Does ‘Scream’ look any good, or are we just energized by the nostalgia?

Evan Ross Katz is In The Know’s pop culture contributor. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram for more.

Sidney Prescott with a smartphone? Something felt immediately off upon watching the trailer for Scream, the first follow-up of the Scream franchise in over a decade (but don’t call it Scream 5 — we’ll get to that). A smartphone in Prescott’s hand, however, was hardly the first sign. “I’m signed on for the duration,” director Wes Craven said in a 2010 interview promoting Scream 4, which was heavily promoted at the time as the possible first in a new Scream trilogy. “Scream 5 — knock on wood, if we actually get to it, because 4 has to be good in order for us to make a 55 will be a continuation of 4,” screenwriter Kevin Williamson said that same year.

Then came the waiting. “I’m not doing it,” Williamson said two years later when asked about an update on the film. “I pitched a whole new trilogy,” he stated two more years later. “[But] I guess Scream 4 never took off in a way they hoped, and so…” A year later, disgraced former producer Harvey Weinstein kiboshed any plans for future installments, citing the MTV television series as the franchise’s canonical continuation. Then, in 2019, after years of silence and with the Weinstein Company defunct since 2018, the rights to the film were reacquired. Plans were then set in motion for a new film, with Williamson doing it alongside directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Wes Craven, the director of the first four films, died in 2015) for this sequel slash reboot slash remake.

In May 2020, David Arquette signed on to reprise his role from the previous four films. In July, they announced Courteney Cox would also return. And, in September 2020, the OG final girl of the series, Neve Campbell, officially signed back on. The film was shot from September to November, followed by a year of post-production. A year that was filled with many fans speculating on what to expect from a franchise whose first film redefined the entire horror genre in its wake. “That’s going to be the challenge with the trailer,” Gillett said this past August. “There’s a lot in this movie that can get spoiled really easily.”

Then, with much preamble provided via social media, on Oct. 12, the Scream trailer was finally released. Ah, about that title: “It’s not an accident that it’s called Scream,” the directors revealed in a new interview in which they cited a multitude of reasons as to why they did not numerically specify. “I don’t think anybody wanted to see the number five after something,” Kevin Williams said in a new interview. “You’d have to ask them — Paramount or whoever, but I think taking the 5 off and calling it Scream [works] because it’s brand new.” In other words, Scream will now denote the 1996 original film and the 2022 film.

Did the trailer succeed in being spoiler free? Depends who you ask. “Scream trailer spoiling deaths… they’re lucky I have a shit memory,” one fan tweeted. Others intuited intentional misleads, especially with there reportedly being multiple scripts and cuts of the film. What we did get, though, was an introduction to the promised crop of new characters, as well as glimpses at the franchise’s ever-surviving trio plus Marley Shelton, who appeared in Scream 4.

An entire minute of the 2 minute, 25 second trailer is devoted to what’s intended to be perceived as the franchise’s contemporary take on its familiar opening scene. This time, actress Jenny Ortega, mirroring Drew Barrymore’s 1996 performance as Casey Becker, receives the first of many phone calls. She initially declines the call, only to receive a text from her friend, Amber, encouraging her to answer. Only it’s not Amber. Bum bum bum. “Would you like to play a game, Tara?” Ghostface asks over the phone. We see her lunge toward the door, open it, get slashed by Ghostface and then attempt to lock her doors using an app her phone. She’s unsuccessful. Ghostface enters. He hovers over her and then we hear her scream. Is she dead? I’m going to go with no.

Dewey calls Sidney, informing her of three attacks so far. (He wouldn’t call her after the first?) “Something about this one just feels different,” he tells her, before we cut to a familiar shot of Ghostface creeping up on an unsuspecting victim. And that’s the thing! As much as this trailer seems to convey that things are different, it does little to show us how.

“Whoever this is is going to keep coming for you,” Sidney knowingly tells the new kids.

“There are certain rules to surviving,” Dewey relays to them in another scene, echoing the rules presented by Jamie Kennedy’s character in Scream (1996).

We then get our first nugget of intel regarding how, or if, this film will be connected to its predecessors. “The attacks were all on people related to the original killers.” Then, lots of running, screaming, knife wielding, gun pointing, gun shooting, etc. We close with Sidney entering a home, gun at the ready. “Hello Sidney, it’s an honor,” we hear Ghostface say in voiceover. And then we’re out.

Does the trailer look any good? Social media seemed largely shook, in a good way, animated by the ability to conjure excitement for something. Anything? Gizmodo called it “delightfully terrifying,” but I’m curious what about this trailer was actually terrifying, since it was mostly just Ghostface being Ghostface which, at this point, is more de facto than terror-inducing. “I mean I wasn’t overwhelmed but it got me excited and didn’t make me feel too worried,” a horror connoisseur texted me in defense of the trailer when I attempted to poo-poo it. For many, a franchise like Scream is less “will it be good?” and more, “if it’s bad, make another!” And they probably will. 

Sure, the old adage deserves reframing: Don’t judge a movie by its trailer. But to conjure the familiar words of another ‘90s pop culture relic being thrust into remake-dom, “I couldn’t help but wonder: Is our obsession with reboots, remakes and revivals diluting the very works that we once celebrated?” In short, is more always better? I mean, we all saw Sex and the City 2.

It’s especially notable for a franchise like Scream, which, despite its relatively beloved sequels, retained identity struggles in keeping the genre-busting alive as both horror, and commentary on horror as a genre. All that said, to love the Scream franchise is both to mercilessly critique it and recognize that trailers are meant more for crafting fan theory than plot exposition. And at the end of the day, come Jan. 14, my derriere will be firmly planted at the megaplex.

If you enjoyed this article, check out Evan Ross Katz’s musings on the upcoming Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That!

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