Scream VI (Scream 6) – Film Review

After the success of 2022’s franchise re-entry Scream, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett are back at the helm of Wes Craven’s meta-horror classic with Scream VI (Scream 6).

Once again written by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, Scream VI brings back the surviving stars of the ‘re-quel’, Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara (Jenna Ortega), Chad and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown), plus fan favourite Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), Scream 4 survivor Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere), and franchise newcomer Dermot Mulroney filling in the detective role since the killing-off of David Arquette’s much-loved Deputy Dewey Riley.

Following the traumatic events of Woodsboro 2022, the ‘core four’ have relocated to New York City for a fresh start after rumours and conspiracies circulate online claiming that Sam orchestrated the previous year’s Ghostface killing spree and framed her now-dead boyfriend Richie Kirsch. Sam lives in a constant state of paranoia, refusing to open up to anyone new and watching Tara like a hawk, much to her sister’s annoyance.

Tara, determined to not let what happened dictate her life, numbs her trauma with parties, booze, and other normal college activities. But when dead bodies, Ghostface masks, and mystery phone calls from Richie’s old phone number start popping up, the sisters and their friends are thrust back into a deadly game of cat and mouse.

In the same vein as their previous film, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett have looked to Craven’s original films for inspiration. Like Scream 2, Scream VI takes place away from Woodsboro in a college town with a mysterious connection to the previous killings. What is unique in this film is the way it makes reference to its predecessors.

With each killing a mask is left behind containing the DNA of previous Ghostface killers; first is Richie and Amber, then Jill Roberts and Charlie Walker from Scream 4, Roman Bridger from Scream 3, then Mickey Altieri from Scream 2 with the ultimate end goal being the mask worn by Stu Macher and Billy Loomis. Visually, this is also played well as each killing shows an older, more worn Ghostface mask, giving audiences the feeling that there’s something much larger at play than first believed.

The charm of Woodsboro, in a way, is that there are only so many places a killer could be in such a small town. It gives the film a certain sense of predictability that allows audiences to have an easier time guessing where Ghostface might be and who they might kill next.

Despite Scream VI taking us out of Woodsboro once again, the tension is very well-maintained as this new city is full of unknowns. New York City is full of alleys and laneways, old walk-ups, and dark and hard to navigate subway tunnels, and the directors took full advantage of this. Watching the core four contend with Ghostface in their own home, in local bodegas, and in subway train carriages really makes it feel as if Ghostface is truly inescapable. No matter where they try to go, they will be found.

Just like the previous entry, these fresh-faced kids do a wonderful job of leading the franchise. Barrera, Ortega, Gooding, and Savoy Brown each carry the fearlessness that made Neve as Sidney so loveable, the drive to do what law enforcement always fails to do and outsmart Ghostface. Mulroney, filling in for the prerequisite bumbling law enforcement character, brings more than just his handsome face to the franchise, giving audiences a few good laughs with quippy one-liners.

Bolstered by franchise heavyweight Courteney Cox as the always-intrepid Gale Weathers, fan-favourite Hayden Panetteire as Kirby Reed, the true final girl from the fourth entry, and some more digitally de-aged Skeet Ulrich cameos, Scream VI has just enough of the old blood to fill the nostalgia quota while still allowing the story to be about this new generation. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett laid solid foundations with the core cast in their previous film, giving audiences a group of kids that viewers will genuinely want to root for again.

Sequels are a difficult feat to pull off in any genre, but in a franchise as enduring as Scream, one that has arguably only 1 flop film in its line-up, it’s especially risky. How does one reinvent the wheel to keep the story rolling smoothly? And without the return of original star Neve Campbell, fans very rightfully would feel the nerves for this one.

Thankfully, Scream VI isn’t in any old hack director’s hands as Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett have proved themselves to be incredibly capable with the franchise reboot. Once again, they’ve brought their A-game, serving up what is honestly (in this critic’s humble opinion) one of the best entries into this long-serving story.

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