REVIEW: “Scream VI” (2023)

It was just last year that the once thought dead and buried Scream franchise was brought back to life with an unremarkable and at times painfully dumb fifth installment. In keeping with the goofy yet popular trend, that movie was simply titled “Scream”, despite being the fifth film in the slasher series. It brought in some legacy characters, mixed them in with a new younger batch, and spent much of its time killing off many of them. Most importantly (especially for Paramount), the movie was mostly well received and earned a hefty profit at the box office.

That means a sequel was all but guaranteed, and surprisingly they didn’t wait long. “Scream VI” lands in theater just a little over a year after its predecessor. It brings back most of the survivors from the last slaying (notably absent is Neve Campbell – a shame) and it adds a few newbies to the slaughter. Thankfully, “Scream VI” is a step up from the last year’s flick. Unfortunately it stumbles in some of the very same places, especially in the final 30 minutes where the unintentional goofiness overflows.

One thing I enjoy about the Scream movies (more specifically the first two) is how its cutlery-loving killer Ghostface isn’t some unkillable supernatural monster under the mask. In fact Ghostface is never the same person which adds a fun whodunit element to the stories. While it has increasing gotten harder to believe, the idea is that the killer is a regular Joe (or Joes) with his or her or their own twisted motivations for carving up their fellow cast members.

Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

While Ghostface might not be supernatural, in “Scream VI” you start to wonder if everyone else is. With a near laughable regularity, characters survival brutal encounters with Ghostface’s blade, quickly bouncing back as if nothing happened. Several characters get savagely gut-stabbed but within seconds are perfectly fine. One gets stabbed at least ten times but a minutes later is alive and cracking jokes. One gets stabbed several times and even shot, but don’t worry. After a short breather they’re good to go. Another gets cut and sliced to the point where I was waiting for their guts to slither out. But mere moments later they’re making their escape out a window. You’d think it was an ongoing joke except it’s never played for laughs.

And then we get to the story itself. Returning screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick move the story from the blood-soaked California town of Woodsboro to New York City. Half-sisters Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega), both survivors from the previous film’s killing spree, have moved away from Woodsboro but the trauma has followed them across the country. Tara enrolls in college hoping to put the past behind her. It’s tougher for Sam, who attends therapy and is the subject of nasty online conspiracies claiming she orchestrated and carried out that more recent Woodsboro murders.

Sam and Tara are accompanied to the Big Apple by twins Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), also Woodsboro survivors. This “Core Four” is joined by the erotically charged Quinn (Liana Liberato), the shy and geeky Ethan (Jack Champion), Mindy’s flame Anika (Devyn Nekoda), and Josh (Danny Brackett), a hunky neighbor with eyes for Sam. A couple of classic characters return s well, Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), a survivor of the 2011 Woodsboro slayings and now an FBI agent, and investigative reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox).

The movie wastes no time getting going with Ghostface butchering two film school students in their New York City apartment. Quinn’s father, NYPD detective Wayne Bailey (Dermot Mulroney) calls Sam in for questioning after her ID and a Ghostface mask is found at the murder scene. A little later, her therapist (an expendable slab of meat) is brutally done away with and yet another clue is left pointing to Sam. She and her friends know she’s being set up, but by who?

From there, it’s all about survival and suspects as co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett usher us through another Scream installment that feels bigger and broader than it actually is, in large part thanks to its New York setting (it was actually shot in Montreal). But at its core, “Scream VI” is really more of the same. It follows its signature formula, mixing horror and black comedy with varying degrees of success. And there’s also the meta-commentary, although here it feels much more tacked on and out of obligation.

Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

As for the characters, they’re a pleasant enough group and there’s some decent chemistry between them. But too often logic gets tossed out the window and some of their actions (especially in the final third) are mind-numbingly dumb. You go for the knife in the downed killer’s hand rather than the gun that’s right behind you? You really leave your sibling behind on the subway despite all that’s going on? Just a few of the many headscratchers that are no fault of cast (Barrera and Ortega are especially good). But the writing does them no favors.

All of that said, “Scream VI” isn’t without its strengths. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett serve up the goriest Scream movie to date. Watching victims hop up and walk away from Ghostface’s attacks neuters some of the brutality. But we still get some delightfully effective kills. We’re also treated to some tense and thrilling set pieces. One takes place in a downtown bodega. Another is in Sam and Tara’s apartment. And there’s a great sequence on a subway that builds some palpable suspense before ending terribly. These scenes are when the movie is at its best.

“Scream VI” is sure to make a lot of money which all but assures us a seventh installment. As for this one, it takes its show on the road but mostly sticks with what has worked for it. Aside from its setting, if there is another noticeable difference it’s that the film takes a step away from traditional horror. Scares are traded in for more action. Think “Fast & the Furious” minus the cars and starring Ghostface (there’s even a reoccurring mention of “family” in case you needed proof). Yes, it brings a new energy to the franchise. But as a big fan of Wes Craven’s original, it’s kinda sad to see the series go the more poppy route while merely giving lip service to the things that made the early films great.


9 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Scream VI” (2023)

  1. Even as a fan of horror and slashers I’ve never been able to get into any of the Scream movies. The first the big reveal was interesting enough but getting to it was torturous for me, and the little bit I’ve seen of the others seemed even worse. I was kind of hoping to give the franchise a chance and hoped this would get some raving reviews so I might have a change of heart about it, but everything I’ve read it just seems like a disappointment again, even for most of those that enjoyed the others. Sadly the same thing happened as I read about Halloween, was hoping it would go out shining as well.

    • This was a weird one. I was never bored, but I found myself laughing at how ridiculous things got. In one sense it does feel a little different than the original movies, but not necessarily in a good way. Ultimately it’s a hard one for me to recommend especially to someone who’s not a fan.

      • That’s what I found with so many of these that should have been laid to rest after one or two. TCM, Friday 13th, Halloween, all went from shocking and scary to absurd. But people keep watching them so maybe I’m in the minority. Not every movie is for everyone, like I’m one of the four people in earth that enjoyed Popeye with Robin Williams. 😬

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s