You would think that with this being the sixth film in the Scream franchise, the premise would have worn itself out by now. But no, that’s not what’s happening here. Scream VI, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett – the pair behind the Scream requel last year and Ready or Not in 2019 – manages to keep things fresh and interesting. I would even go as far as to say that it’s my third favourite in the franchise, after the original and Scream 4.
Tara (Jenna Ortega), Mindy (Jasmine Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding) have moved to New York for college. Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara’s older sister, has come along as well, determined to protect Tara from any threat that awaits. But Tara wants to leave the ghosts of the past behind, to try and move on and enjoy her college experience. However, it’s a tad difficult to do that when her sister keeps showing up to save her, and tasing random guys who get too close, even if they’re douchebags.
While Tara’s coping mechanism seems to be pretending the past didn’t happen, Sam can’t do the same, constantly wrestling with the baggage saddled upon her. As we found out in the previous Scream, her boyfriend Ritchie turned out to be Ghostface, and Billy Loomis is her father. With the people on the internet so eager to believe she’s carried on her father’s legacy, Sam feels trapped and alone, unable to confide her fears to her sister or even her therapist. As always with Scream films, there’s commentary here about how social media can be weaponised to spread fake news, but this doesn’t get much of a deep dive compared to the influencer culture aspect in the fourth film.
Barrera really holds her own here as the lead character. She shows us Sam’s fears and vulnerabilities, but can also be so unbelievably badass and fearless when the situation calls for it. Ortega is a star, there’s no question about it. She steals every single scene she’s in, and has insane chemistry with both Barrera and Gooding.
Scream VI has done an excellent job in building up these core four characters, so much so that they’re no longer in the shadow of the previous main characters. The issue with legacy films is always in the handover – will audiences be able to accept that these are the new faces of the franchise? I wasn’t so sure with Scream (2022), but I would utter a resounding “yes” now that Scream VI has done the proper legwork.
As fantastic as the characterisation has been, where Scream VI truly excels is in its set pieces. They are terrifically built, with so much tension, and way more brutality that we’ve ever seen in a Scream movie. The subway scene is a true standout, with the lighting and Halloween season effectively used to create a masterclass in tension. Ghostface also moves faster and feels way more like a hunter in this movie. We don’t know when Ghostface is going to come barrelling out and take someone down. The movie even manages to bring something new to the opening scene, and is still able to surprise after five movies. I do wish the New York setting had more of a presence throughout the film, because at times it felt like it could be any city, but this is a tiny nitpick.
The best thing about the Scream franchise is that it subverts the formula but also follows it at the same time. Our expectations are constantly toyed with, and while it is technically a whodunit, figuring out who Ghostface is was never really the point of these movies. The whole point it to have us wholeheartedly invested, on the edge of our seats, hoping that our favourite characters survive and make it to the next movie.
And at the end of it all, if you find yourself eagerly looking forward to another entry in the franchise, then the movie has done its job.
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It's rare that we can get to the sixth film in a franchise and still feel so entertained. Fantastic set pieces, great characters, Scream VI has everything you could want in a slasher flick.
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