Compared to a lot of other movies in recent years, Scream VI is a movie I’ve genuinely been hyped for. Part of this is still some post-pandemic effects insofar as still being thrilled at going to cinemas (after nearly two years). At the same time, Scream is a series that I have grown to appreciate and have a lot of affection for. With that said, have you seen Scream VI? Let me know in the comments below.
If you like my ramblings on horror movies then you can find more at my second home, Horror Obsessive. https://horrorobsessive.com/author/sartaj-singh/
And as alluded to in my Scream 3 review, I will very soon be having a piece published in Filmhounds Magazine about Scream VI. I examine if New York City will work for the horror sequel through the prism of other Big Apple based horror movies as well as the use of LA and Hollywood in Scream 3. Once the issue goes on sale, I’ll link to it in a future preamble.
Scream is no stranger to a larger city. Its use of LA and Hollywood in the franchise’s second sequel, Scream 3 (2000) engaged as a meta-commentary on the horrors of an industry that had hidden and perpetuated a cycle of abuse. With that in mind, the famed self-referential horror series foray into the Big Apple proves to be a mixed blessing. In fact, Scream VI does little to move the needle on commentary for the genre at large, opting instead to reflect on its internal mythology and coast on impressive set pieces.
Picking up a year after the events of Scream (2022), Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) has moved to New York for college with her friends and survivors from the last movie, Chad Meeks (Mason Gooding) and Mindy Meeks (Jasmin Savoy Brown). Meanwhile, Tara’s half-sister, Sam (Melissa Barrera), is finding it difficult to come to terms with her recent experiences, with a revolving door of therapists and a paranoid eye on her sister’s wellbeing. Things become complicated when a new Ghostface (voiced by Roger L. Jackson) starts a murder spree in the Big Apple.
By its own admission, Scream VI is a sequel to a requel (or sequel to the legacy sequel), which is pitched as something unpredictable because it’s working within the confines of a larger franchise and no longer following traditional sequel rules. Paired with a larger setting, Scream VI should have an air of tension.
And yet it often feels like it’s pulling its punches with a lot of its deaths, often poking the audience with a prospect of finality but walking it back sometime after. This imbues the movie with a slightly campy quality that plays like a morbid and darkly comic cartoon. This is a shame, as some of the setups for these deaths are well done.
One sequence takes place on a busy subway ride on Halloween. It proves to be a tense ping-pong match of close-ups between Mindy and Ghostface (the latter hiding amongst a crowd of costumed people from different horror movies). The flickering lighting and dark blue/yellow strobe effects give the sequence a nightmarish quality. It’s the film’s standout sequence and comes closest to the dreamy European flair that typified Wes Craven’s prior instalments.
Another similar sequence comes from a simple scene about a third of the way through. The characters discover a shrine containing all the collector items that have pervaded the entire series. Rather than being an exercise in empty nostalgia, the scene instead plays like a clever bit of meta-commentary as each of the characters contends with their place in the franchise up until this point. The scene punctuated by Brain Tyler’s atonal score makes the wounds of yesterday feel present and alive in subtle and creepy ways.
Along with a scene that dissects Gale Weathers’s (Courtney Cox) place in the franchise and Scream VI engages as a movie that somberly reflects on the internal mythology that’s built the franchise. However, the movie is missing some biting social commentary that pervaded previous entries. The thread about misinformation and conspiracy theories being spread about Sam’s role in the finale of the previous movie feels more superficial than revelatory. Even when the previous instalments swung for the fences (and sometimes missed), I at least admired the reach and scope of the themes of Screams gone by.
Instead, the revelations here only feel novel in a superficial sense, with the temporary tension being wrung out of an increase in the number of killers. And the motives play like a reheat of the killers from Scream 2. This is a shame due to the shrine and the opening sequence feeling like a set-up for a larger Ghostface conspiracy.
And this is the most confounding element of Scream VI. It plays like a streamlined and more adrenalized version of Scream 2, complete with its cast imbuing a lot of charm and fun into their parts. But more often than not, the latest Scream sequel is more fleeting than haunting.