While Scream VI may not have wowed me as much as Scream or Scream did—or even as much as Scream 4 did—screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick and directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett deliver a solid requel sequel to continue this franchise’s legacy as being possibly the most consistently strong horror movie franchise ever.
Sam, Tara, Mindy, and Chad—I admit I completely forgot Chad existed in the year since watching and loving the last Scream movie, but now this movie really wants me to care about him and his cute romance with Tara, so…I did, mostly because of the cute romance with Tara and because of his dorky insistence on dubbing themselves the Core Four—have all fled Woodsboro for New York City. Tara, Mindy, and Chad all chose to go to college together, which makes sense, but Sam…chose to follow her sister to protect her. Which also makes sense since that was what she did in the last movie. While they’ve become a little trauma-bonded family, Sam’s dealing with the additional trauma of fearing she might become a killer like her father.
Melissa Barrera inhabits the role of Final Girl well, really grounding the film as Neve Campbell did in her years leading the franchise. (While Campbell is naturally missed and I give her props for knowing her worth, I think it’s good that the film focuses more on the new characters as they forge their own paths. Courtney Cox is still here, though, and I feel like Gale Weathers may be her true legacy. Monica who?) I love that Barrera and Jenna Ortega are the new faces of this franchise, as the sisterly relationship between Sam and Tara provides compelling and emotional material for both of them. I don’t think horror movies (or movies in general) explore sisters enough, and the evolution of their relationship in this film feels authentic. These films have always been so character-centric, and they allow their characters to respond to trauma in different ways, so the fact that Sam chooses to dwell on it and Tara chooses to ignore it causes a rift between them. But they actually have mature conversations about it! And it gets to the point where they can communicate the strength of their connection with a single look.
As for Mindy and Chad, they…also exist. Mindy’s certainly fun as the new Randy, and Chad, as I noted, is named Chad. Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding do endearing work, though. But wait, what’s this? Is that…is that KIRBY REED getting an audience cheer like she was a fucking MCU cameo? Hayden Panettierre’s having fun in her first time onscreen since 2016, and Kirby adds a fun energy to this installment as a kind of bridge between the two eras, not one of the OG legacy characters but introduced in the middle. And then there’s a whole host of new characters to be suspects/victims played by the likes of Dermot Mulroney (or Dylan McDermott, who can tell), Liana Liberato (better here than she was in The Beach House), Jack Champion (less good here than he was in Avatar: The Way of Water), Josh Segarra (about as good here as he was on She-Hulk: Attorney at Law), Henry Czerny, Devyn Nekoda, and…an actor or two I won’t name because they were delightful surprises in the fantastic opening scene, so tense and surprising the rest of the film failed to match its inventiveness.
With Scream, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett channeled Wes Craven with their viscerally tense sequences of almost unbearable suspense, and while I was certainly clutching my hands together tightly at times, I didn’t feel that sense of bravura filmmaking this time around. It’s missing a lot of the slow burn misdirection I enjoy so much in these films, opting instead for a Ghostface that reveals himself with a flash and then stalks his prey in a confined space. Roger L. Jackson, whose voice acting is as essential to the success of this series as Brad Dourif’s is to Child’s Play, never fails to chill, however. The filmmakers promised a more aggressive Ghostface, and goddamn, Ghostface be stabbing. Stab stab stabbity stab, that’s what Ghostface does in this movie a LOT, and it really gets across the sense of a human being turned into meat. The kills hurt, the sheer brutality of the violence leaping off the screen even if you’re not seeing the movie in 3D. A sequence where Sam and Tara must evade Ghostface in a bodega is particularly terrifying, as is the lengthy build-up to an inevitable attack on the subway. Look, when Ghostface takes Manhattan, you’re gonna get all the New York hits. I can’t believe no one’s killed while eating a bagel.
As far as the meta angle of this installment, the word of the day is franchise, so Mindy gets to explain what the rules of franchises are, which is weird because this series has been a franchise for a while and also because pretty much every “rule” she mentions, the film just tosses them out the window. Except for the one about beheading. It’s also frustrating that everyone refers to Ghostface as “he” even though Ghostface has been a single man once ever, and the movie even points it out! Hell, the movie points out every single Ghostface that has ever been, so it’s clear that it’s usually a pair of killers and also usually one male and one female, so you’d think by this point, they would be suspecting people in pairs. Of course, this slasher whodunnit has you suspecting basically every character, so of course if you suspect every character, you will be right some of the time. And yet the Ghostface reveal still manages to surprise!
Unfortunately, the Ghostface motivation is super weak. The primary motivation makes sense but has been done before, and the social commentary in the obligatory monologue feels like an afterthought, a real letdown after the previous film managed to be so smart and incisive in this format. That being said, I still enjoyed the hell out of the wild fuckin’ third act because of its constant twists and the sheer force of Our Heroes fighting back. They have really just had it with these motherfucking Ghostfaces in this motherfucking franchise. It’s extremely satisfying and crowd-pleasing from both a character standpoint and a deliriously gory violence standpoint.
It sounds like they want to keep on cranking out more Scream movies, and I don’t know how much more internal bleeding these characters can sustain, but if they keep making them with as much care and craft as this, I’ll keep watching them.