Review by C.J. Bunce
Last year Scream, the fifth movie in the horror series (reviewed here), delivered goofy slasher horror fun with all the right beats, proving once and for all the franchise is here to stay, joining the big moneymakers Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. The first sequel in the franchise not directed by Wes Craven, it established Melissa Barrera as the new series lead, and close behind her sister, played by Jenna Ortega, after she demonstrated her acting range in late 2022’s Netflix hit series Wednesday. The studio churned out the sequel quickly, Scream VI, and it just arrived on Paramount+ for everyone to catch up with. It takes place in New York City, but 75% into the film you wouldn’t know it, with only a brief subway scene. Faithful to the story in its past, self-referential installments, it’s really just more of everything–more chases, more blood, more red herrings, and a bigger headcount.
This entry is not as tightly written as last year’s movie. It revolves around the “core four,” Barrera and Ortega, plus Jasmin Savoy Brown back as Mindy and Mason Gooding as her brother Chad. The movie’s best feature is giving Ortega more to do. Courtney Cox also is back with Roger L. Jackson’s voice behind the mask, and Skeet Ulrich is the ghost of Billy Loomis, stuck in daughter Sam’s head–all from the original cast–joined by some great choices from the fantasy and horror genres past and present. That’s Ready or Not’s Samara Weaving, Young Guns and Zodiac’s Dermot Mulroney, and Spider-Man regular Tony Revolori–who showed his range in Willow earlier this year. Heroes’ Hayden Panettiere brings her character Kirby Reed back from the fourth installment, now as an FBI agent, Anyone familiar with Angie Dickinson in Police Woman may recognize how Panettiere is bringing her vibe into the franchise.
This entry asks the same questions as the last. Who is behind the mask this time? Why is he (or she or them) after a high schooler (now college freshman) and her sister? Why is everyone in town hooked on the Stab movie franchise, a slasher franchise about the “real-life” murders in Woodsboro? Scream VI continues to test the bounds of horror fans’ appreciation for “meta” stories. It’s likely no other movie has taken the idea this far. This means all the rules of slasher movies get revisited–again. As characters bash the previous movie installment (you’ll lose track which Stab film they’re on) the writers bring back tangent character ties from all previous entries–again. Look for Mindy to give the trademark horror movie rules speech this time. One neat set piece is a Comic-Con worthy display of props and costumes from all the past Stab movies–and more.
Sorry, this time there’s no Neve Campbell, whose character goes away in hiding, and David Arquette, whose character Dewey was killed off in the last movie. The rest of the cast? It really doesn’t matter. Most are red herrings for the audience to figure out, but it’s not all that difficult this time. This entry has too many characters escaping unbelievably, especially characters with slashed arms or abdomens, yet still able to escape on a ladder across a chasm or a ladder going up.
But at least the ending has a good payoff. Sam Carpenter’s ferocity in her self-defense and protection of her sister, Kirby’s cockiness and swagger as the FBI agent leading the way, Samara Weaving using her own Aussie accent, and Tara standing tall despite her small stature are among the film’s high points. Has Sam turned into her father? Or is she just a badass survivor like Sarah Connor? We’ll probably find out more in the next entry. This is a franchise that can outlast Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare of Elm Street, simply because it can adapt itself better to the times. It’s good for the fake blood industry and makeup crews, too.
It’s not the best slasher movie ever, but fans of the franchise shouldn’t be disappointed. Catch Scream VI now at home, streaming on Paramount+.