A spoiler-free review.
“You fuck with my family, you die!”
If 2022’s poorly titled fifth installment, “Scream,” taught us anything, it’s to appreciate when a franchise can retool in a positive direction. Utilizing legacy characters, new additions, and psychological developments to exploit the Ghostface killings further is par for the course for the “Scream” films. Comedy and horror often go hand in hand with these movies, and the payoff is better for it.
In 2023, we are gifted with “Scream VI,” a quasi-parody of other “Scream” movies that plays right into the nostalgia of a franchise inching closer to three decades long. Unlike “Halloween” or recent campy horror flicks, the “Scream” franchise has always benefited from its whodunit structure. With every installment, someone shown onscreen at some point in the film will undoubtedly be identified as the killer. Yet, it’s almost always a surprise right up to the big reveal.
“Scream VI” starts with an opening kill scene, as has masterfully been done before. This time, our ill-fated characters reside in New York City, far from the menacing constraints of Woodsboro, California. With this new city comes new characters, new ways to die, unknown motives for the stabbings, and a heightened awareness of unfamiliar territory. But we’ve seen something similar from this franchise with “Scream 2,” which this installment knows and plays for laughs.
Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) and sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) are now living in The Big Apple while Tara goes to college with friends Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown). They’ve made new friends in Ethan (Jack Champion) and Quinn (Liana Liberato), the latter of which is the daughter of NYPD detective Bailey (Dermot Mulroney). Sam is still haunted by her connection to the original killer Billy Loomis. Overprotective of her past and Tara’s new life in NYC, Sam can’t even bring herself to talk to the hot neighbor across from their building (Josh Segarra). When Ghostface suddenly appears to wreak havoc in the big city, all hell breaks loose for the gang.
“Scream VI” is first-rate in not allowing the franchise to get stale. Legacy characters like news personality Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and survivor Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) come back for more. Mindy gets some time to shine when she takes on the horror fan role in her sermon about the various rules of horror movies by generally satirizing film franchises. “It’s a sequel to the requel,” Quinn notes at one point as she pokes fun at the very film she is in. She explains that since their lives are now a franchise, there’s a bigger budget, more extensive cast and body count, and an excessive amount of gore that assists in boosting the IP.
She’s not wrong.
“Scream VI” goes above and beyond with blood and how characters are killed than previous installments. The subway scene teased in the initial trailer is one of the more nail-biting and disorienting sequences the “Scream” films have attempted. This movie leans on the tropes the franchise once invented but elevates them to a captivatingly modern guessing game throughout. It’s a natural blend of humor and horror that “Scream” has constantly perfected, even when characters are strong and wrong about who Ghostface is. But this Ghostface is almost a comic book version of a supervillain, and the big reveal is unearned.
Not as original as the first “Scream” and sorely missing Neve Campbell, “Scream VI” is a worthy part of a franchise that simply won’t die. And I am here for it.
Ticket Rating: 🎟🎟🎟3/4