"Scream VI" stars Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Jack Champion, Mason Gooding, Jenna Ortega, Hayden Panettiere, and Courteney Cox. Released on March 10, 2023, the film has Sam Carpenter and her allies encountering a new Ghostface killer in New York City.
The film is directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who also directed films such as "Devil's Due", "Ready or Not", and 2022's "Scream". It is the sixth installment in the "Scream" film series. It's been a year since the murderous Ghostface reemerged to terrorize the people of Woodsboro. Under the direction of Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett, the "requel", titled "Scream", became a critical and commercial success, earning plenty of praise for honoring Wes Craven's slasher comedy franchise and the genre itself. So it is no surprise that Hollywood would fast-track another sequel while the killer's knife is hot. Although, this film looks to be a bit different than its predecessors, with the franchise moving the action from the suburbs to the Big Apple. In other words, Ghostface is going down the "Jason Takes Manhattan" route. Maybe they should've called it "Scream VI: Ghostface Takes Manhattan" instead? Aside from its location change, does this latest sequel have enough wit, thrills, and brutalities to continue Craven's legacy, or does it wind up being the "Jason Takes Manhattan" of the "Scream" franchise regarding its quality? Let's find out.
Set after the events of 2022's "Scream", the story follows the remaining survivors of the latest Ghostface killings: sisters Samantha (Barrera) and Tara Carpenter (Ortega) and twins Chad (Gooding) and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Brown). Following the incident that changed their lives, Sam and the others leave Woodsboro behind to begin their new chapters in New York City. Unfortunately, they later discover that the past isn't done with them when they learn that a new Ghostface killer (Roger L. Jackson) is terrorizing the Big Apple. However, this Ghostface appears to be more aggressive and ruthless than the previous ones. With the help of Gale Weathers (Cox) and another survivor, Kirby Reed (Panettiere), who's now a special agent, Sam and the others attempt to end Ghostface's murderous rampage once more, leading them to uncover a shocking secret behind the masked killer and Sam's past.
2022's "Scream", or as I would like to call it, "Scream 5", is one of the few examples where a legacy sequel, or "requel" as people call it nowadays, can work. It follows the usual rules of this latest Hollywood trend, including having characters from the previous films unite with new, younger characters and a story that progresses the legacy while having similarities to the original. However, it also maintains the elements that made its predecessors fun and refreshing, such as the violence, the twists, and, more importantly, the relevant satirization of the horror genre. Sure, it's not a thought-provoking masterpiece like "The Babadook", but I found it to be a bloody good time and another strong showcase for the filmmaking duo's direction. That alone was one of the reasons I was looking forward to the franchise's sixth installment.
Aside from the location change, which is nothing entirely new for the franchise, "Scream VI" marks the first film in the series that Neve Campbell (who plays Sidney Prescott) won't be featured. This is due to the actress not being impressed with the offer given to her, so hopefully, that'll change if they're planning to make more movies. It's quite a shame, too, since Campbell is one of the best parts of the "Scream" franchise. At least they got Courteney Cox back for another round of slasher mayhem. If you're wondering why David Arquette isn't returning, watch "Scream 5". So the movie is facing a test similar to "Creed III": whether the franchise can survive without its main star. That means having a tolerable narrative that makes excellent use of the franchise's elements, the change in scenery, and its newly fresh victims. Unsurprisingly, "Scream VI" managed to make a killing out of them, even though some of its edges were a bit rough.
Like its predecessors, "Scream VI" delivers a plot that combines the slasher genre with a whodunit mystery and a few instances of black comedy. It serves as a continuation of Sam's story arc that began in 2022's "Scream", with her dealing with a conspiracy involving the recent Woodsboro killings that resulted in her being shunned by society. It also doesn't help that she's (spoilers for those who haven't watched its predecessor) the daughter of the first film's killer, Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich). Additionally, Sam struggles with watching over Tara, who wants to leave the past behind without being saved by her overprotective older sister every time. Sam has been an interesting addition to the franchise's list of characters because she strives to live her own life but is constantly haunted by Billy's actions in the first film. Even though she's the main character, Sam is treated by everyone as the villain based on the legacy Billy left behind, making her one of the most compelling characters in the franchise. "Scream VI" continues this element with a familiar yet entertaining story that delivers compelling stakes and growth for Sam and Tara, even if it is a bit too long.
Another thing to mention is the screenplay, with James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick returning to pen the sixth movie. Similar to what they did with 2022's "Scream", the writers for "Scream VI" paid respect to the franchise through its tropes, comedy, and nostalgia without making it look like a cheap and shoe-horned cash grab. For the nostalgic easter eggs, they serve as both narrative and comedy devices instead of obvious attempts at audience manipulation. The film's comedy satirizes the trends of film franchises, mainly horror, and the subversion of audience expectations. While some of its jokes weren't as witty as 2022's "Scream", the humor provides the wickedly fun and often hilarious nod to the trend it follows despite being aggressively darker in its tone. It also compensates for its usual tropes it poked fun of by delivering another effective whodunit that tests the characters' trust and offers another series of decent twists and bloody kills.
It does show some signs of franchise fatigue, with specific elements lacking the same impact as they were in its predecessors. Fortunately, the Radio Silence duo retained its horrifically comical appeal through their refreshing direction. One particular example is the setting. With the characters in New York, the directors had the opportunity to provide some clever scares reflecting people's fears of living in the big city, especially in large crowds, compared to the suburban setting. Unsurprisingly, the duo succeeds in injecting the right amount of tension into its genuine frights, with the subway sequence being one of the best parts of the franchise. From its claustrophobic setting to its great use of suspense, the subway scene is enough to make me want to walk to my destination instead.
The main cast who reprised their roles from 2022's "Scream" was once again very entertaining in their roles and infectious chemistry. Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega were superb in their performances as Sam and Tara, respectively. Regarding Ortega's role as Tara, the young actress continued to prove her worth as this generation's "Scream Princess" and a bonafide badass in the horror genre. As for Barrera, I'm glad she's still getting some attention after many people missed her role in Jon M. Chu's "In the Heights". Jasmin Savoy Brown continues to shine with her performance as Mindy, with her explaining the rules of the genre and film franchises being my favorite highlight. The movie also sees the return of another legacy actor, Hayden Panettiere, who reprised her role as Kirby Reed from "Scream 4". Long story short, her comeback was worth the 12-year wait. Courteney Cox was also enjoyable as Gale Weathers despite her limited role compared to its predecessor.
However, despite the things I liked and disliked about "Scream VI", there's only one issue that felt like an unnecessary addition to the franchise, in my opinion. That issue, ladies and gentlemen, is the 3D. Believe it or not, "Scream VI" became the first installment in the franchise to receive the 3D treatment, which seems unusual given its genre. Then again, the other slasher films like "Texas Chainsaw" did the same thing years ago, so it's nothing entirely new. I saw it in 3D, and yes, it was undoubtedly unnecessary. Instead of using it to immerse the experience, it felt like Hollywood is using it as a cheap gimmick to earn more money. We're already reliving the "Avatar" scenario from the 2010s regarding the 3D format. Thankfully, it didn't impact my experience with the movie's quality. Plus, the film missed a huge opportunity to satirize a franchise's reliance on 3D to lure its fans back to their seats. That would be enough to make up for its unneeded decision. So if you're looking forward to seeing Ghostface stab you in the third dimension, prepare to be disappointed.
Overall, "Scream VI" slashed past some of its franchise fatigue to deliver another darkly humorous and wickedly entertaining killing spree for both "Scream" fans and slasher followers. Unfortunately, regarding its storytelling and comedy, the specific parts of the film's blade were a bit rusty. However, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett still proved themselves to be the horror directors worth paying attention to, as they provided another fun and well-directed installment in the iconic slasher franchise. Thanks to its appealing cast, direction, a decent script, and effective comedy, the film took a bite out of the Big Apple, and the result is bloody delicious. So if you liked the previous "Scream" installments, including the 2022 "requel", you don't want to miss out on Ghostface's latest rampage.