Horror is a genre all about reinvention – so many iconic horror franchises have learned the lesson that when you don’t reinvent your identity into something new and fresh, you lose a bit of your audience’s goodwill and general interest. The Scream franchise in particular is an interesting case, because I think it has an even taller mountain to climb when it comes to reinventing itself with each film. For a franchise that is entirely about subverting expectations, providing meta commentary on the genre and industry as a whole, and also how us as fans fit into all this – it feels like these films have to do more than reinvent themselves with each outing; they also have to find a very specific corner of the horror zeitgeist to commentate on. Thankfully, in my opinion, the Scream franchise has neve really faltered in this regard. Even the lowest rated film of the franchise with Scream 3 has some excellent highs in regards to its commentary on Hollywood and its focus on its main trio – considering how low most horror franchises get by their third outing, I actually consider that one to be something of a miracle.
This brings us all the way to Scream VI, the latest installment in the franchise, releasing only a little over a year since 2022’s Scream (not entirely dissimilar to how Scream 2 released only a year after the original Scream in 1997) – the film follows largely the same cast from that film as they navigate the newfound setting of New York City. Samantha (Melissa Barrera) is trying her best to look after her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) as she attends college in the city as a freshman, while also keeping her head above water with her own mental state. This also ties in with the twins Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding), who have much more to do this time around as they attend the same college as Tara and have become even closer to the Carpenter sisters.
Balancing out returning faces like Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) are nearly double the characters from the previous installment – featuring actors like Josh Segarra, Jack Champion, Liana Liberato, Tony Revolori, Dermot Mulroney, and more! As the film begins and Ghostface begins their killing spree, this makes the extensive cast all the more fun to be around – pinpointing who exactly who is a victim, a suspect, or a pure red-herring. Returning filmmakers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett of Radio Silence are clearly massive fans not only of the franchise but of the genre as a whole, so the perfectly know how to place these characters and play the audience like a fiddle when it comes to giving them plenty of questions and suspicions.
I was a big fan of 2022’s Scream, but I found Scream VI to be even more satisfying. While I really enjoyed how the previous film tackled the idea of requels such as Halloween (2018), The Force Awakens, etc. – it balanced a whole lot of nostalgia with introductions to a slew of new characters. A big reason that I think Scream VI works as well as it does is simply how it further develops the returning characters in a meaningful and satisfying way – the self-proclaimed “core four” of Sam, Tara, Mindy, and Chad truly have such wonderful chemistry with one-another and truly feel closely bonded by the events of the first film. Mason Gooding’s Chad is particularly a highlight here, as he’s given even more to do and is simply full of heart and love for his friends and family.
A lot of the marketing for Scream VI has promised the most brutal and subversive Ghostface yet – and to an extent, I mostly agree with that! There are a handful of really grizzly deaths here that push the limit of what we’ve seen from Ghostface before. In terms of set pieces and chase scenes, it feels like it’s the best it’s been in a really long time – namely due to an excellent sequence on a Subway and a various amount of classic Ghostface moments that I wouldn’t dare spoil. It really feels like the team at Radio Silence knew that they had all the groundwork out of the way with the last film, so they knew they could and should hit the ground running with this one – and boy do they have fun with the massive sandbox that is New York City.
There are a few nitpicks I have with the film in terms of motivations and reveals towards the third act that I definitely cannot divulge into for this review, but they are honestly pretty miniscule in the grand scheme of things and bother me less and less in hindsight. Scream VI delivers where a Scream film should deliver most -and that’s within the writing and meta commentary, the gruesome deaths, and actually giving a shit about the characters instead of waiting for them to get picked off. This is an even bigger and better sequel in every regard that’s even more self-aware, more funny, and more brutal – but it also has an even bigger heart and focus on its characters and their relationships with one another. As a massive Scream fanboy, I couldn’t be happier with this one!