Scream Trailer Gambles on Hollywood’s New Reboot-Sequel Strategy

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“Hello, Sidney.” It’s the iconic line from the infamous Ghostface killer. The face behind the mask might change from Scream movie to Scream movie, but that raspy Roger L. Jackson vocal performance stays the same. After all these years, it’s even still menacing a woman who’s arguably the greatest “final girl” of all-time. Hence today’s new Scream trailer, which ends with Neve Campbell being threatened with the lofty claim that “it’s an honor.” As in, it’s an honor to be the latest slasher to take a stab at you, Sid after five movies in 25 years.

That level of deference and respect to Campbell’s beloved heroine is nice to see as a longtime fan of the franchise, and yet it is also odd in a movie titled simply “Scream.” On paper, the name of the movie would suggest this is a reboot—a fresh start for the series about a masked killer making deadly crank calls in the middle of the night. But in practice, 2022’s Scream looks a lot like all the Scream follow-ups before it: a sequel to the 1996 original where Sid, reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), and bumbling cop Dewey (David Arquette) get dragged into another spate of copycat Ghostface killings.

That’s because studio Paramount Pictures and production company Spyglass Media Group are following the latest trend, which is to do a broad “legacy sequel” that in theory appeals to older fans while also marketing it as a reboot to the younger generations. The most successful variation on this formula to date was David Gordon Green and Blumhouse Production’s Halloween (2018). Amusingly, it is the third movie in the franchise titled simply “Halloween,” but unlike Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake, Green’s 2018 variation was a direct sequel to the 1978 original. It was also a follow-up which ignored all the other meandering and confusing franchise sequels, remakes, and resets—all while still acting as essentially the umpteenth attempt to do a “Halloween II.”

That risky strategy of trying to have your cake and eat it too paid off, with the 2018 legacy sequel making $256 million worldwide. Hence its sequel this weekend, Halloween Kills. When Den of Geek recently sat down with producer Jason Blum, he confirmed his production company and Green were also looking to do a similar reimagining to one of the greatest horror movies of all-time, The Exorcist (1973). The new film will also be a sequel, which may (or may not) fully dive into the checkered franchise history that followed the original masterpiece. However, Blum revealed some interesting considerations happening on the studio side of things these days.

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“I love to do [these] kind of movies because people are very emotional about it,” Blum said. “I think it’s a high bar and it’s a challenge to do the movie. Remember, most of the audience coming to this—95 percent of the audience who will, if we do our job right, come to see this movie—will not have seen the first Exorcist or even heard of it.”

That tricky line of appealing to older and newer audiences simultaneously also likely informs titling movies the same as their classic predecessors, even if it can lead to confusion about what is canon. Which ones matter?

And that confusion can also be a double-edged sword. Case in point, one wonders if it would’ve been better to name James Gunn’s groovy The Suicide Squad movie something other than almost the exact same title of the generally loathed 2016 film also titled Suicide Squad?

Which brings us back to Scream. The movie is very clearly a sequel to the four films before it in the franchise. Even the setup is quite similar to Scream 4 (2011), which was Wes Craven’s final film and is pretty underrated for skewering both horror movie remakes of the 2000s while also accidentally predicting (and eviscerating) the concept of a “legacy sequel,” which was still yet to come. For example, all those Star Wars fans still sore that Disney killed off Han Solo and Luke Skywalker can take satisfaction with Campbell’s Sidney slaughtering her seemingly ingenue replacement played by Emma Roberts in that film.

In a way, Scream (2022) is treading similar territory and will have to find another way to differentiate itself. Yet with its trailer relying so much on knowledge of the lore and canon of the previous films, it remains to be seen if it will convince younger moviegoers this is something new and not a revenant from the past.

Scream (2022) opens on Jan. 14, 2022 in the U.S. and UK. 

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