We say goodbye to Woodsboro in Scream VI, the latest instalment in the iconic horror franchise, as Ghostface relocates to New York. Read our review of the horror sequel.
It’s not easy to make a Scream film. It needs to be smart, have engaging, effortlessly iconic characters and it needs to include meta-commentary about the state of the horror genre, but not too much or it becomes insufferable.
2022’s Scream (or Scream V), did an impressive job at juggling all these different elements but ultimately ended up explaining far too much and including so many nods to modern horror films that it grew exhausting to watch. The inevitable sequel, Scream VI treads similar ground, but this time, the tongue is firmly in cheek and the balance of frights and laughs has improved.
The film begins with a classic kill scene, the details of which we won’t spoil here, but it’s immediately a slightly different take on the tried-and-true Scream formula. After that, we pick right back up with Sam and Tara (Melissa Barrerra and Jenna Ortega) as well as their friends Mindy and Chad (Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding), the survivors of last year’s Woodsboro massacre. The core four, as they call themselves, have relocated to New York, but it’s hard to let go of the trauma of what happened.
Sam is still living in fear while Tara yearns to be free of both her past and her sister’s iron-tight grip on her. Of course, Ghostface has followed them to New York City, but the rules of this meta-slasher, as explained by Mindy again, have changed drastically and everyone is both a suspect and a potential victim.
This time around, the kills are more brutal and Ghostface even picks up a gun in a particularly tense scene. Scream V was too busy rebooting the franchise and, aside from Dewey’s death, most of the kills were unimaginative. While slashers are rarely scary, Scream VI brings some much-needed tension and excitement back into the franchise.
Scream VI is definitely in the business of changing everything we thought we knew about Scream as a franchise, which is why it’s a slight shame it still ends up following the very rules it sets out to disown.
Returning to the franchise is Hayden Panettiere, whose character Kirby Reed was thought to have perished in Scream 4. Kirby ends up being one of the highlights of the film, and feels like a natural inclusion. We also have a roster of new characters, but none of these leave much of an impression; Scream VI has a lot of plot to get through, but the frantic pace proves to be a smart move from directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin.
At times Scream VI is a little too tied to Scream V. Scream as a franchise has always had the remarkable ability to exist both as a continuation of a larger story and commentary, with each film still always enjoyable on its own. Scream VI requires you to have seen Scream V, but it never really branches out to become its own thing.
The ending of the film feels lacklustre and underwhelming. After a promising start of mixing it up by changing locations and making Ghostface feel more brutal and dangerous than before, Scream VI descends into slightly clichéd storytelling and narrative choices. It’s constantly entertaining and a lot more fun than its predecessor, but Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin also play it very safe here.
Thankfully, the cast is charismatic enough to keep Scream VI afloat when it’s in danger of crumbling under the weight of the franchise. Jenna Ortega’s part is significantly bigger here and she’s a commanding presence on screen. Avatar: The Way of Water’s Jack Champion is a charming addition to the cast and Savoy Brown remains a highlight as the mandatory film geek Mindy, but Barrerra’s Sam still lacks a distinct personality that’s separate from her trauma.
Courtney Cox is the only legacy character to return and while she is spunky, this admittedly isn’t her franchise anymore. Neve Campbell is missing from action and perhaps that’s for the best. With Scream VI, the franchise announces itself very much alive and well and bursting with new and exciting ideas, but it’s clearly time for Ghostface and co. to move on.
Scream VI is in cinemas now.