by Rose McGowan), who was Sidney’s best friend in high school, was killed in the original Ghostface Killer murder spree chronicled in the first “Scream” movie.

The 2022 “Scream” movie balances out a lot of the explicitly violent and bloody murder scenes with self-effacing jokes. There are many references to what sequels, reboots or “requels” (movies that are hybrids of reboots and sequels) should or should not do to please die-hard fans. At one point in the movie, when “Stab” trivia buff Mindy marvels at what has happened to Sam so far and how “Stab” fans would react, Sam asks Mindy sarcastically, “Are you telling me I’m part of fan fucking fiction?”

Mindy, just like her uncle Randy, is the self-appointed authority on clues and patterns in these serial killings. She lists three rules of finding out who’s the serial killer:

  • Never trust the love interest.
  • The killer’s motive is always connected to the past.
  • The main victim has a friend group that’s also targeted by the killer.

Because “Scream” spends so much time pointing out “rules” and “clichés” of horror movie franchises, it takes a little bit of the fun out of trying to guess who’s responsible for the serial killings in this movie. The movie literally tells the audience who the killer is, but even if it didn’t, enough people get killed in this relatively small cast of characters to figure out who’s behind the murder spree long before it’s officially revealed.

“Scream” should please fans who want a movie that’s heavy on nostalgia for beloved franchise characters, but something happens to one of these characters that might get very mixed reactions from fans. Because slasher flicks like “Scream” rely heavily on characters in their teens and 20s getting murdered, this “Scream” movie doesn’t do much with character development for the young characters who aren’t Sam and Tara. The two sisters were estranged for a number of years, for reasons that are explained in the movie. Predictably, Tara and Sam set aside their family friction to join forces to get the Ghostface Killer.

Except for one shocking death in “Scream,” the movie really does stick to the formula that it constantly lampoons. At times, this constant ironic self-referencing wears a little thin and comes across as a little too smug. Some of the violence might be a turnoff for people who are extremely sensitive, very squeamish or easily offended by scenes in movies where knife slashes and blood gushing are depicted to full gory effect. This “Scream” movie has no intention of being as original as the first “Scream” movie, but for horror fans, there’s enough in the 2022 “Scream” to be entertained by classic horror tropes, with the ending inevitably leaving open the probability of a sequel.

Paramount Pictures released “Scream” in U.S. cinemas on January 14, 2022.

Review: ‘It Takes Three’ (2021), starring Jared Gilman, Aurora Perrineau, Mikey Madison and David Gridley

September 20, 2021

by Carla Hay

Jared Gilman and Mikey Madison in “It Takes Three” (Photo courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky)

“It Takes Three” (2021)

Directed by Scott Coffey

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the romantic comedy “It Takes Three” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: At a high school, a nerd and a conceited jock schoolmate both have crushes on the same girl at school, but the nerd keeps his crush a secret and is recruited by the jock to fabricate a romantic online persona that the jock passes off as his own to woo the girl he wants to date.

Culture Audience: “It Takes Three” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching formulaic and not-very-funny teen romantic comedies.

Aurora Perrineau and David Gridley in “It Takes Three” (Photo courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky)

Predictable, boring and plagued by amateurish acting, “It Takes Three” is a forgettable mashup of a John Hughes movie and “Cyrano de Bergerac.” There’s an overabundance of teen romantic comedies that have the storyline of a nerdy underdog who has a secret crush on someone who’s seemingly unattainable. The challenge for filmmakers who turn this over-used trope into a movie is to do something uniquely creative with the plot and the characters. Unfortunately, “It Takes Three” comes up short on every single level.

Directed by Scott Coffey and written by Logan Burdick and Blair Mastbaum, “It Takes Three” doesn’t have a single thing about it that hasn’t been done in other teen romantic comedies. Not even the title is original, since there’s at least one other feature film titled “It Takes Three.” In director Coffey’s “It Takes Three,” the movie is so banal and lacking in originality, viewers could watch the first 20 minutes and easily predict what’s going to happen for the rest of the movie.

In the production notes for “It Takes Three,” Coffey makes this statement: “Directing ‘It Takes Three’ grew out of my personal history with teen movies. I was an actor in the John Hughes films ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ and ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,’ and also had leading roles in ‘Shag’ and ‘Satisfaction.’ These movies were a huge part of my own coming of age as an actor and I wanted ‘It Takes Three’ to harken back to these transformative 1980s teen movies. I wanted to homage these classics and add to their lineage, but at the same time, I wanted to make something fresh and new.”

Actually, there’s nothing fresh and new about “It Takes Three.” The only things that the filmmakers did to try to make this movie look more “modern” than a Hughes movie were to have a lot more explicit discussions of sex and to include today’s technology as a big part of the storyline. But again, other teen romantic comedies have already done those exact same things. The best Hughes movies are considered classics because of the well-written dialogue and because the roles were played by talented cast members. By contrast, “It Takes Three” has witless dialogue and some cast members who need to take more acting lessons because they’re just not believable in their roles.

In “It Takes Three,” protagonist Cy Berger (played by Jared Gilman) is a shy nerd whose only friend is Kat Walker (played by Mikey Madison), who’s a stereotypical wisecracking “sidekick” character in movies of this type. Kat and Cy are students at the same high school in an unnamed U.S. city, where Cy is a social outcast. And yet somehow (it’s never explained in the movie), Cy has gotten a date with a pretty and popular student named Cora (played by Katie Baker), who is as vain about her physical appearance as Cy is insecure about how he looks.

“It Takes Three” opens with a nervous Cy driving to Cora’s house to pick her up for their first date together. Cy predictably drives the type of old, clunky and dirty car that a shallow person like Cora wouldn’t even want to be near. But since this movie is so poorly written, it never tells what led up to this hard-to-believe scenario that Cora wants to go on a date with Cy. Is it a pity date? Did Cy help Cora with her homework and is this her way of thanking him? Did she lose a bet? Don’t expect any answers.

Cy awkwardly compliments Cora by telling her that she looks electrifying. She thinks it’s an odd description of her, so she asks Cy if he’s rolling on molly. (Translation for people who don’t know drug slang: She wants to know if he’s high on Ecstasy.) And if so, Cora tells Cy that she wants some of this drug. Cy tells her that he’s sober and that he’s on a natural high, just by being with her. How did these two obviously mismatched people end up on a date? Right from the start, this movie looks too fake for its own good.

The whole purpose of this phony-looking and very contrived date is so the filmmakers could set up a humiliating experience for Cy. This humiliation serves as the catalyst for the rest of the story. Kat is helping Cy on this date, which takes place at a beach, by arranging to be part of a small marching band (how very un-romantic) perform on the beach during the date. Cy also wants the date to be an opportunity to ask Cora to the school’s upcoming prom.

When Cy asks Cora his big prom date question, she casually tells him no because she wants to have sex on prom night, and Cy just isn’t who she has in mind as a sex partner for her. Cora tells Cy: “I just can’t imagine you going down on me. It’s an important part of my prom fantasy.” Unfortunately for Cy, Cora gave him this rejection right when he was having an erection.

And it’s get worse for Cy: A fellow classmate, who saw Cy and Cora on the beach together, was close enough to use a phone to zoom in and film Cy with this erection during Cora’s rejection. The video was posted online. Of course, the video went viral. And so, the next time that Cy is at school, he is mercilessly teased by many students about it.

What do Cy’s parents have to say about this bullying? They don’t do much about it except to tell Cy that they love him just the way he is. Cy’s parents are two lesbians named Sara (played by Lori Alan) and Jessica (played by Jessica Lorez), who appear briefly in the movie in an early scene where they seem more concerned about talking about their sex life in front of Cy than getting help for their obviously depressed child.

Cy is so insecure about his looks that he wants to have plastic surgery, but his mothers discourage him from this idea. That doesn’t stop Cy from visiting a plastic surgeon’s office by himself for a consultation. In a voiceover, Cy has this to say about why he wants to change his physical appearance: “It doesn’t matter how stupid, lazy and uncultured you are, if you have a pretty face, people just love you.”

One of these “pretty people” whom Cy has resentment toward is the school bully who’s been the cruelest to Cy. His name is Chris Newton (played by David Gridley), a self-centered star athlete who has an obsession with filming himself doing karate and other martial arts, and putting the videos on his social media. Chris is described as one of the most popular classmates at the school. But you can tell this movie was written by adults who are clueless about what today’s young people think is “cool,” because in real life, Chris would be considered a stupid dork in an athlete’s body.

It doesn’t help that Gridley’s acting is among the worst in this subpar movie that has Chris as a one-dimensional dimwit. Gridley’s acting style is way too hammy in this role. Guys who are considered “cool” and “popular” in high school don’t act this ridiculous. Cy is also written in very broad strokes (every conceivable nerd stereotype) and portrayed by an actor whose talent isn’t on the same level as the talent of some of the other cast members.

Cy is still recovering from the embarrassment of his viral video when he meets a new student named Roxy (played by Aurora Perrineau), who establishes a friendly rapport with him. Roxy is a free-thinking feminist who is sort of an outsider herself, since she’s a new student and isn’t as superficial as the popular students in school. It doesn’t take long for Cy to forget all about Cora and instead fixate on Roxy as his ideal dream girl.

But what do you know, Chris ends up being attracted to Roxy too. Cy thinks he won’t have a chance of competing against Chris for Roxy’s affections. And through a series of contrived events, Cy ends up making a deal with Chris to get Chris to stop bullying him: Cy agrees to create an online persona to pretend to be Chris and woo Roxy.

It works too much for Cy’s comfort, because Roxy believes that the romantic and articulate person she’s talking to online is Chris. She has no idea that the person she’s really talking to online is Cy, even though she’s getting to know Cy as a friend. Roxy thinks that maybe Chris isn’t a dumb, conceited jock after all. And she agrees to date him. Cue the scenes where Cy comes up with the words that Chris says on these dates.

The more that Roxy starts to fall for Chris, the more miserable Cy gets, until he begins to wonder what would happen if he told Roxy the truth. “It Takes Three” has cliché after cliché of teen comedies, including a showdown at a prom and a race against time to confess true feelings to a love interest. The filmmakers didn’t even try to do anything different with these stereotypes.

Perrineau’s depiction of Roxy is adequate, but Roxy looks and acts more like Cy’s chaperone than a potential girlfriend because Roxy is so much more emotionally mature than Cy. One of the main problems with “It Takes Three” is that some of the cast members, such as Perrineau and Gridley, do not look believable as high schoolers, because these actors look and act much older than high school students. It’s distracting and an example of bad judgment in this movie’s filmmaking.

And where is Cy’s best friend Kat during all of Cy’s angst? She’s sidelined for most of the movie, but she makes it clear that she disapproves of Cy’s deception in the online persona scam that Cy has with Chris. Kat also thinks that Cy can do better than all the “unattainable” girls he constantly falls for and who end up breaking his heart.

Madison’s portrayal of Kat is one of the few highlights of the film, because she displays comedic timing that’s much better than her castmates. It’s too bad that the Kat character is so underdeveloped. Her biggest scenes are in the beginning and end of the movie.

Other romantic comedies have already done this spin on the “Cyrano de Bergerac” play—most notably 1987’s “Roxanne,” starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah. You won’t find anything surprising in “It Takes Three.” Usually, the “nerdy underdog” in the story is supposed to be witty and charming, but the Cy character is dull and whiny. For a better-made teen romantic comedy that uses the “Cyrano de Bergerac” template, watch director Alice Wu’s award-winning 2020 movie “The Half of It.”

Gunpowder & Sky released “It Takes Three” on digital and VOD on September 3, 2021.

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