How Jordan Peele's Brand Of Horror Bled Into 2022's Scream

Every time the "Scream" movies have resurfaced after an extensive break, like a Ghostface mask-wearing killer in Woodsboro, they have found themselves in a vastly changed horror landscape. When "Scream 4" bowed in 2011 (11 years after "Scream 3"), it was arriving on the heels of a decade of horror franchise reboots, slasher/splatter films (aka "torture porn"), and J-horror remakes. When 2022's "Scream" opened, the horror genre had enjoyed a major upswing in popularity thanks to the Conjuring Universe, Blumhouse, and A24, home of so-called "elevated horror."

Thanks to their post-modern outlook, the "Scream" films are specially equipped to adapt to the times. Just as Wes Craven's "Scream" made its characters aware of the slasher tropes the director helped popularize in 1996, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett's 2022 "Scream" is full of scenes where people talk about legacy sequels and other horror trends from the 2010s. It's also got a good deal more humor than other "Scream" movies or even your average modern slasher (as /Film's Chris Evangelista noted in his review), a quality it shares in common with Jordan Peele's horror films.

Speaking of horror trends, no discussion of the '10s would be complete without touching on Peele's emergence as one of the most inventive and compelling artists leading the genre into the future. Speaking at the film's Virtual Production Press Day in 2020 (via, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett confirmed they were very much influenced by Peele's films while crafting their "Scream" sequel.

Horror (and Peele) on the rise

Just as Wes Craven was part of the horror movement he was responding to when he made his "Scream," Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett came into their own as two-thirds of the Radio Silence filmmaking collective in the same period that 2022's "Scream" reacts to. After working on the "10/31/98" segment of the first "V/H/S" movie and the found-footage horror-thriller "Devil's Due," the directors scored their first proper hit with the 2019 horror action-comedy "Ready or Not." By that point, though, horror was no longer a niche market as it once had been. Gillett observed:

"I think one of the things we can say is that when [writer] Kevin [Williamson] and Wes created the first 'Scream,' horror movies were kind of a fringe genre in a lot of ways. It wasn't a wildly mainstream style of storytelling. And now, in 2020, and for the better part of the last decade, horror films have really been on the rise."

Peele certainly did his part to propagate that change when he made his directing debut on "Get Out." The 2017 film was like a bolt of lightning to the horror genre, precisely fusing acerbic humor with bloody violence to satirize racism amongst modern white liberals while drawing a crowd well beyond devoted horror fans. In the five years since then, Peele's star has only continued to rise at a rapid trajectory, between producing critical and financial hits like "BlacKkKlansman" and "Candyman," hosting a reboot of "The Twilight Zone," and directing two more original, ambitious horror movies ("Us" and "Nope"). 

'It's not just one thing'

If Peele's reach has tended to exceed his grasp since "Get Out," it's only to be expected from a still up-and-coming director who's clearly not content to repeat himself or try and juggle as few balls as possible when it comes to the tone, themes, and even style of his movies. This, perhaps more than any other aspect of Peele's work, is what the team behind "Scream" 2022 sought to emulate, according to Bettinelli-Olpin:

"We've talked about Jordan Peele's body of work a lot, because what he's doing is the closest thing to something that we hope to do, and that we love in terms of, tonally, where it's fun, and it's about something, and it's exciting, and it's not just one thing. We talked about the visual style of 'Us' a lot when we were talking about this, because it captured something very honest and organic while also feeling like a big, fun movie, and to be able to do those two things simultaneously and have an indie vibe that's also a big, fun, popcorn movie ... That's what, to us, Wes Craven mastered with 'Nightmare on Elm Street' and 'Scream,' where he's able to walk that line, and that's the newest thing in that lineage for us."

While neither as incisive nor layered as Peele's best films, 2022's "Scream" does indeed have a lot on its mind. It takes on toxic fandom and the systematic stymieing of creativity that's led to the present franchise glut in Hollywood, all the while doing its best to avoid being part of the problems it's critiquing. Suffice it to say, it will be interesting to see if Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett continue to follow Peele's lead by taking even bigger and bolder swings with the upcoming "Scream 6."