Directed by: Tyler Gillet & Matt Bettinelli-Olpin
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Written by Alexander Reams
The “Scream” franchise has become an enigma in the pantheon of horror cinema. The saga is now on its sixth film in a 27-year-long story and amazingly, there hasn’t been a bad one yet. One can argue the virtues and failures of “Scream 3” another day, but even the first “reboot,” “Scream 4,” was an absolute hoot at the picture house (even though this writer was too young to gain entry). Tyler Gillet & Matt Bettinelli-Olpin are on their second outing with the “Core Four” (more on this later) and immediately feel more confident behind the camera. Changing the location to New York City, a first for the slasher series, and they take full advantage of its vastness. The alleys feel like cathedrals and only add to the terror that darkness presents.
The opening kill has become a staple of the “Scream” franchise at least until Gillet & Bettinelli-Olpin pulled out the Uno reverse card and let Tara (Jenna Ortega) survive the opening attack in “Scream (2022).” “Scream VI” opens in traditional form with a brutal slaying of Laura Crane (Samara Weaving, reteaming with Gillet & Bettinelli-Olpin after “Ready or Not”). This Ghostface is playing a new game, and the marketing reflected that. The line “This isn’t like any other Ghostface” has been at the center stage of their campaign for a good reason. This Ghostface will take a shotgun from someone, drop the knife, and proceed to start shooting. The thought process is methodical, prepared, and demonstrates clear evidence of combat training, meaning that the motivations are much deeper. The kills have always been a highlight of the franchise, relying on dread and terror instead of gratuitous and over-the-top violence. The framing of Ghostface makes him look like a giant, menacing figure of death that no one can outrun.
The “Core Four” from “Scream (2022)” all return, each with an upgraded role from before. Sam Carpenter is still struggling with her hallucinations of her father, Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich, the original killer in “Scream.”), the twins, Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding), and Tara. The relationship between Sam and Tara is what drove “Scream (2022)” and is again the driving emotional storyline through “Scream VI.” Brilliantly realized by writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick who return after writing “Scream (2022)” with dialogue that feels like we’re picking up right where we left off. It’s a nice touch to see interpersonal relationships put at the forefront of a horror film, making the brutal kills all the more gut-wrenching.
Gillet & Bettinelli-Olpin have grown as filmmakers since their last entry in the “Scream” series, they take more risks, and have multiple Ghostface reveals, while still relying on the great tropes of the franchise. At the end of the day, the point is to entertain, and they do that, through the development of Sam and Tara, Tara and Chad developing their own “situationship”, and the continuing bickering between Sam and her hallucinations of her father. Coupled with the fantastic set pieces that were taken full advantage of with fantastic wide shots showcasing the production design that would make any “Scream” fan go gaga.
Joining the “Core Four” is Dermot Mulroney as Detective Wayne Bailey who joins in on their investigation and assists with the trouble they find themselves in when the Ghostface killings begin to show a connection that harkens back all the way to the original killings, honoring the killers who came before while leaving his own body trail. Mulroney is great in supporting character roles and Wayne Bailey is an excellent old-school detective that Mulroney performs exceptionally. In fairly thankless roles, Courtney Cox and Hayden Panetierre return to the franchise in their roles as Gale Weathers and Kirby Reed but leave little impact after the departure of Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott) from the film, who is surprisingly not missed. Their presence means less because of the absence of Sidney, Cox is in the film for a total of 5 minutes, and as soon as Panetierre leaves the frame you forget she was there. And unfortunately, when they do show up it interrupts what’s actually interesting, they’re nothing more than exposition devices to move the plot forward.
In a surprising turn, “Scream VI” proves the franchise is not only alive, but it also has a pulse ready to pump out more sequels, and if they continue to be as strong as this one, I’ll be there to witness them.
“Scream VI” Trailer