Movie Review: ‘Scream VI’

Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Cast: Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Jack Champion, Henry Czerny, Roger L. Jackson, Liana Liberato, Dermot Mulroney, Devyn Nekoda, Tony Revolori, Josh Segarra, Skeet Ulrich, Samara Weaving, Courtney Cox, Hayden Panettiere

Plot: A year on from the most recent Ghostface killings, and the survivors are living in New York. Amid online conspiracy theories that Sam orchestrated the previous attacks a new Ghostface seeks to punish her for these crimes.

Review: It’s a strange thing to say about a movie series that focuses on the violent dismemberment of dozens of people, but there’s something comforting about the Scream franchise. At their heart, they’re slasher movies, but they keep things interesting by riffing on the current trends in horror and maintaining a pretty consistent through-line of returning characters and an ongoing legacy of the Ghostface killers and their parade of copycats. Without series star Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott, this may have turned out to have more in common with the cheap straight-to-video slasher sequels of the 80s that inspired Scream. Instead it feels much more like a new generation has taken over as the survivors of the previous film get more space to develop their characters.

New franchise leading lady Sam (Barrera) is still struggling with her dark side, being the daughter of original Ghostface Billy Loomis. She shares an apartment with her college student sister Tara (Ortega) in New York, where they’re still close to twins Mindy and Chad (Brown and Gooding) who are also survivors of Ghostface attacks. While Sam is attending therapy and overly protective of Tara, the younger sibling is trying to move on with her life. As expected, a new Ghostface begins stalking their friend group through creepy phone calls and stabby ambushes. This new killer is, as usual, looking to recreate the murders of past movies and/or the in-universe movies inspired by the events and has an entire museum dedicated to killers past.

Making a new Scream movie involves walking a thin line between maintaining the franchise tropes while keeping things interesting and fresh. The opening scene does this especially well with Samara Weaving (rocking her Aussie accent for a change) playing a film teacher out on a date. The set up of a victim being stalked by a movie-obsessed murderer is as expected, but then the scene is expanded out to include some new twists. It does become easier for this movie to do work some new material with the focus on the new ‘Core Four’ of Sam, Tara, Mindy and Chad, bringing modern attitudes to the concept. As much as we like seeing Sidney, Gale and Dewey running through their routine, this entry genuinely does feel like the series has been reinvigorated.

Mixed in with the new ideas and characters are plenty of nods and Easter Eggs for fans of the franchise and of horror movies in general. The new era of horror and the internet driven fandom is referenced, including the persistent rumour and fan hope that Stu Macher will one day made a return, and many horror commenters and podcasts appearing on posters and video covers. Hayden Panettiere as Kirby appeared dead in Scream 4, but since Craven suggested that she may have survived we get her return this time around. It never feels pandering, rather that the film-makers are as big fans as we all are.

If there’s anything that derails the journey it’s a long-running franchise habit of giving characters a surprise survivor status at the end despite from seriously heavy murdering. This happened in the original movie to a degree, but this time the attacks felt much less survivable. When you’ve accepted a character as proper dead, it feels like they’re walking it all back for the benefit of sequels. One key character was removed entirely from the film and we’re only told that they’re still alive after the fact.

That’s not going to diminish our enthusiasm for this series though. We still want another one.

Rating: EIGHT out of TEN