A Theatrical Feature Film Review
So what’s your favorite scary movie? The sixth installment of the film franchise that revolutionized the horror genre changes the rules, and brings terror to a new city, SCREAM VI brings together the requel survivors battling to survive the bloody legacy!
Let’s be frank… it’s impossible to review SCREAM VI without the threat of revealing some of the film's most dangerously provocative moments, its more impactful kills, and unexpected jump scares, so you’ve been warned, but just in case — let’s make it official: [Spoiler Alert!] After last year’s reboot that-wasn’t a reboot introduced a new generation expanding on an unexpectedly tangent footnote that would keep the thrill-a-minute, genre-redefining story that began in 1996’s, written by Kevin Williamson and directed by the horror maestro Wes Craven.
When Scream hit theaters, it encapsulated everything that Williamson loved about the classic slasher genre. Inspired by John Carpenter’s Halloween and helmed by Craven who had proven scares defy the imagination, and with a clever, irreverent script, add in a cunning cast, it proved that the horror film genre wasn’t dead — it just needed a good reason to come out of hiding. The original film’s release would reinvigorate Hollywood’s desire to land the next slasher hit, but Scream would rise above the crop and remain relevant nearly two decades later.
The 2022 reboot that wasn’t a reboot, but coined the fresh new phrase “requel” [a combo sequel/reboot that introduces all-new central figures, and maintains continuity with the legacy characters and narrative] Scream deliberately didn’t add the number “five” to its own title to illustrate that it ran tangent to the previous four films in the series that came before it. Written by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick and inspired by the characters created by Williamson, this fifth film introduced a new “final girl” Samantha Carpenter, played by Melissa Barrera who returns to the scene of the crime after her younger sister, Tara played by Jenna Ortega is attacked by a familiar cloaked, ghost-faced killer.
Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett had their hands-full stepping into the franchise. Their requel/reboot would be the first film not directed by Craven but would receive the full support of Williamson, who came on as an executive producer. The filmmakers, along with their writing team, pitched a new trilogy and have made good on a follow-up that delivered and re-instituted its place in the series. With SCREAM VI everything had to be taken up a notch, but like its predecessor, it decidedly kept close to its roots, following 2022’s surviving cast to college in New York City, and bringing back some old favorites while upping the stakes a year later.
Six Episodes In
Just a reminder, at the top of this article you were warned [Spoilers Ahead] but Scream VI has already been in theaters for a couple of weeks and has grossed $116 worldwide box office, marking a new high for the overall franchise, which means a lot of people out there have already seen it, and from the first frame, the horror film is unpredictable as anyone could have imaged. The franchise has established itself by creatively killing one of its headlining cast members in the prologue, and this chapter doesn’t disappoint. I won’t tell you who gets offed in the first act, except that it immediately signals how far we’ve come, and how well the writers have been paying attention.
The “first kill” is as much a statement of the franchise’s evolution, as it is a tip of the hat to themes that remained poignant in the previous installment. The most effective note of all is how Scream VI is dependent on establishing its new base of operation, New York City as the killer’s hunting ground. In Scream 2 the story follows Sidney (Neve Campbell) to college, and although the playing field and body count have expanded to the campus and dorm life, it still feels confined. Even Scream 3 with its mega-meta transition to Los Angeles and Hollywood soundstages and backlots, doesn’t feel as authentic as the eventual franchise’s return to Woodsboro. The move to New York City though feels inspiring!
The surviving cast including Sam and Tara have moved to the city, following the twins Mindy and Chad Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savory Brown and Mason Gooding) who have started university, and it isn’t long before Ghostface makes its presence known. Sam (Barrera) is still suffering from the last attack in Woodsboro, and although is taking steps to better herself, she’s having a really difficult time moving on and moving past it. It echoes the direction of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode in the recent Halloween 2018 reboot directed by David Gordon Green.
Sam has serious PTSD and when she isn’t amorously eye-balling her hot shirtless neighbor, David (played by Josh Segarra), she is putting all her energy less into recovery than into trying to keep her sister, Tara (Ortega) safe, who is demonstrating a bit of reckless decision-making, and a desire to take certain risks. Fortunately, Mindy and Chad seem to have a better grip on things, but after all, it’s in their DNA — their uncle, Randy (Jamie Kennedy) famously met his demise in the 1997 college campus-based follow-up. The four friends remain very tight and when three fresh kills all point to Sam as suspect number one, Mindy immediately falls into the rhythm to identify the suspects in their circle.
At the scenes of the crimes, the killer has left behind Ghostface masks and DNA analysis reveals that each mask belonged to one of each Ghostface murderers!
Admonishing the cinematic rules of a franchise to her unsuspecting crew, Mindy recalls the moment from Randy’s own monologue in Scream 2 and even his own failure at turning his back while that film’s Ghostface hunted them on the college campus. The quintet believes that there is safety in numbers, but even that plan goes horribly awry, and Ghostface strikes! It leads to two of Scream VI’s most chilling kills. When the survivors decide to regroup, they are joined by legacy characters Gale Weather (Courtney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) who survived the events of Scream IV. The pair lead them to a dark revelation…someone is building a shrine, chronicling Ghostface’s killings.
If You Build It…
The museum — warehoused in a dilapidated old theater is a particularly interesting plot twist that reopens old wounds among all the cast of suspects, so to speak. Sam can’t seem to escape her maddening fate to walk into her late father, Billy Loomis’ (Skeet Ulrich) bloody cloak and footsteps, and someone wants to memorialize each one of the previous Ghostface murder sprees, building a house of horrors ready to add new victims to its menagerie. Like the previous films, the killer’s motive is clearly and deeply motivated by something personal and undoubtedly connected to Sam, and as Mindy mentioned, all bets are off and anyone of them could either be the killer or end up one of Ghostface’s trophies.
Joined in helping to solve the mystery is Dermot Mulroney, joining the cast as Detective Wayne Bailey, whose daughter, Quinn (Liana Liberato) is Sam’s sexually promiscuous roommate. Det. Bailey is wary of Kirby turning up in New York City so suddenly, and although Gale profited from publishing a new book based on Sam’s ordeal in Woodsboro, she is invested in stopping this latest Ghostface which is quickly proving is in a class all of its own. This Ghostface is far more relentless and not above drawing a crowd; it hides amidst subway commuters and doesn’t hesitate to take out a crowded bodega with a loaded shotgun. The killer’s taunts are also dangerously deliberate — this Ghostface wants to tear his victims apart from the inside out, wear them down, and even turn them against one another.
It’s a tactic that ramps up the tension and makes this installment a lot darker in its descent. The inclusion of both legacy components is also generously admirable. Cox is a fan-favorite as Gale Weathers and her place in this film is expertly warranted. It’s also a great parallel to note the “legacy” similarities to the response from the Carpenter Sisters when Gale is introduced. The arrival of Panettiere’s Kirby Reed is also an exciting remix, seeing as how Kirby was left for dead, but her place here is immediately welcomed and her familiarity with Sam (Barrera) is established very quickly; both attended Woodsboro High.
Scream VI lives up to the promise and in fact, takes everything up a notch. The greatest asset going into this installment of the franchise is that it gives the audience the chance to relate more to the requel cast of survivors, and develop a close relationship with them that is necessary to cheer for them. It’s always easy to root for Ghostface, but he’s the villain after all and if Scream established anything, it’s that the “Final Girl” holds all the cards. Sam and Tara are irrevocably linked and this is now firmly established, and as we skate into what is sure to be the next episode in the “thrillogy” let’s brace ourselves; a reminder Scream IV redeemed Scream 3 and gave fans another stab at loving these movies.
Get your #FansEyeView of the Most Ruthless Ghostfaceyet here:
SCREAM VI | directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett and starring Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Jack Champion, Henry Czerny, Mason Gooding, Liana Liberato, Dermot Mulroney, Devyn Nekoda, Jenna Ortega, Tony Revolori, Josh Segarra, Samara Weaving with Hayden Panettiere and Courteney Cox is now in theaters.