Hacking its way into theaters on March 10th, ‘Scream VI’ represents the latest attempt to mine the sprawling serial slasher movie series.
How far is too far with franchise sequels? It’s something that was on the mind of 2022’s confusingly titled ‘Scream’, which looked to start a new chapter of the veteran horror franchise while, as is usual with these movies, grappling with the legacy of both the established storyline and the genre itself.
Directed by ‘Ready or Not’ duo Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, it was a savvy, sometimes scary success, though not the best entry in the franchise even given the ways it played with the concept. But its box office bonanza ($137 million worldwide from a $24 million budget) means the pair, alongside writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, are back for a second stab at Ghostface killings.
“New York. New rules.”
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Following the latest Ghostface killings, the four survivors leave Woodsboro behind and start a fresh chapter. In Scream VI, Melissa Barrera (“Sam Carpenter”),… Read the Plot
What’s the story of ‘Scream VI’?
Picking up the story roughly one year since the events of last year’s ‘Scream’ “rebootquel”, which charted a new story around characters such as Jenna Ortega’s Tara Carpenter, Melissa Barrera’s Sam Carpenter and twins Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding), all of whom had links to either killers or victims from earlier movies.
Having survived the seemingly traditional slayings in their home of Woodsboro, California, the foursome have moved to New York City, where Tara, Chad and Mindy are attending college. They’re trying to put the past behind them –– especially Tara, who just wants to have fun with booze and boys –– but Sam is still haunted by the last round of killings and her actions. She’s even in therapy working through her feelings.
And she has extra reason to be concerned, as someone online is spreading the conspiracy theory that Sam actually framed the real killers, one that is taking root among the city’s citizens (witness an early encounter where someone throws a drink in her face and calls her a murderer).
You can imagine their shared horror, then, when the legacy of Ghostface appears to follow them to the big city, first via a pair of fellow college students and then in ways they truly did not predict. Fandom for the ‘Stab’ movies plays a big part in the new movie, as does legacy.
Which means that our heroes once more afraid for their lives again, Mindy outlining the rules of continuing franchises in true ‘Scream’ fashion and starting to suspect that the people around them could all be suspects…
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What works about ‘Scream VI’?
The cast for this one remain game and relatable, with Ortega and Barrera carrying the emotional load while Brown and Gooding bring the lore and the laughs. Courteney Cox, of course, still knows exactly how to sell Gale’s blend of cynicism and moxie (and her presence offers a little extra tension this time around given that the main characters are annoyed that she’s spun the tragedy of the previous movie into another cash grab book).
Hayden Panettiere returns from ‘Scream 4’ as Kirby Reed, and the team finds an interesting new avenue for her that feels distinct from some other legacy characters. And when the big revelations start to drop, they mostly feel organic.
The location shift from Woodsboro –– which is something that has only happened in a couple of other ‘Scream’ entries –– makes for some impressive new set pieces, including one set at a Bodega (where the owner of course has a shotgun stashed behind the counter) that puts the audience in mind of the raptor/kitchen scene in ‘Jurassic Park,’ a tense chase in an apartment building that features a high drop and a ladder and the main cast crammed into a crowded subway train that is full of people in costumes, including more than one Ghostface.
It also offers a new tone and feeling to the show, the dark streets and towering buildings of the city a fertile hunting ground for whoever is in the masked costume.
Are there problems with ‘Scream VI’?
One huge issue with any modern ‘Scream’ is the burden and bulk of the franchise. There have been six films now and so many different variations of killer (usually killers) that it’s hard to find something fresh for a new iteration. ‘Scream VI’ stretches this a little too thin in a few places, wanting to be so clever with the idea of the films’ legacy that it rolls around into a few dumb, unoriginal concepts.
Some of the new characters, by dint of where they end up, feel less developed, and while the opening scene (featuring someone from ‘Ready or Not’) looks to play on the idea of movie-series-within-the-movie ‘Stab’ as something that people study a little too closely, but is mostly played for cheap scares.
Do you miss Neve Campbell’s Sidney in ‘Scream VI’?
The big issue, and indeed test for the new movie is the absence of Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott, who bowed out of appearing in this one because the studio offered her an embarrassingly low payday.
While franchises do survive without core cast members, Sidney’s absence is certainly felt, since she has been the heart of ‘Scream’ since the 1996 original. Yet her removal is not such a wound that the film collapses –– Courteney Cox is still around of course, and while Gale brings a different energy to the movie than Sidney, her link to the past is still welcome.
It’s also an opportunity to open the story up to other legacy characters such as Panettiere’s Reed, who has her own trauma to work through and is used in interesting fashion here.
Overall, ‘Scream VI’ tries a little too hard to squeeze in everything about the franchise, and the seams perhaps show a little more than in the directors’ previous outing. It’s still fun and energetic, though, and should please fans who have stuck with the movies this far.
‘Scream VI’ receives 8 out of 10 stars.
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‘Scream VI’ is produced by Paramount, Radio Silence, Project X Entertainment, and Spyglass Media Group. It is set to release in theaters on March 10, 2023.