Four survivors of the Ghostface murders leave Woodsboro behind for a fresh start in New York City. However, they soon find themselves in a fight for their lives when a new killer embarks on a bloody rampage.
Warning: May contain some spoilers for the previous film in the franchise.
Scream VI is the latest film in the iconic meta-slasher franchise, and the second in the series to be directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and penned by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick.
This is a direct follow up to Scream (2022) and follows the Carpenter sisters, Sam and Tara (Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega), and twins Chad and Mindy (Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown) who, having survived the events of the previous film, have moved to New York City to attend university or, in Sam’s case, watch over Tara as she attends university, only to have a new string of particularly brutal Ghostface killings spring up around them.
Given the nature of the series, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are plenty of twists, turns, and reveals, so some of the criticism involved, both positive and negative will have to be vague or omitted altogether in the interest of staying spoiler free.
Firstly, comes the requisite formula and structure, which we’ve come to expect at this point. Scream 6 utilises the familiar aspects well. The effectiveness is partially down to the change in setting, utilising big-city life in moments like the opening scene, a vicious killing halfway down an alley just off a major street, with the character dying while bystanders and pedestrians are constantly visible just in background, unaware (or uncaring). Another good example is the subway scene which is seen in the trailers. On a level of pure filmic construction this is a tense and effective scene, but it’s made even more intense and brutal by the fact that, no matter what’s happening, one is completely invisible in such massive urban environments, regardless of how crowded and visible the setting may appear.
We do get some of the overly familiar structural elements here. Scream (2022) was noted by many as aping the original film and this does the same with Scream 2 in many ways. We also have many expected characters, archetypes, and dynamics between them, the typical opening phone call kill (albeit a very good one) and many more which would be spoiling the film if detailed. Your tolerance for this all comes down to the individual. I didn’t find any of this too tough to watch, but I can see that goodwill is running out on the repetitive formula and that a seventh film in the same exact mould would probably be exhausting. One exception is the snobby-cinephile dialogue, which is quite tired here. From the extensive ranting about what makes these killings a franchise or the importance (or lack thereof) of legacy characters to jokes about snooty letterboxd users. I must wonder if those involved are aware of the irony in Scream starting out as a series in which this dialogue existed to satirise tired slasher tropes and has now led it to become a tired slasher trope in itself.
The film overall is fantastic despite some of those overworn elements. Scream 6 features some great set pieces and truly tense, nail-biting moments, like the subway scene or the scene in which characters must cross between two apartments, storeys above the ground, traversing only a ladder draped across each windowsill, all the while being pursued by Ghostface. This is probably the series’ most tense moment since Scream 2’s cop car scene.
A part of what makes these scenes so tense are the characters and the cast members playing them. We’ve had the entire previous film to see and come to know these characters, the “Core Four”, and so there is a certain inbuilt familiarity with and warmth towards them that raises the stakes whenever they are in danger and makes us care more during any emotional or character-building moments. From the early party scene, we see the dynamic these characters currently work with, but also see this actively grow and change throughout.
What really speaks volumes about how well these characters work is that they hold this film together without the usual use of “Legacy Characters”. Our only returning classic characters are Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Pannettiere, who made her first appearance in Scream 4, so one could argue that she’s not even a legacy character by typical definition). Even with this lack of classic returning characters, including the notable omission of Neve Campbell’s Sydney Prescott, the film holds its own, and it’s easy to forget about such presences being missing for long stretches. This is a testament to the strength of the newer characters.
A final downfall comes in Scream’s final act. I won’t say much, naturally, but I will say a lot of it came across as silly to me, and despite the upped ante in terms of violence and gore throughout this film, it loses any sense of stakes (once you’ve seen the film you’ll know exactly how and why).
The somewhat weakened final act, however, in no way diminishes the final project. The Scream franchise is still going very strong. I had a blast with this film, and I’m sure most fans will too.
Scream 6 is playing in U.K. cinemas now.