In 1996, Scream burst onto the mainstream horror scene and became an instant hit. Its blend of slasher thrills, meta commentary, comedic and memorable one-liners, and the unorthodox revelation of two killers quickly led to Scream 2 one year later. Interestingly, this franchise’s new era is following suit with Scream VI, which comes on the heels of Scream (2022). But, while Scream 2 will never quite outshine the original, Scream VI is superior to its predecessor, challenging expectations (to a degree), dialing up brutality, and further cementing the franchise’s ability to keep slashing for years to come.
Scream VI brings us to NYC, where Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown), and Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding) are attending college. Along for the ride is Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barerra), who is still deeply haunted by the previous Woodsboro events. Sam and Tara are both finding their own ways to cope, for better or worse, when a new Ghostface killing once again sends their lives into a spiral.
One of the key tenets of the Scream films are their clever opening scenes. They set the tone for the movie, sparking a string of chaos to come. Scream VI’s opening scene is certainly a departure from previous ones, subverting fans’ preconceived notions about what will transpire. While other Scream opening scenes feel more removed from the film’s main plot, this one weaves seamlessly into the narrative.
Scream VI doesn’t disappoint in the stabbing/killing department, delivering the bloodiness that fans come to see. Generally speaking, the Scream franchise’s best kill scenes are crafted around unique and stellar set pieces that really amp up the tension and intensity. Scream VI delivers its attacks with panache and memorable visual elements, as it should in New York City. (Certainly better than Scream 3‘s use of Hollywood.)
The film leans into those classic elements of Scream movies and dials them up a notch. More menacing phone calls, loads of sharp dialogue, and intense chase/stalking scenes! And who can resist the always necessary “establishing the rules” monologue (thank you, Mindy!) alongside a smattering of Easter eggs for the superfans among us? Sometimes, not straying too far from the foundation is a smart choice. But there’s much more than just casual references to the past; this sequel leans heavily into the legacy of the entire franchise while still crafting a path of its own. Scream VI takes narrative risks with a few supreme twists but decidedly chooses to play it safe at other turns. What you think you know… you do not know. And even if you do know, you’re missing some serious details.
And, thankfully, the film gives our main four—Sam, Tara, Chad, and Mindy—excellent character development. This is especially true for Chad. His character rises far beyond the “attractive jock” archetype with an impact that could cement him as a horror legend. Gooding’s performance is absolutely flawless, his cleverness and charm lighting up the screen in every scene.
Of course, Jenna Ortega is a certified star who shares chemistry with pretty much anyone she encounters onscreen. But Mason Gooding is undoubtedly Scream VI‘s breakout performance. Savoy Brown’s Mindy provides the needed comedic relief while also showcasing another level of vulnerability and tenacity. And, Barrera’s Sam gives us a new brand of final girl with a spark of ruthlessness and rage.
Scream VI strikes the balance between parsing through its sibling dynamics, the quartet’s overall relationship, and ushering in new characters well. However, its incorporation of legacy characters does falter in ways. Scream VI’s storyline easily removes Sidney from the narrative because, well, this is literally Sam’s problem in a whole other state. Courteney Cox’s Gale fits in, mostly due to location, and gets a handful of scenes that allow her to aid the group and further process losing Dewey.
As Scream fans know, Gale Weathers has had some of the best character development in the franchise. We’ve watched her go from a selfish, fame-hungry “tabloid twit” to a clever investigator who cares for others. Sadly, Scream VI doesn’t continue that progression, instead pushing her back towards being unnecessarily opportunistic. Should they have left her out of film? Not at all. It made sense to bring her back to complete the bridge between eras and address looming questions. But Gale Weathers became someone better and this film should have stood on that.
Kirby fits into the story well and the film crafts enough connections to justify her return. Hayden Panettiere brings her back to life, showing her weariness, nerdiness, and wittiness in equal doses. But, the way Scream VI handles elements of Kirby’s storyline for “plot twist” sake is disheartening, even though it is a reflection of how traumatized women are treated. And, the film adds in one more nod to the past that’s particularly frustrating but not pervasive enough to derail the film.
As a figure, Ghostface shines in this film, delivering on the promise of a ruthless and relentless killer. Long gone are the days of a goofier antagonist who trips over his own feet. Now, Ghostface is leaping, sprinting, and busting through barriers like a ravenous, bloodthirsty animal. Roger L. Jackson continues to breathe glorious life into this character with his signature voice that makes the hairs on your neck stand at attention. There’s a wonderfully ominous aesthetic air that lingers over this film, hinting that danger is right around the corner. Very Ghostface vibes, indeed.
Speaking of Ghostface, everyone wants to know one big thing: the killer(s) reveal. I’m obviously not going to tell you the answer. But Scream VI once again pays homage while also doing something wholly unique with perhaps the most entertaining final showdown in the franchise. The “this is how/why it happened” reveal spill feels somewhat convoluted, trite, and rushed in areas; however, it still takes some commentary/connection to the previous film and solidly expands on it. This opens the gateway for testing new approaches in future Scream films, especially with some lingering threads in the mix. Overall, Scream VI gave us cleverness, camp, kills, and thrills to cement itself as a solid sequel and affirm the franchise is in good hands with Radio Silence.
Scream VI hits theaters on March 10.