A little over a year after the previous installment was released, “Scream VI” has arrived in theaters and continues to prove that “Scream” is one of the most consistent horror franchises.
It’s rare that the sixth film in a series, especially within the horror genre, is any good, but “Scream VI” benefits from a change in location — from the fictional Woodsboro, Calif., to New York City — and a focus on developing the new set survivors introduced in last year’s “Scream.”
One of the key strengths of the “Scream” movies is the focus on character. Unlike other slasher franchises, there were a trio of survivors — Neve Campbell’s Sidney, David Arquette’s Dewey and Courteney Cox’s Gail — that audiences were able to follow from film to film. Character growth isn’t something you generally get in your average slasher flick.
The other aspect that is unique to the “Scream” movies is that the Ghostface killer isn’t one person or monster. It is a mantle that new killers take on. This makes the “Scream” movies just as much whodunits as horror movies. Trying to figure out who the new killers are — with the exception of “Scream 3,” there have always been multiple killers under the costume — and what outlandish motive they will have is part of the fun.
Last year’s “Scream” acted as a passing of the torch with the legacy characters helping a new group terrorized by the infamous Ghostface. Cox returns in “Scream VI,” but it is clear the focus moving forward is on the new characters who are, thankfully, just as engaging and likable as their predecessors. Campbell was also set to appear but she thought she wasn’t being paid what she was worth.
Following their encounter with Ghostface, sisters Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega) have left Woodsboro to go to college in NYC. They are joined by fellow survivors Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding), the twin niece and nephew of Jamie Kennedy’s fan-favorite Randy, who didn’t make it past “Scream 2.”
Film geek Randy was the character who memorably established the rules of the horror genre in 1996’s “Scream.” Apparently, this trait is hereditary as Mindy takes on that role now. The sisterly bond between Barrera and Ortega is the strongest aspect of the film, but the chemistry of this new core four, as they call themselves, is immensely appealing.
Hayden Panettiere’s Kirby from “Scream 4” is also in the mix, and there’s a new bunch of cannon fodder and potential killers, including Tony Revolori, Samara Weaving, Liana Liberato, Henry Czerny, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Segarra, Jack Champion and Devyn Nekoda.
The “Scream” franchise has benefited from not only being horror films, but two pronged satires. The first is the meta commentary on the horror genre, the second prong acts as social commentary.
After establishing the rules of the horror genre in the first film, the second became a self-aware critique of sequels, the third film explored trilogy, the fourth the idea of reboots, the fifth looked at the concept of legacy sequels, and now the sixth is commenting on franchises.
As a franchise, “Scream” has always been about establishing tropes and breaking them. Each film has opened with a kill involving Ghostface (still intimidatingly and iconically voiced by Randy Jackson) calling his latest victims.
“Scream VI” subverts this expectation in an interesting way that could have shifted the focus of the film in an intriguing way. The film does return to familiar story beats but, for the first 15-20 minutes, “Scream VI” does something unexpectedly different.
The horror genre has always been great at putting a mirror to society and commenting on it. Weaving, as a film professor, says as much in “Scream VI.” By embracing that aspect of the horror genre, the “Scream” films are able to stay fresh and even relevant.
When the first “Scream” came out there was a lot of discussion about the negative impact of violence in movies. The script by Kevin Williamson spoke to this directly with the line, “Don't you blame the movies. Movies don't create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative.”
The second and, to lesser extent, third installments continued to explore this theme, but it was beginning to grow stale, as the first three films came out in relatively fast succession between 1996 and 2000.
“Scream 4” came out in 2011, which allowed for a critique of the rise of social media and celebrity culture. Another big gap between sequels gave 2022’s “Scream” the subject of toxic fandom as its point of social satire. Despite only being a year later, “Scream VI” still finds a fresh issue to address: online conspiracy theories and how easy it is to spread misinformation.
“Scream VI” also takes advantage of its new location with returning directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett crafting some excellent suspense scenes in a bodega and on a subway train.
The screenplay by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick also explores a potential new direction for the series. It would be a dark path to go down, and probably one that won’t be followed through on, but it is compelling nonetheless.
With these last two installments, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett have done the late Wes Craven — who directed the first four films — proud. Like their predecessors, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett’s “Scream” and “Scream VI” are suspenseful, character-driven films with a wicked sense of humor. The franchise remains in good hands.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.